Wheel signed a worldwide deal with Inside Out Music earlier this year and have a tour with Apocalyptica lined up for 2023. The Anglo-Finnish quartet impressed the prog metal sphere with the sophistication or their first two albums and can already count Leprous as former touring partners. Now, they release an EP in preparation for the third LP of their career next year, and it should be a classic on the evidence of this teaser. Rumination gives you plenty of time to ruminate on what makes Wheel so enthralling.
Fans of 2021’s Resident Human album will know that Wheel’s rhythm section approach musical composition from the Meshuggah and Tool school of science. Finnish sticksman, Santeri Saksala, appears to be playing in common time on opener, ‘Blood Drinker’, but soon latches onto his own pattern with snare hits in places where most active listeners would fear to lay their beats. The deep guitar incursions of James Lascelles and Jussi Turunen are just as dexterous in their pitch and purpose. This is music that aims to be deceptive in its simplicity. You can whistle to it, curve your head, roll your shoulders, pull poses with outstretched hands like a ballerina, and yet you will discover more nuances with every repeat listen. Like Ian Kenny (Karnivool), James Lascelles’ confident baritone voice will captivate you in no time. Play this for your sceptical musician friend who has no appreciation for heavy guitar music and see if they change their opinion. There might even be an important message in the lyrics, but the mesmerising pocket grooves are too powerful for you to concentrate on anything else.
Melodies come natural to prog metal musicians, just as goals come natural to world class strikers in the European Champions League. When Wheel reach into the darker depths of alternative rock, they do it from the vantage point of musical theorists. ‘Synchronise’ would be an ordinary affair if left in the hands of an American post-grunge band, but James Lascelles proves that you can still do much with a genre that seems to offer only less. Here, the background cellos enhance the intricate acoustic picking while the bass and drums remain committed to a louder sonic attack. Former teen prodigies, Silverchair, would sound something like this if they reformed and returned to their alternative metal roots with the wisdom of the last two decades behind them.
‘Impervious’ is the most poignant of the three tracks on Rumination, with its incredulous examination of how populist politicians can go from strength to strength even after their mendacity and corruption reaches the public domain (see Donald Trump, Viktor Orbán, Silvio Berlusconi et al). Bassist, Aki Virta, dominates this one with his sliding finger upstrokes. His thrusts are effective enough to need no guitar until the bridge and chorus, where Lascelles holds his notes like a member of Alice in Chains. This is the song for you on a Sunday night when you step back from your bed and wonder why you pack your bag for work the next day as if it can be anything more than a mundane ceremony. In the past, you smiled at this routine as a self-satisfied mark of a civilised person. Now you’re not so sure it has any importance. But the fact you ask these questions sends a shiver down your spine.
Wheel promise a long European tour in 2023 and a new record. We should sit up and take notice.
Release Date: 10/11/2022
Record Label: Inside Out Music
Standout track: Blood Drinker
Suggested Further Listening: Karnivool – Persona EP (2001), Playgrounded – The Death of Death (2022), Tesseract – Sonder (2018)