Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Album Review: W.E.T. - Earthrage

As I get older, I find myself more and more being drawn to big melodic rock, as the darker and less fun variations hold less and less appeal to me. I no longer see the point of music that isn't engaging. I also, as someone who has dabbled in music myself, am deeply impressed by artists who are able to not just write great music, but do it consistently and at a frantic pace. I know just how hard it is to write songs, and how quickly the well can run dry. So when you have people like Erik Martensson and Jeff Scott Soto, who have each been a part of multiple records just in the last six months, having yet another with the promise of this one is something that you can't take lightly.

Leading up to the release of "Earthrage", we got two singles that not only made it clear this was going to be the best W.E.T. album yet, but they blew me away enough to make the wait to listen excruciating. "Watch The Fire" and "Urgent" are two fantastic examples of the modern, slick melodic rock that has become a bit of an epidemic. Once you get hooked on the stuff, and those tracks were powerful doses, it's hard to go without a fix.

Martensson, in particular, has been a part of several of the best albums of this kind in recent years. Between his main band Eclipse, Nordic Union, and Ammunition, he has written a wealth of songs that deliver powerful and memorable hooks. And here he's at it again. W.E.T. falls right in line with those other projects, with each one just slightly unique enough to make them stand apart. Soto's voice is the main driver of this one, as his deeper voice gives a different take than we usually hear. Soto's solo album last year was hit-and-miss, and Sons Of Apollo had its moments, but this is where he gets to spread his wings as a singer. He sounds better here than he has in a long time, soaring when needed, and serving as the gravitas to the melodic bliss.

There are hints in his voice that make W.E.T. sound a bit like an alternate universe, where KISS was actually a good band that focused as much on their music as they did on making money. Actually, Paul Stanley's late-career solo album "Live To Win" isn't a terrible comparison to make. Like that album, "Earthrage" is packed with crunchy guitars and sugary hooks that just don't let up.

From top to bottom, "Earthrage" is one killer track after the next. Previous W.E.T. albums have featured some flab, especially in their more saccharine moments, but that is not the case here. These guys have been sharpening their songwriting, and the result is an album that could easily serve as a compilation of the very best from a band of this ilk. To think this isn't even the main vehicle for any of the musicians here is quite a statement. I can think of many, many bands that would kill to be able to rake it in on tour on the back of this kind of record.

The reason I'm not pointing out highlights here is because there aren't any, at least not in the traditional sense. Every track on this record is as good as the next, and considering that it starts out with "Watch The Fire", which might just be the best song so far this year, that's saying something. The rockers, the ballads, it's all so good it might as well be beyond criticism. I shook my head sarcastically when Frontiers said this might be one of the best albums ever released on their label.

I'm not shaking my head anymore. I don't know just yet how "Earthrage" is going to stand up to the onslaught of listens it will get, but right now I'm comfortable saying that not only is it a remarkable album, it's definitely a serious contender already to be the best album of 2018.

No comments:

Post a Comment