Wheel - Moving Backwards
Finnish/English band match musical and emotional weight in style
Words: Phil Weller
For any progressive metal band, or indeed any metal band for that matter, sharing your album release date with Dream Theater can be a bit of a burden. Yet, for Finnish/English act Wheel, their debut album's birth alongside their American counterpart's 14th full length only works to put its brilliance into a greater context. Stand them side by side and these newcomers have just as much imagination, but what they lack in legendary status they more than make up for with their fire and steel.
From its manic drum work which often sounds like an octopus doing an avalanche impression, expertly confounded with Tool esque bass to its thick, abrasive and engaging guitar work and its stirring and soulful vocals, this is a record which ticks evey prog metal box with both invention and familiarity.
Very much the sum of its parts, Wheel impressively unite their individual talents across expansive instrumentals, journeying dynamics and bucketloads of engaging melodies courtesy of James Lascelles’ first rate vocal performances. Vultures boasts an irresistible alt rock swagger, coloured intelligently by shifts in focus, feelings and ferocity while the ten minute long Wheel is as cinematic as it is adventerous and ambitious. Lateralus era Tool wades the same murky waters as Alice In Chains inspired darkness and Karnivool meets Radiohead flavoured crescendoes. Yet none of their writing, despite how common the Tool comparisons will undoubtedly be, come off as plagiarist, so engrained in their own vivid personality these songs are. Whether seething on Where The Pieces Lie, cosmically introspective on Tyrants or all of the above and more on Wheel and the sprawling and infectious Up The Chain, this is a band wearing their heart on their collective sleeve, unafraid to allow their hearts conduct their musical chaos.
Of the album's lyrics, English born Lascelles, who formed the band upon moving to Finland, says: “Censorship in academia is becoming increasingly common. If it continues, filtering out into films, comedy and music – we’ll end up in a place where nobody can say anything anymore. On this album, rather than looking at an environmental or economic dystopia, we’re anticipating more of a social one.”
And listening to the record, everything sounds driven, purposeful, impassioned. And what a record it is as a result. Ferocious and feverious, few debut albums have bee this emotionally and sonically expansive and established in years. Sure, today Dream Theater will be getting everyone’s attention, but in the grand scheme of things, as good as Distance Over Time is, this is a record that arrives with an air of freshness, of something different that truly deserves your attention. But this isn’t a one day only thing and so expect this band to stay etched in the prog metal world’s psyche for years to come.