You gotta give 'em credit for trying. 3 singers since Steve Perry and Journey still refuse to patch it up or pack it in. Arnel Pineda is still the singer, back here for his second Journey album, and now contributing songwriting to the mix.
Otherwise, Eclipse (stylized as ECL1PS3 on the cover art) is heavily dominated by Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain, and you can tell that this is Neal's album. Upon playing Eclipse, you will be inundated by colossal Schon riff after colossal Schon riff. This is backed by some dramatic synth by Cain. This is a much heavier Journey album than any in recent memory. It's a good mix and producer Kevin Shirley captured it. I've usually been skeptical when Journey puts out a new album and says, "This is us being heavier." Stuff like the Red 5 EP...they were just underwhelming and were missing the soul of Journey.
I would argue that the soul of Journey belongs to Steve Perry, but Arnel Pineda turns in a stunning performance this time. Not that he didn't last time, but this time it sounds less like he's trying to be Steve Perry. This time it sounds like he's more himself, and it's better that way. Incredible set of pipes on this man by the way.
Also, I need to remind myself that Journey did three albums before Steve Perry joined the band and have their roots in more instrumental progressive rock. And some of the guitar passages on this album sound a little like stuff from those first three album. It's fleeting but it's there.
Current fave: "Edge of the Moment".
Most Journey-esque: "City Of Hope". (It even calls out an older Journey song called "Message Of Love".)
Meanwhile, the fine "She's A Mystery" (co-written by Pineda) is a great little epic acoustic/electric song with some sweet Schon overtones that sound like gulls flying overhead. It captures the vibe of the more atmospheric material on Trial By Fire that I like so much.
Japanese bonus track is a live cut of "Don't Stop Believin'", recorded live (In Manilla, I thought I read somewhere). This is obviously due to Glee, the cancer of TV shows. However, I ponied up for the more expensive Japanese version. It's a good version no doubt, and the first live recording to feature Arnel Pineda to be released on a CD. (Japanese CD also comes in an extra wide case with lenticular cover insert.)
I have to live with Eclipse a little longer to see how it grows or doesn't grow on me. That's the thing about Journey albums of late. Your brain says "this is a good song, it has a melody I like," but a day later you can't remember how the song went. The last album that did that for me was Trial By Fire, an underrated masterpiece was that Steve Perry's swan song. I don't know yet if Eclipse is going to stick with me. Stay tuned...
4 stars for now.