Album Review : W.E.T. – Retransmission

Review by Peter Coates –

W.E.T.   Retransmission
Released – 22 Jan 2021
Frontiers Records

W.E.T. truly epitomizes what melodic rock has become in the present. The key element at the foundation of W.E.T has always been to create a modern melodic hard rock sound that combines powerhouse rhythms and top-notch production, with the music being equally classic and contemporary.

Retransmission is another great example of the genre, which is well in keeping with the tradition established by the three amazing records that have preceded this one, and showing that you can certainly exceed the sum of the parts.

Starting with a genre-defining self-titled debut, Robert Säll (Lead Guitar and Keyboards – the “W” from Work of Art), Erik Martensson (the “E” from Eclipse – as Rhythm Guitar and Keyboards rather than singer), and Jeff Scott Soto (Vocals – the “T” from Talisman and Takara and many other projects) accepted the daunting task to give that debut a follow-up, Rise Up. After that stellar follow-up, their third opus, Earthrage cemented a legacy of high-quality melodic rock music which will stand the test of time.

The cast is impressive, even without the pedigree of the aforementioned trio – Robban Bäck on the drums has been in Eclipse and Sabaton, Magnus Henriksson is the guitar-wizard in Eclipse, and bass player Andreas Passmark is also in Royal Hunt and Narnia as well as the Vivaldi Metal Project.  However good the musicians though, the secret to success is in the songwriting – the musicianship, production and gloss can only do so much.

I am not sure who has written what on the album, but there is not a bad track here, and there are some simply outstanding examples of modern melodic power rock here which add up to something pretty special in terms of the album as a whole.  Yes there are a bunch of Scandinavian bands producing top-notch AOR (Eclipse, Degreed, H.E.A.T and others), but this group of maestros has upped the ante with this package.

Huge solid riffs backed up by layers of keyboards and harmony vocals are the trademark, and Big Boys Don’t Cry opens the show with power before sliding into a wonderful groove, and it is clear from the start that JSS voice is on absolute top form, and the chorus is just glorious, with a belter of a solo before the little bit of calm in the choruses, and then the instrumental break with the guitars taking center-stage.  A familiar intro of keyboards and crushing guitars lead into The Moment of Truth which has an even more hook-laden chorus.  There is a bit of atmosphere thrown into the start of the solo, which then powers up thanks to the increased power of the backing before reaching a crescendo – although the closing solo is perhaps even more impressive.  Why limit yourself to one blinding guitar solo when two or more will do!  

Another slice of catchy powerful rock in The Call Of The Wild is prefaced by a gentle piano intro, before the face-melting riff kicks in, and the verse features an amazing call and response between JSS and the backing vocals, while the rhythm section blasts along in driving the track along.  Oh yes, there is another blistering solo here too!

Got To Be About Love is the second single off the album, and teases with a slow-paced intro that suggests a Bad English-style power ballad, before the chorus takes us to another level of melodic rock nirvana, and Beautiful Game gives us another smooth rocker, that like the rest of the songs, has an enormous sense of underlying power, that is superbly topped off with the often ridiculously glorious lead and harmony vocals from JSS and Erik M.

The track that has absolutely lifted Retransmission above the rest of the pack in my opinion is How Far To Babylon, which has a slightly eastern vibe to the intro (as with the likes of UK band Ten), but breaks into a drum-driven intro chorus which is spine-tingling, before the verse, driven by the bass and drums, comes in.  JSS delivers an emotional lyric in the verses, and then this monstrous chorus blasts from the speakers – with the immense production seemingly exceeded here.  Robert S gives us another quality solo, and then more of that chorus before the fade.  Any track that follows such a belter faces a problem, and Coming Home is a fresh and radio-friendly slice of rocky AOR which delivers a fresh and complementary sound.

There had to be at least one huge ballad on this record, and What Are You Waiting For delivers in spades on all levels – impassioned vocals, soaring backing harmonies, power chords and acres of keyboards that scream 1980’s in all the right ways.   You Better Believe It gets back to the core sound of that chugging underlying riff that combines with the keyboards to create the depth of sound, allowing JSS to show his huge range on the vocals, while the guitars just keep throwing out licks and breaks at will to provide the icing on the multi-layered cake!

The penultimate How Do I Know has an intensity to the opening that leads into a very ‘traditional’ Scandi-rock vibe, which is then transformed into something spectacular in the chorus, before the guitars seem to be pulled up in the mix to give the track more of an edge in the riffs, with a wonderful keyboard counterpoint going on as well.    The album closes with yet another stunner in One Final Kiss, opening with twin guitars and tight accents from the drums, a neat little pre-chorus that sees a key-change into just another AOR-tastic (sic) chorus.

If you were to program some sort of AI with 30 years of quality AOR, and Scandinavian rock in particular, with the mission to deliver the “perfect” melodic hard-rock album, you might get 6 or 7 of the tracks on Retransmission, but there is enough that is different and surprising to show that you actually need the human touch and the contrasting backgrounds and musical styles of the band members in order to create something quite this good. BRAVO!

Jeff Scott Soto: Lead Vocals
Erik Martensson: All Rhythm Guitar, Some Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals & Keyboards
Robert Säll: Keys and guitar
Magnus Henriksson: Lead Guitar
Andreas Passmark: Bass Guitar
Robban Bäck: Drums

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