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Album Reviews : The Eternal – When The Circle of Light Begins to Fade

By on August 21, 2013

65848_10151834755118646_998644170_nThe Eternal have been stalwarts of the Melbourne (and Australia in general) music scene. Over their 10-year history this is a band that has never been afraid to push the envelope on each of their releases and have used that time to finely craft their own signature sound and style whilst at the same time not being adverse to introducing new elements into their music given the opportunity.

Almost 2-years after the release of their last album Under a New Sun, 2013 sees the release of The Eternal’s latest effort When the Circle of Light Begins to Fade. Having followed this band closely since their inception the only thing I was expecting from this latest release was to “expect the unexpected”. Normally The Eternal dish up something a little differently to anything they’ve done in the past and given they have gone through some significant line-up changes this time around, in addition to the more “middle-eastern” influences shown on their last album, I was curious to see which direction this new record would head in.

The first thing that is immediately clear once the album begins is the immense production. Main man, lead vocalist, and main songwriter Mark Kelson has handle all production duties this time around. To my ears Kelson has almost adopted a “wall of sound approach” in the production of this record. The production on When the Circle of Light Begins to Fade is huge and clear. A trademark of The Eternal’s sound is that often there is a lot going on in the music. In the past some songs have suffered as a result of this because so much is going on the production did seem a little muddy at times. This time around every note of every instrument is front and center and perfectly mixed which is a massive credit to Kelson and co.

Being the main song writer, having Kelson handling the production duties also has the added benefit in that the listener really gets the sense that this album and each song on it really does sound exactly the way it was intended and envisioned by the band. I maintain that as good and highly regarded that someone like Jeff Martin from the Tea Party (who produced the last album) is, no one can do The Eternal justice as much as Mark Kelson. End of story.

Onto the music itself, the opening track “Circle of Light” is a very welcome return to what The Eternal does best. This track highlights all the strengths of the band and contains all their signature sounds from the atmospheric keys offset with the subdued piano, to the heavy crushing (yet very melodic) riffs and excellent drum work. All topped off with the Kelson’s unique vocals. This is a very strong opener and really sets the scene for the rest of the album.

Before going on further, it should be mentioned here that this sounds like something very different sonically from what we have heard before. This really comes down to the addition of Brad Cook and second guitar and Martin Curtis-Powell (Cradle of Filth, My Dying Bride, Anathema) on keys. The addition of Cook sees the band adopt a much more hard rock/classic rock approach in a lot of the riffs and solos on this record and at the same time allows The Eternal to experiment with the twin-guitar approach to riffing and soloing that wasn’t possible on earlier releases.

Next up is the first single off the album. “Beneath the Waves” is a perfect introduction to the new sound of The Eternal. This song has more hooks than Rex Hunt’s tackle box and features one of the catchiest bridge / chorus sections to be found on this album. Curtis-Powell in particular is excellent here with the layered keyboards over the top of some very catchy riffs accentuated by simple yet effective piano passages throughout. On an album that could potentially contain quite a few singles, “Beneath the Waves” is a great choice as first single as it is very indicative of who and what The Eternal are today.

The melancholic side of The Eternal is there for all to see on songs like “Motionless” and “Drifting” which see the introduction of some excellent female vocals from Emily Saaen. It really was an inspired decision to put these songs back-to-back as they go together so perfectly both lyrically and musically. Whilst this is a record full of experimentation, this is about as familiar as we are going to hear The Eternal sound on this release. Having said that though, there are still some new element introduced here which work very well such as the guitar solo being such a prominent part of “Drifting”.

One of the more upbeat and “angrier” songs is up next and it is a definite highlight of the album. “In Severance” is a song that I had to hit replay on quite a few times before moving on. Rarely have we heard The Eternal rocking out so much in one song. Lyrically this is a very dark song about accepting loss and the music hits this point home perfectly. Kelson’s vocals really highlight all the emotion of accepting loss and feeling jaded by it but it’s the guitar work of Cook (I’m guessing) in the main solo that really takes this song to a new level. Before I mentioned this new record brings a much more hard rock aspect to the melodic doom rock that Eternal does so well….this is the perfect example of that in full effect.

