Wheel – Resident Human: Album Review

Wheel deliver a dark slab of brooding and complex Metal with progressive tinges. Resident Human explores the complexities of the human condition.

Release date: 26th March 2021

Label: Omn Label Services

Format: digital / CD / vinyl

Arriving fully formed, Wheel’s Moving Backwards debut album dealt a striking blow. It was attributed to being charged by a societal return to tribalism. Hmm. Now with Resident Human, they turn their attention to what they call “the unpacking of humanity, both in a societal and an individual sense.” Hefty themes for the Anglo-Finnish quartet of James Lascelles – Vocals & Guitar, Santeri Saksala – Drums, Aki ‘Conan’ Virta – Bass and Jussi Turunen – Lead Guitar. However, you can trust the quartet not to fall short of delivering on the promise.

We joked at the start of the year that it’s going to be the year of progressive music concept albums about COVID,” James Lascelles says unsurprisingly. True, there have been many (many) cases of pandemic-inspired musical outpourings. Done to death some might argue. However, he goes on: “We’ve kind of done that…but it’s more about the time COVID has allowed us to explore ourselves rather than the pandemic itself.

And after experiencing an inordinate wait for a new Tool album to land, only to be totally knocked out by Fear Inoculum, for lightning to strike twice is just our good luck. Wheel ‘do a Tool’ but without the wait.

Dissipating is a devastating reintroduction. The first of three tracks that clock in at over ten minutes, it stirs and swirls slowly before expanding and exploding into a hypnotic riff that works in the same way as Fripp would goad his Crimson peers into following in days of yore. You get the impression as the band grind down on a groove that it’s not going to be the only mightily intense encounter during the course of Resident Human. The final three minutes in particular are brutal. The sort of outpouring that leaves a feeling of exhilaration at the conclusion.

The inspiration from the sci-fi novel series, Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons has an immediate impact. Dealing in the work and life of the poet John Keats, astronomy, politics and a series-long contemplation of what it is that makes us human, the songs it directly inspired include Hyperion and Dissipating. However, with a pause for breath, Movement then takes things a musical step further; the musical gymnastics and blinding intensity continues into Ascend

Hyperion, like its fellow extended pieces, lulls with the bass and rums offering a time signature challenging sequencebefore heading into a frenzied maelstrom. A calm before a vital storm that you’ll also find on the title track. The place to start channelling those Tool comparisons. The opening notes and the pummelling rhythm don’t attempt to hide the menace. An exploration around a stark ambience inevitably heads towards a rumble and tumbling drum pattern and urgent bursts of mighty power and thunder – what Jimmy Page would call the hammer of the gods. The expectation of a similialy angst-ridden vocal dissolves as Lascelles remains a cool presence.

Yes, Wheel may be intent on putting a voice to our fallible nature and they do so in an uncompromising manner. All we’re left with is the calming coda of Old Earth as we wander through the devastation left from Resident Human. The mighty prog influenced, grunge tinged behemoth comes to rest.

Listen to – nay, experience Hyperion here:

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