The lead single Watch the Fire opens slowly, with slow atmospheric guitar chords and marching drums before Mårtensson takes the vocals for a few lines before Soto takes over. Their two voices mix well together, and the smooth backing of the growing verse suits the slightly crooned delivery. By the time the chorus is reached the song really opens out. Soto proves why he is so well-liked in the melodic rock world with a plethora of polished vocal melodies. This is nothing original, but this is a chorus that really grabs hold instantly with its sophisticated pop metal melodies. Those familiar with W.E.T.'s other albums will feel at home right away, and when Henriksson launches into his short, but powerful, guitar solo the song really feels complete. Mårtensson is one of the best modern writers of AOR music, and this song is another classic to add to his canon. Burn is a Mårtensson/Soto co-write, and it opens out with a strident keyboard riff which dominates the song even after the tough guitar rhythms are added into the mix. The pace is more immediate here, with a driving verse filled with plenty of strong bass playing and a somewhat heavier chorus with big ringing chords and Bäck's punchy drums. While not as immediately memorable as the opening number, Burn shows a slightly tougher side to W.E.T. while still focusing on the big AOR melodies that fans are used to. Bäck is a heavier player than your average AOR drummer, as his stint with Sabaton should tell you, and he makes his mark felt here with a powerful performance, including a few flurries of double bass pedal. Kings on Thunder Road is more typical of the band's sound, and takes its cues from the opening number. The verses here are sparse, with a simple beat and a subtle keyboard arrangement, but the choruses explode with pure joyous melodies. The chorus to this song is probably my favourite on the album, as it has all the hallmarks of the great AOR hit singles of the 1980s. Soto's lower voice might not soar like other AOR singers', but he still manages to really get behind the chorus - and it is his performance that makes the song such a winner. Mårtensson takes the guitar solo here, but sadly it is mixed quite low in the song so it does not make the impact that it should. Elegantly Wasted is a fun little song, which opens with grand orchestral keyboards and is centred around a Queen-esque ballroom-filling chorus that is filled with classy melodies that probably are not fit for a song titled Elegantly Wasted! At under three minutes in length this is the shortest piece on the album, and actually feels like those quirky 'filler' pieces that Queen wrote for their first few albums. It works well, with enough AOR trappings to ensure that it does not really stand out, but it never has a chance to really establish itself as it is over so quickly.
Urgent is co-written by, and contains a guest solo by, Thomas Larsson (Baltimoore; Glenn Hughes). It is another heavier song with a spiky guitar riff, augmented by dramatic synths, and a strong chorus. It might just be my brain making associations where there are none, but I do feel that the chorus to this song is a little too close to the Foreigner song of the same name. This is a heavier track for sure, but something about the chorus melodies just feel a little similar. Dangerous is pure 1980s nostalgia however, and really reminds me of the good-time summer music that Brother Firetribe specialise in these days. The keyboards sparkle throughout, adding a little halo of pop when it is needed, and the bass-led verses allow the focus to all be on Soto as he croons his way through the lyrics. The chorus raises the energy levels however, and are complete with some excellent wordless vocal sections that are sure to go down well live if the band ever performs live again. Those eagerly awaiting new music from Brother Firetribe should check this song out, as it will certainly tie you over until those Finns get back in the studio. Calling Out Your Name also opens slowly, with pulsing keyboard melodies that create a fairly dense atmosphere for an AOR track, but once again builds towards a powerful chorus. The formula should be familiar to all now: slower verses that build up towards and explosive pop metal chorus; but it works so well each time with melodies that really stick - so it seems pointless to complain about the lack of variety. This is another of my favourite choruses on the album, as it is just packed full of perfect AOR melodies. Henriksson also shines with a shredding guitar solo that adds a little injection of energy when it is needed. The guitar work throughout this album is mostly rhythmic and as a backing to the vocal melodies, but Henriksson's occasional flurries of metal lead guitar help to keep things interesting.
Heart is on the Line is the first true ballad of the album. It is actually quite surprising that it has taken until the eighth song to get to the first ballad on an AOR album, but it comes along at the right time to add some gentle acoustic guitar and slightly mournful vocals just when everything was getting a bit too jolly! As far as power ballads go, this is a fairly standard example of the tried-and-tested formula, but it works as intended and allows Soto to show his softer side and lets Henriksson throw in a few bluesy lead licks every so often for emotional effect. I Don't Wanna Play That Game picks up the pace again after the ballad and opens with a great guitar melody that mixes in well the keyboards to create something straight out of the 1980s. Again, the verses are bass-led - and again the choruses explode from this verse with Soto belting the lyrics out at the top of his voice. By this point anyone who is expecting anything different should turn the album off, as variety is not about to present itself, but those who are happy with the party anthems should just get one with the job of enjoying the huge melodies. The Burning Pain of Love is similar (surprise, surprise) but it does slow the pace down a bit with those classic crunching AOR guitar rhythms as the keyboard sparkle around them. The chorus is another good one, despite some twee lyrics, and really oozes out of the speakers in a really soothing way. Some of the best AOR has slightly moody overtones at times, with a bit of darkness creeping in around the soaring melodies, and this song is a perfect example of that. The closing number The Never-Ending Retraceable Dream picks the pace up for a final rock out before the album closes out. Jaunty keyboard melodies are found all throughout the song, and Soto turns in one of my favourite vocal performances of his yet. The smoothness of his voice during the chorus shows that he is made to sing this type of music, and Henriksson's guitar leads that pop up throughout are full of zip and energy. There is a great section towards the end where he plays a very simple repeating lick that Soto then starts to join in with and this combination is surprisingly powerful. It is a classic 'closing' song, and ends the album on a real high. Overall, Earthrage is a strong third album from this AOR supergroup. There are no songs that stand out as being poor, and with a couple of really stunning tracks it makes for a very enjoyable listen indeed. This feels like a real summer album, and I can see myself playing it a lot as the weather starts to improve.
The album was released on 23rd March 2018 via Frontiers Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Watch the Fire.