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The Midlands Rocks

Eclipse + One Desire + Franklin Zoo @ The Thekla, Bristol – Sunday, 23rd April, 2017

Review by Paul Quinton

As far as we can tell, this is something of a first for this illustrious website, namely our first ever ‘floating’ review. ‘Floating’ because, for those who don’t know, The Thekla is situated on an old cargo vessel, permanently moored in Bristol Docks, with the interior hollowed out and a stage, a bar and all the other essentials fitted. The punters even gain access via a gangway. Yachting caps are optional, though.

Swedish melodic hard rockers Eclipse have recently released their fifth album, ‘Momentum’, keeping up the high quality of releases over the past few years, and they’ve become regular visitors to the UK, especially at festivals like Rockingham and HRH, and now we have this tour, which ended at the Thekla on a warm Sunday evening, which also brought along fellow Scandanavian bands One Desire and Franklin Zoo.

Franklin Zoo, a 5-piece from Copenhagen, were appreciably heavier than the other two bands, but made a good impression on the early crowd, and the task of playing while people began to come into the venue, didn’t seem to put them off. There were touches of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam about them, but they’re not afraid to push their music into more adventurous territories, which gives their songs a really interesting variety. Unfortunately, in this gig, they were done few favours by the sound, with Rasmus Revsbech’s vocals often way too low in the mix, which was a shame, because not only are their lyrics very dark and honest, they’re also very literate, there aren’t many Scandanavian rock bands referencing Samuel Beckett, I would have thought. When Revsbech’s vocals did cut through, they were very impressive and he cuts an equally commanding presence on stage, even with the limited stage space available. Franklin Zoo look to be a unit with a lot of promise.

If the sound had been barely acceptable for the opening band, things went badly awry for the second act, Finland’s One Desire, a band whose debut album had caused a considerable buzz in melodic rock circles. As their set started, singer Andre Linman said that this was half gig, half soundcheck, but while the sound was awful to begin with, it didn’t improve much, if at all, as the set progressed. It was far too loud for the space, seriously distorted, the bass mix rendered the keyboards and most of the vocals almost inaudible, a real shame as this band have some real talent in the vocal department. It’s hugely unfair to judge such a promising band in these circumstances, but they did their best and songs like ‘Love Injection’ and the ballad ‘This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins’ do show how much potential is in the band. The moment that summed it all up for me was when the sound finally started to show some signs of improvement, the sumptuous harmonies of ‘When I’m Dreaming’ were turned down, the bass was promptly turned back up, and the whole thing became a bit of a mess. A case of putting this one down to experience and hoping to see them under better circumstances one day.

Mercifully, the sound had cleared up considerably when Eclipse took the stage, and they started off on the right foot with one of the cleverest intro tapes I can remember. It began with a collage of various bands, presumably the individual members’ influences, before it gave way to Cheap Trick’s ‘Hello There’ and Eclipse entered and hit the ground running with ‘Vertigo’, from the new album. In fact the first half of the set was dominated by the new album, with more than half of the songs being taken from ‘Momentum’. If this new material was unfamiliar to some, the quality of the songs, and the performance of the band, were so good that it didn’t seem to matter, and there was none of that restlessness you sometimes get when a band do play newer material. I liked the way Eric Martensson joked about it being Sunday night and tried to persuade the crowd to pretend it was Saturday night, although I don’t think the band could have received a much better reception even if it had been Saturday, the ballad ‘Hurt’ in particular getting a huge response.

Eclipse

Eclipse

The stage emptied for Philip Crusner’s drum solo, where he played along with a tape of ‘O Fortuna’, which made things strangely like a symphonic metal gig, before a brief acoustic set comprised of ‘Live Like I’m Dying’ and ‘the Celtic tinged ‘Battlegrounds.’  Sometimes this kind of thing can break up a set, but that certainly wasn’t the case tonight. One of the best things about Eclipse is the way they mix heavier, more modern sounds with melodic rock, and this was shown brilliantly with the new song ‘Black Rain’, an absolute belter of a tune, although Martensson did explain how hard they had to work not for it to sound too much like ‘Heaven and Hell’. The influence is clearly there, but the song has enough of its own identity to got away with it this time, and after a brief solo from guitarist Magnus Henriksson and a superb ‘’Blood Enemies’, the main set ended with the band’s unsuccessful stab at writing a Eurovision entry, the hook-laden ‘Runaways. There were two encore songs, another hook-fest in ‘I Don’t Want To Say I’m Sorry’ and an immense ‘Bleed and Scream’, which was probably the highlight of the set.

It was a shame the sound issues spoiled some of this gig, because there were three good bands on for a surprisingly low ticket price. Eclipse’s set made it worth the trip on its own, but while the Thekla is always fun to visit, tonight could, and should, have been better.

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