For any self respecting fan of melodic rock, the arrival of a new W.E.T. album must surely be met with the same slack-jawed wonder as that of a school kid waking up to discover that even in March there are such a thing as snow days… plural. Anything that Jeff Scott Soto puts his name on will be top notch, likewise Erik Martensson. Put them together with Robert Sall, and something truly magical happens. Throw guitarist Magnus Henriksson and drummer Robban Back into the mix, and hey presto, you have arguably the hottest melodic rock band of the last ten years or so.
The guitars are crucial to the overall sound of W.E.T. and are never very far away. So many bands of the genre dilute the guitars and end up losing some bite. In lesser hands, a track like ‘Kings On Thunder Road’ might forgo the guitars and rely upon the sublime layered vocals and uplifting chorus, but thankfully Eclipse bandmates Martensson and Henriksson are all over the track with their six string work. Think of the legendary melodic rock acts, and they will have an equally legendary guitarist, Neal Schon, Mick Jones, Steve Lukather… to name just three examples. ‘Elegantly Wasted’ might be built around the light and airy keyboards from Sall, but the mix of electric and acoustic guitars is spot on. ‘Urgent’ (no, not that ‘Urgent’, although the chorus does sound like a tribute) is about the swaggering guitars and the thumping drum sound. The chorus sounds like it belongs in another song and comes out of the left field. A solid example of how melodic rock can combine contrasting styles and tempos without selling out.
You want modern but classic melodic rock? Then there is ‘Burn’ and opener ‘Watch The Fire’ (which has Soto and Martensson sharing the vocal duties). Soto sounds commanding and shows yet again that he is the big kahuna in more ways than one. ‘Dangerous’ is a heady mix of Def Leppard-y layered vocals and a driving drumbeat from Back that propels the song along at a fair old pace; modern and classic. It’s the same with ‘Calling Out Your Name’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Play That Game’, and ‘The Never-Ending Retraceable Dream’, classic old school melodic rock/AOR with a modern twist. Hell, even the big power ballad ‘Heart Is On The Line’ ticks all the required boxes, including copious amounts of “whoa whoa’s” along with an uplifting chorus.
‘Earthrage’ is going to take some beating as melodic rock album of the year. The gauntlet has been thrown down, the bar set high. Not totally unattainable, but it’s going to take something very special to top it. With W.E.T. being a side project, the chances of live dates are slim, especially with Soto out with Sons Of Apollo for quite some time… but a fella can but hope.
Available now through Frontiers Music, more details here.