Normally, I avoid so-called “supergroups” with a wider berth than I would give to a black rat diagnosed with carrying the bubonic plaque… in my book, most of them can be described as something else beginning with ‘s’ and rhyming with ‘height’!
However, a couple of years ago, the debut album from W.E.T. did quite a bit to change my mind about such ventures. Put together very much as a pet project by Frontiers Records supremo Serafino Perugino, who called together the undoubted talents of Robert Säll, Erik Mårtensson and vocalist supreme Jeff Scott Soto, their 2009 debut (also notable for the featuring the last ever recordings laid down by JSS’ Talisman companion Marcel Jacob) was a stormer of an album: in fact, people who know an awful lot more about AOR than I would ever profess to (i.e. my mate Aidan) acclaimed tracks such as “If I Fall” as being the best thing Journey never recorded…
Slightly more than three years later, the band’s sophomore album rises up (sic) the challenge to prove that W.E.T. are a credible band and nothing more than a flash in the pan. Well, as Soto asserted in our recent interview, this is just not a side project – and ‘Rise Up’ is more than adequate proof of the singer’s claim.
Opener ‘Walk Away’ is a soaring, grandiose way to kick off any album, fully showcasing Soto’s fantastic vocal range, while single ‘Learn To Live Again’ has modern-day classic written all over it, with its infectious chorus and glorious melody.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LhTMPgZ-44]
The title track is reminiscent of the glory days of the late 8os/early 90s. with a strong Night Ranger feel to it, but with a totally modern vibe, ‘Love Heals’ is a beautiful, bluesy, ballsy ballad which strikes me as a sort of Styx/Toto/Loverboy crossover while ‘What You Want’ is a no-nonsense straight down the middle-of-the-road stomper and ‘The Moment’ proves that it is possible to write terrific songs within the AOR remit without them sounding staid or cheesy.
‘Bad Boy’ ups the tempo again, built on a hugely retro riff that recalls classic Who and Queen as well as the likes of Journey, of course, and featuring one of the most dangerously singalong-inducing, hummable choruses you probably will hear this year, while ‘On The Run’ is built around a snarling, whiplash riff that quickly evolves into another hugely anthemic melody and chorus. ‘Broken Wings’ starts off with a slightly ‘Born In The USA’ tinge to its keyboard line, but progresses quickly into a fiery mid-paced blitzer, before giving way to another of the album’s highlights: Like ‘Walk Away’ and ‘Learn To Live Again’ before it, ‘Shot’ takes nearly every song written by every AOR band over the past decade to 15 years, rams them into a ground-to-air missile and fires them into oblivion – the guitar solo alone is sublime, especially in its brevity.
‘Still Believe In Us’ is a heartfelt, soaring ballad, guaranteed to get even the most hardened rocker waving their lighters in the air when played live, while closer ‘Still Unbroken’ is a suitably anthemic (there’s that word again – this album is just crammed with anthems) statement of both defiance and intent. It’s a defiant intention that proves W.E.T. are very much a trio of musicians at the top of their game and raising the standard for others to rally to.[10/10]
‘Rise Up’ is released on Frontiers Records on February 25th.
Jeff Scott Soto plays the following solo dates later this year:
Thursday April 4 – Limelight 2, Belfast
Friday April 5 – The Asylum, Birmingham
Saturday April 6 – Camden Underworld, London
Sunday April 7 – Hard Rock Hell AOR Festival, Magna, Rotherham
Check out our interview with Jeff Scott Soto: http://planetmosh.com/interview-with-jeff-scott-soto/