Let’s just cut to the chase; the fourth release from W.E.T. will be one of the most important rock records of 2021. While the first two albums from the band were respectable in their own right, it was the band’s third record “Earthrage” which really knocked off our collective socks. While it can be an unfortunate ass-biting situation raising the bar so high for oneself, the band has proven “Earthrage” was not a freak outlier, but a data point in the band’s journey of continuous self-improvement.
At its core a Swedish melodic rock/metal act, the band released its eponymous debut album in 2009 to a relatively warm reception. Robert Såll (the “W” from Work of Art), Erik Mårtensson (the “E” from Eclipse), and Jeff Scott Soto (the “T” from Talisman) make up the central nexus of the project. We are fans of both Eclipse and Work of Art, and let’s face it, Jeff Scott Soto requires little if any introduction at this point. While all three are heavily involved in the songwriting process (to the benefit of the listener), Robert handles guitars and keys, and Erik handles guitars when not trading off vocal responsibilities with Soto. While such shared vocal responsibilities sound daunting for anyone teamed up with Soto, the reality is that anyone familiar with Eclipse knows Erik’s pipes are more than up to the task.
We now find ourselves in early 2021, almost a year into a world where musicians no longer tour, but stay locked inside, ideally working on new material. While this is a crushing blow to the lifestyle of the headbanging crowd, the silver lining is that gentlemen like these have time for their part-time projects such as W.E.T. Thus, this year, on January 22 we are blessed with “Retransmission,” the big bad new album from W.E.T. We already know “Earthrage” was a beast – so how does the new record compare?
Right out of the gate, we have the band telling us what 10cc informed us of in 1975, namely that “Big Boys Don’t Cry.” The first and most obvious thing is how huge the record sounds. Great engineering, and brutal musicianship, especially the crunching rhythm humbuckers. Erik and Soto trade verses, sometimes singing in harmony, and the result is every bit what it was on “Earthrage”. Best of all, guitar leads are provided by Magnus Henriksson (also of Eclipse), so the results speak for themselves (spoiler alert, they are great). While the opener is a straight-ahead rocker, the second track “Moment of Truth” does a brilliant job of stepping back and forth between metal crunch and AOR melodic rock sensibilities. The guitar solo is equally brilliant, demonstrating Magnus has the fingers of Yngwie and the heart of Neal Schon.
“Call of the Wild” may be one of the real fun highlights of the album, showcasing retro 80s songwriting, and cool vocal call-and-response between Soto and Erik. And it even has big old cowbell. The shuffling almost syncopated rhythm guitar in the verses, and a big anthemic chorus, this song really has it all. Without any doubt, the ballad of the album is “Got to be About Love,” strummy and semi-clean at first, before building to a pleasant medium-crunchy chorus at just the right tempo. Soto’s vocals (Soto Voce?) just soar on this one, and it’s a crowd-pleaser in the making, if we ever have crowds ever again. It’s unclear if “Beautiful Game” is some kind of metaphor for life, or if it’s literally about something like soccer, but in any event, the song has badass riffs and keyboards, with an unrelenting driving beat.
Soto’s old buddy Malmsteen once asked “How many miles to Babylon,” and now we ask the same, although in this case it’s “How far to Babylon?” Between the song’s crowd-pleasing anthemic “Viva La Victoria” vibes, and drums equal parts tribal-and-bouncy, it’s a fun little jam to be sure. The following track, “Coming Home,” is hooky and melodic in a solo Paul Gilbert sort of way. While it dials down the heaviness for a moment, the vibes are pleasing, and a nice palate-cleansing segue into the second side of the album. “What are You Waiting For,” opens with swirly phased/chorused semi-clean guitar chords picked out as single notes, paving the way for a primo JSS ballad. There are a number of contemporary AOR acts trying to resuscitate lighter-in-the-air arena ballad vibes, and this is a case of it being done exactly right.
“You Better Believe It” starts with some really cool digital delay guitar picking before getting down to business in a nice tight bass-and-drums rhythm section verse structure, before pounding into a hearty chorus. The lead guitars are exemplary, and yet do not overstay their welcome. “How Do I Know,” has all the markings of a grand finale, and yet it is the penultimate track of the album. The main riff is killer, with the song carrying a “don’t mess with me right now” vibe similar to “The Burning Pain of Love,” an outstanding track from the prior album. Appropriately enough, the final word on the album comes in the form of “The Last Kiss,” a more traditional rocker with a hook-laden chorus. It may not be the strongest track of the album, but it’s a strong enough way to finish an album we’ve been anticipating for the last two years.
We admittedly had some concerns about Erik and Soto siphoning their best ideas into their own respective projects (Eclipse and Soto Solo), and Robert perhaps working hard on his next “Work of Art.” The fears seem to be unfounded. While “Earthrage” may arguably be a slightly better album (and neither is particularly long in total minutes), it’s not a dealbreaker by any means. Imagine passing up “Houses of the Holy” because it’s only 95% as good as Led Zeppelin IV. It’s that kind of thing. If we were bigshots at Frontiers Records and could make suggestions for the next W.E.T., it could be perhaps the addition of one or two more ambitious tracks, with longer running time and maybe a hint of majesty and gravitas. Perhaps like Masquerade from the most recent Eclipse. Maybe not a full-blown Portnoy-powered epic of Sons of Apollo proportions, but some grand eight-minute production would be a way to make a longer overall record, and end on a hell of a bang. Otherwise? If you want some really cool melodic rock vibes for working out or a long drive, you cannot go wrong with W.E.T. or their newest album “Retransmission.” Look for it on January 22.
Released By: Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: January 22nd, 2021
Genre: Hard Rock
- Jeff Scott Soto / Lead Vocals
- Erik Martensson / Rhythm Guitar, Some Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals & Keyboards
- Robert Säll / Keys and Guitar
- Magnus Henriksson / Lead Guitar
- Andreas Passmark / Bass Guitar
- Robban Bäck / Drums
- Big Boys Don’t Cry
- The Moment Of Truth
- The Call Of The Wild
- Got To Be About Love
- Beautiful Game
- How Far To Babylon
- Coming Home
- What Are You Waiting For
- You Better Believe It
- How Do I Know
- One Final Kiss
Proving the incredible "Earthrage" album was not a one-time-only trick, WET has delivered a hooky, melodic, headbanging ass-kicking singalong good time of epic proportions in the form of 2021’s “Retransmission.”