Album review: W.E.T.- Rise Up

W.E.T.- Rise Up

Frontiers Records

In a genre whose natural tendency is to look backwards, few new melodic rock acts have been as eagerly anticipated as W.E.T. Their 2009 debut, fusing the talents of prolific and versatile ex Malmsteen, Talisman and Journey singer Jeff Scott Soto with rising Swedish songwriters Robert Sall from Work of Art and Eclipse’s Eric Martensson, was an instant classic, and their stock has risen even further since.

A 2011 Firefest appearance was jaw-droppingly good, and Work of Art’s second album outstanding while Martensson has established himself as melodic rock’s go-to songwriter for the new generation. So  it is fair to say that expectations were high for this sophomore release.

This is an album that goes against the stereotype of a band establishing themselves with their debut,  then taking chances and broadening their approach on the follow-up (with mixed results, hence the difficult second album syndrome). In this instance, W.E.T. – now a full band with Eclipse’s Magnus Henriksson and Robban Bäck in tow – have unashamedly gone for the most mainstream, commercial sound possible, complete with ‘who-oah’ choruses and layered backing vocals, notably on The Moment and Bad Boy,  possibly delighting those Soto fans frustrated by his relentless genre hopping.

The results are stunning, openers Walk Away (with a nod to Journey’s never Walk Away) and Learn to Live Again, on which Martensson shares vocals,  having massive hooks and choruses whose updated production values are the only clue we have not stumbled across an undiscovered  gem from the late eighties. The title track is as stirring as its title suggests and Love Heals is a lush ballad with a slight hint of Def Leppard’s Love Bites: one of only two on the album alongside Still Believe in Us, which with its piano intro and crashing chords as the chorus kicks in ticks all the power ballad boxes.

After a slight dip in quality for a couple of songs the last third is uniformly excellent. Broken Wings has a Celtic feel reminding me of Dare’s The Raindance , Shot fuses big hooks  with the modern feel of a Shinedown or Halestrom and closer Still Unbroken combined another anthemic chorus with one of the best guitar solos on the album. JSS’s vocals are strong throughout and fit the material perfectly.

And yet, and yet- given that the first album had its ambitious, grandiose moments  I cannot help feel that they have sold themselves short by less adventurously going for the lowest common denominator.

This stuff would have filled stadia in the eighties, but as it is us melodic rock lovers can look forward to appearances on either side of the pond at Melodicrock Fest 3 and Firefest.  If you are not worried about the lack of chances taken , this is a stunningly crafted template for what a melodic hard rock album can sound like for the modern age.

**** 1/2

Review by Andy Nathan

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