Monday, November 5, 2012

Wheelfall - Interzone (2012)

Somewhere along the way, there came a common misconception that true genius takes time. So, when you sit down to digest the first full length album by four piece Wheelfall, don't let the 13 day recording session fool you into thinking this is some half baked, sloppy recording. This French collective from the city of Nancy are making waves with an album that, clocking in at 50+ minutes, is not for the faint of heart or hearing. Finding their niche in a variation of stoner doom, bassist Niko El Moche, guitarist Cactus Flo, guitarist and vocalist Wayne Furter, and drummer Niko Elbow have a common love for slow, plodding metal and the science fiction works of some of the greats. Completed by the accompanying artwork of Terry Hellrider, "Interzone" is a mind trip, with or without the drugs.

The two minute long "(prelude)" that opens the album isn't as much a full on intro as it is a collision between music and reality, building from low level noise into what will be the first real song, "Howling." What you get in the opening riffs is something is that intensely catchy, and insanely heavy, all meshed into one seamlessly executed piece of booming grunge. To say the production is scratchy would give an impression of low quality, which is not the case at all. Instead, it sounds natural, a rare feat for a modern metal album. Every massive kick drum is like a hammer to a nail, driving it home with power and precision. The guitars, in all their glorious distortion, range from basic heavy chords to wild solo work, accompanied, sparingly, by raspy vocals screams. The scarcity of vocals, in the latter stages most notably, turns the track into a rousing instrumental. But without question, "Holy Sky" steals the show as a sonic masterpiece. The mix is so crowded, but with every member occupying his own platform. The vocals have changed dramatically at time, moving from the standard yelling into more devilish growls. It's the staggering amount of bass that pours through your speakers that might pull you in further, but it's the bending, flowing guitar riffs that will keep you hooked for the eight minute duration. The balance of power seems to be part 70's prog, and part classic doom which, together, form a  unique style.

Within all of the heavy down beats and slower than death tempos, there is a really impressive flow from track to track, especially into "The Parasite Ravages." Without using a sea of effects or pitch correction, the band lay down a thumping array of chunky riffs and rattling bass lines. The same could be said for the vocal style, which is as raw as you could want, without seeming out of place or muffled. But what stands out is that the vocal track, lyrics included, aren't the main focus of any segment. The instrumental, with its deep grooves and crashing cymbals, is the one and only star. The way the instruments come together in the bridge is evidence of that, with a flailing, dangerously intoxicating guitar solo cutting through layer upon layer of distorted bliss. And like our ancestors, they don't waste anything, taking you down to the final seconds before lifting their foot from your throat. A certain degree of congratulations are in order for a track like "It Comes From The Mist," which has the ability to leave the straight edge and sober feeling as though they are under the influence of many a hallucinogenic drug. It's as if the dual riffs have the power to pick you up and move you around. Seemingly simple and basic structures relax your mind and body, only to be struck back to life with the changing pace. While the leads are flashy and impressive, it is the work of the rhythm section that makes this track so successful, providing not just a backing track to play to, but elevating everything with well constructed melodies. Things can be built up or torn down at will, leaving you sitting, along for the ride.

Far be it from me to call a track that eclipses the twenty minute mark "daunting," but there is always a certain degree of worry when something that massive stares you in the face. For the title track, "Interzone," to not only span that time frame but to close the album, is even more intimidating.  The key to making it work, as you soon find out, is to let the track build organically. There is no need to force the square peg of musical vision into the round hole of time constraint. Elements of the track come and go, carefully building up layers like the most intense Jenga game imaginable. Every sudden blast of guitar, or speaker shaking drum beat brings the mix to near collapse, but never allows it to fall. It isn't a display of  instant gratification, mind you. They string you along, minute after minute, by giving you just a small taste; a great riff that leaves your head nodding, or even just a massive kick drum. But a mere five minutes in, a raw bass line provides the lead in to the stomping good time you always thought you'd have. With the eruption at hand, the floodgates are open to anything and everything. For the next fifteen odd minutes, you descend into pure madness at the hands of these four men, until you end up shaken, scared, and right back where you started: low level noise.

There aren't enough adjectives to accurately describe what Wheelfall does. Somewhere between doom guitars, stoner tendencies, and melodic grooves, they have found a home all their own. It isn't as though they are rewriting the rule book on psychedelic doom or stoner metal, but each movement is executed with such precision that it certainly raises the bar for anyone looking to enter than arena. The tracks are heavy, but well conceived, which is a success in and of itself. And even more than that, they are long without ever feeling overbearing or stilted. With the journey that "Interzone" takes you on, it's hard to imagine what these guys will come up with next. Though, I suppose it is less a question of what, and more a question of where it will take us.


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