WHEEL OF SMOKE
Release date: July 09th 2016. Label: Self Released. Format: DD/Vinyl
Leuven, Belgium’s Wheel Of Smoke play 70s tinted prog covering metallic space/psych/stoner territory, as well as calmer and more melodic songs. There might be a mix of Opeth, Ozric Tentacles, King Crimson, Agalloch and Pink Floyd as well as some elements of pure underground America flavorings reminiscent of the likes of Lone Star (not the country band) and Roy Buchanon and the like with soulful bluesy progressions. Founded June 7 2005, this marks the third full length release and does not depart much from what has become their own signature approach. The band cites their interest as “Providing our fans and public with a memorable experience at our live shows.” and state that they are influenced by “good music, everyday life, knowledge and ritual, and the anthropology of perception” but extend further that Wheel Of Smoke has NO affiliation or affinity with any religious/political beliefs whatsoever. So nothing too esoteric or any social-commentary based fronts. Not a bad thing by any means, particularly when that is the approach of seasoned musicians such as these four show they are with this latest release.
‘Degeneration’ is the first off and wastes no time with that 3/4 time sig, slight fill every 7th measure approach into the gravel-laced vocal that we can always expect from Filip (guitar/vox) / Erik (guitar/vox) / Jouk (drums) / Tristan (bass/vox) and this has an inherent heaviness that grabs you by your shirt with no sign of letting go as the lunar-guitar assault screams higher and higher until the song fades among that bass rumble and you breathe deep. ‘Ruins’ has a quicker pace and shows of those KING CRIMSON razor sharp time shifts with guitar breaks to match showing that they are indeed happy to keep pushing the envelope with the timeless mix of fills and outbursts of tweaked wah-pedal glory flying in and out of each verse until the second the song just stops, no warning. ‘Bad Shepard’ hits next with pure 70’s almost dance-hall twang over the fuzzed out base line bouncing behind the rhythm section, sounding almost happy in progression until, just past two minutes when the tone turns noticeably darker and that trademark growl screams out again. ‘Unnamed’ enters with a soft guitar line, ghostly vocal climbing into the picture behind as the crescendo breaks into a trot then a slow-run, while ‘Synchronicity’ has a ‘jig’ tilt to the progression of the body of this song to the point this could be one of those ‘audience participation’ songs with lines like “We all know what it feels like” before the snap-pop tempo shift back into the next verse. I can almost see it in my mind’s eye when we hear “Hey” before the chorus rains again into your ears. ‘No More TV’ has a softer intro but breaks right into full unrelenting gallop as we hear of the fucked-up dream leading to a scream and then we are told “Let’s go drinking…” and the fuzzed out bass leads to an even faster run through as we run right along through the entire six minutes plus of this crowd-rouser type of song, executed with a surgical precision of solo attacks left and right, perfectly punctuating this track.
‘Feral’ is the last offering on here, and in my opinion, is the strongest composition recorded utilizing all the tools in their collection from a multi-layered vocal mix giving more substance and body as well as even using harmonic bends at the end of the solo-runs giving even more flavor to what has already been a feast for the mind and the bass/drum line could not be tighter or more precise than what is captured in this opus that clocks in at one second short of eight minutes. The shift to the spaced-out runs littered with revered and slight delay galore will make you feel the ground leave the bottom of your shoes in that stoner-rock way. As you are rising along with the note-scales searing your veins as your pulse quickens to match the tempo for the last half of this final chapter that grows more and more complex and intricate driving madly towards that final three chord burst that ends with a dead-stop. My ears were almost ringing with the silence.
Amazing production, levels above each previous release and shows they are ready to rise out of the underground. If you are a fan, this is a must have, if you are new to the camp, great introduction and will make you appreciate the ‘precursors’ to this release as you witness the growth of each part of the machine that makes up Wheel Of Smoke. Based on the ‘live’ vibe they profess, I recommend going to see them if you get the chance!! \m/
Words by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr