Wheelfall has taken a giant leap since Interzone, the debut released in 2012. The Kyuss-like stoner metal, which characterized their first record, is now long gone. Several reviews regard that work as the number one debut album of the year. I am still one of those who welcome the new concept, which is darker, grimmer than its predecessor; it’s a ghastly industrial sludge/doom creature on 2 CDs.
Let’s make it clear in the very beginning that if you don’t allow the necessary patience and time to listen to the whole thing for at least four or five times, then, you shouldn’t even have a go at it. The album embraces a gruesome and eerie atmosphere, but it only opens up to those who are able to transform music into visual experience. To give you an example, you can see The Blair Witch Project in different ways. Imagine that, in the meantime, the pavement is being broken up by a pneumatic drill under your window, the Sun is glaring, and the popcorn is crackling in the microwave. On the other hand, you could devote yourself to the elusive charm of the night and its stillness, focusing solely on the subject of your observation. I am beyond doubt that the two experiences have nothing in common, and, needless to say, Wheelfall’s new material requires the latter. Obviously, mere atmosphere is not enough. Poor songwriting would only result in sleep-inducing lullabies, but in the case of Glasrew Point, it couldn’t be further than that.
If you can trace stoner metal elements on the album, you’ll find them absorbed in Neurosis-Godflesh-Ministry kind of toxin, supplemented by post metal musing, and ambient transition-tracks. The misleading initial impression of exhaustion, in fact, turns into a long journey of plenty ideas and excitement to fill the 82 minutes of the record. Unfortunately, I’m not in possession of any lyrics (yet), though I’m quite curious about them, as well as the 100-page book, which tells the ominous story written in accordance with the concept of the record. As much as I could figure out from the titles, pictures of the digipak CD, and the songs themselves, I managed to deduce enough so that my imagination could soar. After the short descent into the deep, the album sets off with dashing riffs, delicate turns, and elements that add to the ambience of the album. This is called Dead Eyes, a riff-oriented piece, just like Strangers, or Vanishing Point, the latter of which has been turned into a video. In these songs it is still palpable that we’re talking about the same band that made Interzone, although the harsh industrial approach and the assumed cloak of desolation is strongly felt. Vanishing Point reminds me of Ministry’s better moments in terms of sound, vocals, and dynamics.
The record first shows its ash grey fangs in the 13-minute long The Drift. This massive epos is like a funeral bell tolling, accompanied by crack-of-doom melodies. From this point on, you’ll be enchanted by the discomfort of fumy barren woods. Indulging myself into the streaming music, it feels like I’m surrounded by enraptured transcendental creatures. If sounds don’t fail me, then, from time to time, we leave the woods with its baleful symbols behind, in order to step on deserted industrial grounds. If Interzone reflected on Cronenberg’s masterpiece movie, Naked Lunch (originally written by William Burroughs), then certain sounds on Glasrew Point evoke some images from David Lynch’sEraserhead (an inevitable classic!). It only lasts for a couple of minutes, as we are led back to the barren wilderness, and to its frightful witchcraft.
As we move on to the second disc, the world gets even darker and more rugged. The Shelter is another transition, which is, indeed, alarming if you choose to listen to it in the dark. The subsequent Absence of Doubt is quite an impelling track with its gradual progress. The song is off to a reserved, moderate start, only to be followed by excellent themes, building up to some kind of whirling, sinister denouement. Despite having listened to it five or six times, I can’t really point at parts that I would call superfluous. Well, it is always possible to express yourself more tersely (I am also in favour of records within reasonable bounds in terms of length), but just because an album is long, it must not result in disqualification. All songs here are a bit different from one another, meaning that there is no endless wanton music. The Shape Shifter, for instance, is a really heavy, rough sludge monster with a harmonious ending. Instrumental tracks have their own role, as well, such as A Night of Dark Trees, with its shamanic drums, or the track following it, with hell unleashed towards the end. For split moments I have the feeling that future will lead the band to what Lord Mantis does. A few harmonies and themes make me say that, although Wheelfall is far from being as extreme as the Chicago band.
I really must point out the bass guitar on the album, as I feel that sometimes it takes over and plays one of the main characters in a song. One such track would be the dynamic Sound of Salvation, which reminds me of Godflesh-like industrial-sludge nightmare. Finally, the grim and heavy riffs of the Return Trip put an end to this unrestful journey.
Wheelfall doesn’t make it easy for anybody to cope with this double album, but the time invested will not be wasted. If you are taken to eerie ambiance, uncanny melodies, and can digest massive industrial/sludge riffs, you’re in for a treat with Glasrew Point.