Monday, 8 February 2021

W.E.T. - Retransmission (2021)

Country: Sweden
Style: Melodic/Hard Rock
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 22 Jan 2021
Sites: Facebook

For those who haven't heard of this band, W.E.T. is a melodic/hard rock supergroup on the Frontiers label, where the initials stand not for individuals but for the other Frontiers bands they're known for, each fundamentally Swedish. The W is Robert Såll, guitarist in Work of Art, with four albums on that label; the E is Erik Mårtensson, vocalist and guitarist in Eclipse, with seven; and the T is the American Jeff Scott Soto, who fronts the Swedish Talisman, with three. These aren't the only musicians here, of course, but they're the core of the band, and this is a fourth studio album for them.

What else you need to know is that this is impeccably good stuff. Soto handles the lead vocals here, as effectively as ever, whichever band he's singing for, so Mårtensson supports with backing vocals which are so good and so frequent that the eighties heyday of American AOR (think Journey and Survivor) is never far from our thoughts. Mårtensson also plays rhythm guitar behind Magnus Henriksson's lead, his fellow guitarist in Eclipse, and keyboards. Säll also plays both keyboards and guitar, with the line-up fleshed out with bass from Andreas Passmark of Royal Hunt and drums from Robban Bäck of Autumn's Child.

Even after a couple of times through the album, I struggled to pick out a single highlight, because it remains so consistently well done. Every song features solid riffs, catchy hooks and driving drums, to the degree that they could all be singles. My favourite one is generally the one I'm listening to at the time and my thinking ran roughly like this: "Yeah, this is the best song here! I'll jot that down. Hang on, this next song has a riff/hook/solo that elevates it. Maybe this is the best song here. Yeah, I think so. I'll write that down instead. Hang on..."

No, that's not strictly true. Sometimes I went through a variant of: "Maybe this new song isn't really up to the last one. It's softer/weaker/familiar and... hang on, that's a killer riff/hook/solo! Crap. This is just as good as the last one after all." At the end of the day, though, I failed to find anything better or worse than the previous song eleven times until the album started again and I suddenly realised I was still going in an endless loop. Maybe, if you tied me down and tortured me, I might go with What are You Waiting For, because, every time I think from the softer start that it'll be a weaker song only for it to win me all over again.

But then I'd feel bad about not highlighting the stellar backing vocals on Big Boys Don't Cry and The Call of the Wild; the gorgeous Ozzy circa The Ultimate Sin riff on The Moment of Truth; the jauntiness of The Call of the Wild; the killer choruses on Got to Be About Love and most of the other tracks; the Dio-esque majesty of Beautiful Game, the fantastic atmosphere as How Far to Babylon gets moving; a Robin George sense of style on Coming Home; the neat chug of How Do I Know and the sheer pomp of One Final Kiss. I guess that means that You Better Believe It must be the worst track here and it's still excellent.

So I guess the whole album is a highlight and I have a lot of catch up to do, not just to the prior three W.E.T. studio albums—there's a live one in there too—but a slew of Eclipse, Talisman and Work of Art albums and a whole bunch of others that Discogs tells me these musicians played on. Melodic rock can be a rabbit hole of a genre, especially when you end up in situations like this with a lead singer as the backup vocalist and a lead guitarist playing rhythm. W.E.T. has a surfeit of talent and, at least in this configuration, that sounds damn good.

And, all told, I think this ends up as the best melodic rock album that I've heard since at least Harem Scarem took my album of the month last March, maybe longer.

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