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Wheel - Resident Human CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.79 | 36 ratings

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2 stars The sound of prog metal has changed quite a lot since the early 1990s, when I started listening to the genre. Back then, technical prowess, classical influences, high-pitched vocals and long-form compositions were the norm, and ninety percent of the prog metal that was released in those years was heavily influenced by bands like Dream Theater, Queensryche and Symphony X. Over the years, the genre started becoming more receptive to influences from outside the standard canon, with bands like Radiohead and Tool bringing in a taste for cerebral but melodic grooves, atmospheric landscapes and subtle electronica. Much of the prog metal that is being played today owes a lot to the lesson of those bands, and up-and-coming Finnish quartet Wheel are no exception.

Wheel must have grown up listening to a lot of Tool. And by a lot I mean a LOT. Resident Human, Wheel's second album after their well-received 2019's debut Moving Backwards, is a record that fans of Maynard James Keenan's band will find hard to put down. It is packed with a beautiful sound ? full of glorious bass grooves, hypnotic riffs and arpeggios, and clever rhythmical figures with plenty of syncopations and polyrhythms that will leave you scratching your head and banging it at the same time. This lush sonic tapestry forms a perfect background for James Lascelles' deep and pleasant clean vocals, which pay a clear direct tribute to Maynard James Keenan. It's a captivating formula, especially when Wheel fully unleash their creativity in the three multifaceted mini-epics of the album, "Dissipating", "Hyperion" and the title-track "Resident Human". The other tracks of the album are shorter and punchier and showcase instead the more alternative rock/metal influences of the band. Among these tracks, "Fugue" is particularly interesting, with its hypnotic vibe and a groove that reminds me somewhat of Haken.

Although Resident Human flows away pleasantly throughout its 50 minutes, it somewhat failed to leave a lasting impression on me. Partly this is because Wheel pay a lot more attention to rhythm than melody, which means that there are not many outstanding melodic lines on the album. Inevitably, this makes the listening experience somewhat more challenging as the listener cannot rely on accessible melodic hooks to make sense of the music. This can make the songs ? especially the longer ones - appear slightly circular and nondescript. In part this is also because most of the longer songs build and build, but rarely resolve in a satisfying manner. Another aspect of the album that gave me pause is that the Toolesque influences are a tad too evident, to the point that Wheel might face the risk of being classified as a mere Tool-clone, not unlike Soen in the early stages of their career.

Despite this criticism, Resident Human is a solid sophomore effort that will appeal to readers who have liked the latest efforts of bands like Haken, Leprous and Soen. To reach the heights of these prog metal giants, Wheel may have to work a bit more on their compositional skills, paying more attention to melody and song development, and at the same time try and step out of Tool's shadow in a more decisive way. But the chops are clearly there, and Wheel have all the right cards to aim to become a significant presence in the prog metal landscape.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

lukretio | 2/5 |


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