Frontiers [Release date 23.03.18]
In the extensive world of melodic rock collaborations, W.E.T. can be seen as the nearest to a supergroup, bringing together the talents of prolific vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, Eclipse’s main man Erik Martensson and Work of Art’s Robert Sall. Their other commitments mean that W.E.T albums are worth anticipating, this being only the third and the first since 2013’s ‘Rise Up’.
At that time Eclipse’s heavier direction differentiated the two acts. However, with last year’s excellent ‘Monumentum’ squarely within the melodic rock mainstream, and with Erik co-writing all the songs (JSS having a credit on just less than half and Robert none at all), there was a high risk of this release becoming indistinguishable from an Eclipse album.
‘Watch The Fire’ is, pardon the pun, a slow burning opener which opens with a big riff but which sees both Jeff and Erik singing, and takes a while for its classy chorus to come to the boil. ‘Burn’ sees another Eclipse band member in Magnus Henriksen alternate between acoustic and electric guitar, with a fiery closing solo, while ‘Kings Down On Thunder Road’’s anthemic tales of youth is where the Eclipse connection is strongest.
The first change of pace comes in ‘Elegantly Wasted’ with string-sounding keyboards and a hi-tech production that reminded me of Def Leppard or eighties Queen, though a mark deducted for the nursery rhyming of ‘another glass of wine, and I’ll be fine’.
However the bulk of the album is instant, uptempo songs such as ‘Urgent’ (where the title is not the only Foreigner influence) ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Calling Out Your Name’ with big, brash choruses.
JSS’s vocals are ever superb but it is almost as if he is reacting against the eclecticism of other projects he has been involved with, not to mention his more progressive other supergroup in Sons of Apollo, and gone as far back to the AOR mainstream as possible.
Indeed a couple of songs almost serve as a taster of what might have happened had Journey retained his services back in 2007. The lush, dreamy ballad ‘Heart Is On The Line’ is graced by ‘Faithfully’-esque who-oah-oahs’ while album closer ‘The Neverending Retraceable Dream’ owes more than a touch to ‘Be Good To Yourself’.
Elsewhere ‘I Don’t Wanna Play That Game’ and ‘Burning Pain Of Love’ are also big slices of melodic rock, allied to a few contemporary production touches.
It’s an album that may divide opinion as compared certainly to their debut they play things very safe – but what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for with the panache with which the songs are delivered. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
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UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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