How much music can one body contain? I don’t mean to just puke out mediocre and half-assed tunes, I mean real, quality music. In Sweden in the 70’s there was a TV series called “The Boy With The Golden Pants” about a kid who had a couple of pants where he just had to reach down in his pocket and pull up bills, one after another, never-ending and the values became larger and larger the more money he picked up. I’m starting to wonder if Erik Mårtensson is The Boy With The Music Pants. The guy’s ability to write high quality songs seems endless and album after album with his main project Eclipse, his Nordic Union with Pretty Maids singer Ronnie Atkins and the band Ammunition that he started with ex Wig Wam singer Åge-Sten Nilsen are all made of brilliantly written, arranged and performed Melodic Hard Rock. Yes, I know that Mårtensson have co-writers that helps him out but that doesn’t take away anything from this highly productive song writer/singer/guitarist.
But that’s not all, folks. Mårtensson is also highly involved in the project W.E.T. that features him on guitar, bass, keyboards and vocals, lead singer Jeff Scott Soto (Talisman, Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen, Sons Of Apollo) and keyboard player Robert Säll (Work Of Art), where also lead guitarist Magnus Henriksson (Eclipse) and drummer Robban Bäck (Kryptonite, ex- Ammunition, ex – Eclipse) are included. This project has two previous albums out, their self-titled debut from 2009, an album that I liked but in all honesty didn’t impress the hell out of me and the follow-up Rise Up (2013), that did impress the hell out of me. Since I’m a fan with most of the records that features Mårtensson’s song writing, it’s impossible not to have great expectations when W.E.T. now releases their brand new album. If this album turns out only good, it will feel like a major failure. It have to be great to not disappoint.
But W.E.T. aren’t here to disappoint and they show that with the opening track and first single “Watch The Fire”. It kicks off with a rough and fat guitar riff and pounding drums, obviously Metal influenced. But the song really is baptized in Melodic Rock and it comes across like Eclipse with Soto on the lead vocal. And in good W.E.T. tradition, Mårtensson splits the lead vocals with Soto on the leading track and it’s really great move. The tune is a clear hit to me, a rocker with an extremely catchy refrain. Awesome! “Burn” keeps the tempo up with a steady rhythm, a Hard Rock groove and a distinct melody that holds a very memorable chorus as the icing on the cake. This is meaty, Melodic Rock with a punch. Irresistible! Irresistible is also the word I must use for the golden AOR chorus of the magnificent “Kings On Thunder Road”. The verses run in a slower pace but speeds up when it’s refrain time, a refrain that screams HIT! with its immediate catchiness that knocks me out for the count. What an ace!
It’s ballad time with “Elegantly Wasted”, and what a ballad we’re given. This one is huge, slightly orchestrated and have a twist of late 60’s Beatles in the verse. The tune explodes in a crescendo of highly catchy melodies when the chorus comes in and even though it might be a bit sugary, the tune really makes sure it sticks hard and in my book, this is another single, impossible not to love. The boys bring out the heavy artillery with “Urgent” (no, it’s not a Foreigner cover), a song that kicks your butt with great, fat Heavy Metal influenced guitar riffs and a tough rhythm section that hits you right in the gut. The grittier arrangements are mixed up with an extremely melody but what’s a bit strange is that I find both the verse and bridge more catchy than the chorus. That said, it’s still a damn good tune! Next up is “Dangerous”, a title Soto have already used once, with Talisman. The verse is a bit softer where Soto sings over only bass and drums but it soon comes kicking in the amazingly memorable refrain that sounds like a mix of Talisman and Eclipse. Brilliant!
With a whole bunch of 80’s sounding synths “Calling Out Your Name” starts in a retro way but with some heavy drums the tune increases in speed and becomes an uptempo, straight-forward and pretty radio-friendly rocker somewhere between AOR and Melodic Rock that screams 1988. It comes with a whole lot of catchiness and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up a single in the future. Awesome! “Heart Is On the Line” starts out as an acoustic guitar based ballad but when a rhythm section, keyboards, electric guitars and synth strings are added, the tune becomes a bona fide power ballad with its feet in the late 80’s Arena Rock. Of course it also contains a huge chorus and this particular chorus is of a kind that writers like Desmond Child and Diane Warren would have sold their mothers to have written. I’m a sucker for this kind of song so I’m floored half-way through. How brilliant!
“I Don’t Wanna Play That Game” is an AOR stomper that goes outside the box some. It do hold a good groove but it’s also a bit laid-back and melancholic with a twist of Classic Rock. There’s a darker mood to it that both brings in both Def Leppard and U2 and even though the tune is very memorable, it’s not catchy in a `hitty´way. It might not be as direct as the rest of the songs but it do stick pretty fast anyway. A very good tune. The slower “The Burning Pain Of Love” has a darker edge and it’s quite heavy. But when we reach the very catchy refrain, W.E.T. are in power ballad mode again. On this track they flirt with Metal here and there which takes the tune out of the standard power ballad box. Again, a killer track. They close the record with a big Journey influence in “The Never-Ending Retraceable Dream”, a tune that sends a nod to “Be Good To Yourself” (Raised On Radio, 1986), but it’s not a clone by any means. Slow and a bit soft in the verses, it builds up to a big punch when the refrain shows up – and man, this refrain really kills. This is AOR at its best and impossible not to love.
Is this W.E.T.’s finest moment yet? Well, I loved the last album but dammit if this one doesn’t top it. This is a record that makes me sound like a broken record with all my ‘awesome’, ‘brilliant’, ‘killer’ and ‘amazing’ after each song but what to do when there’s not a weak moment on the entire record? And again, when will Erik Mårtensson’s high quality fountain dry out? It doesn’t matter which project he puts his songs into, they all turn out so damn good. With a little help from his friends, of course. Just like Eclipse, W.E.T. also benefits from the fact that those involved aren’t afraid to stretch out and add a little heaviness and Metal influences to the Melodic Rock / AOR that are the main styles here. That brings more edge to the music and it is something I wish more acts that works within these genres would do. So here we have a well-written, well produced and very well performed album that shouldn’t disappoint a living Hard Rock soul out there.
More W.E.T. reviews:
1. Watch The Fire
3. Kings On Thunder Road
4. Elegantly Wasted
7. Calling Out Your Name
8. Heart Is On The Line
9. I Don’t Wanna Play That Game
10. The Burning Pain Of Love
11. The Never-Ending Retraceable Dream