“Yesterday’s Fire” is another highlight and up-tempo rocker which is sure to become a live favorite. This track features some of Kelson’s most impassioned vocals on the record and a blistering guitar solo trade-off. The key are slightly subdued here replaced by almost a mellotron effect. This track really is as good as anything we have from the best of bands like Anathema with hints of Charon.

“Carry Us Away” slows down proceeding a little. This is probably one of the more subdued and doomy songs on the album and is a very dark piece indeed but contains a soaring chorus that leaves the listener with no option but to sing along too. Simply put is a simple but very effective song in the context of this album and works very well.

One of the drawback (I felt) of the last album “Under The Sun” was that it was too heavily influenced by Jeff Martin who bought quite a lot of the middle-eastern influence to the record. Whilst it was distinctly The Eternal (thanks to Kelson’s vocals mainly), it really did strike me as something that would sit in the Jeff Martin/Tea Party catalogue more than sit alongside The Eternal output to that time. It was still a good album, but I think lost a lot of the identity that the Eternal had built up to that point.

Once the Circle of Light Begins to Fade is pure Eternal. Whilst the middle-eastern aspects of the previous album aren’t as dominant, that’s not to say they aren’t here at all. The only difference is they are used sparingly here and only used to accentuate the music in parts rather than being the basis of entire songs. When they are used they are used very well. The main riffs of “Dark Day Coming” are a prime example of this. This is probably the closest sounding track to something off the last Eternal album and is one of the stronger tracks on this record. This song is worth it for the vocal trade-off between Kelson and Saaen if nothing else (not to mention the great riffs/solo/drum work contained within).

Despite being one of those bands that always brings something new to the table, the one thing that a listener can be sure of when they listen to an Eternal album is that they are always going to close with an absolute epic of a track. Thankfully the new record is no different and we are treated to one of the finest Eternal songs in “The Burning Truth”. Clocking in at over 6-minutes this song contains the best of everything that the Eternal has to offer. Kelson’s haunting vocals are matched by Saaen emotive backing vocals. The keyboards really set the mood here with their layer and there are solos and riffs scattered throughout. All this is excellent but what really makes this song work so well is that the main sections see Kelson singing with very little or minimal musical accompaniment and the song just breathes so well. Once again Cook and Kelson deliver very emotive solos that fit the song very well and do not overplay the parts. This is really a song where the band throws everything including the kitchen sink into the mix and is worth purchasing the album on its own.

When the Circle of Light Begins to Fade is an album that really needs to be heard from start to finish in one sitting with as few distractions as possible. There really is quite a lot going on here and thanks to the great performance by the band on each song. Thanks to the crystal-clear production of Kelson everything is perfectly mixed and the songs really do come to life. Repeated listens to this record always reveal something you may have missed the first time around. It really is an album that demands the listeners full attention at the time, but is a very rewarding listen.

Stylistically, again the band has developed their own melodic doom rock sound even further and have bought new sounds to the palette mainly in the form of a more hard rocking approach. Having said that, the band also gives a nod to its past in that upon listening to this the listener is left with no doubt that it is unmistakably The Eternal.

All that’s left to be said is that on the eve of their 10th anniversary The Eternal have once again delivered the goods in spades and released what, I feel, many are going to consider their finest effort to date. This is everything you could want from an Eternal release and so much more.

Band: The Eternal
Album: When The Circle of Light Begins to Fade
Year: 2013
Genre: Melodic rock
Origin: Melbourne, Australia
http://www.the-eternal.com

Track list:
1. When the Circle of Light Begins To Fade
2. Beneath These Waves
3. Motionless
4. Drifting
5. In Severance
6. Divided We Fall
7. Yesterday’s Fate
8. Carry Us Away
9. A Quiet Death of the Sun
10. The End of Everything
11. Without a Trace
12. Dark Day Coming
13. The Burning Truth

About

Nick is a dedicated and lifelong metal / rock fan ever since he heard Kiss Alive when it first came out. His tastes extend from anything and everything from AOR, to power metal, to thrash, to death, to progressive rock / metal, to melodic rock. Chances are if the band exists....Nick knows of them! (some might say he's metal obsessed).