German doom exponents Wheel have been away for a while – eight years, in fact, during which time the band puts down their absence from active duty to adult-sounding reasons like families and day jobs; thankfully, the time away hasn’t been spent completely in the washing of nappies and working for the man – as just one listen to their new album, Preserved In Time, suggests that they’ve been honing their doom skills too – a fact for which we must all give thanks.
But one listen isn’t really enough to appreciate the delights which reside within Preserved In Time‘s stentorian grooves. Like all the best albums, PIT requires deep immersion before it gives away it’s deepest secrets. So, whilst opener At Night They Came For Us sets the scene nicely from the get go, slotting together glacial rifferama and impassioned vocalisation with enough impact to pique the interest immediately, the track only really hints at the majesty of that which lies beneath.
The band elected (wisely, in my opinion) to record themselves without fancy gizmos like click tracks. They even decided to leave minor mistakes on the finished recordings, and these choices give the band’s sound a stark soulfulness not always apparent in modern recordings. Second track When The Shadow Takes You Over demonstrates the validity of the approach, as vocalist Arkadius Kurek leads from the front with a vocal at once drenched in fragility yet wreathed in splendour; at times, in Wheel’s more sombre moments, you’ll get hints of My Dying Bride‘s Aaron Stainthorpe to go along with the more prosaic doom comparisons, and Kurek’s vocal prowess definitely gives the band an edge over the opposition in this particular field.
Third track After All is simply majestic, based on first rate riffage from Benjamin Homberger and some clanking bass accompaniment from Marcus Grabowski; again, this may be a ‘home made’ recording, but the quality of the sonic assault on this track leaves nothing to be desired. As the layered guitars hammer home the track’s spellbinding mid section, you’ll be transported to the early glory days of this style of music, and Homberger’s solos in the second half of the song will have you out of your seat, fingers twitching involuntarily in approbation – This is metal that moves you, let there be no doubt of that.
She Left In Silence is a stomping, mid-paced lurcher that reminded your reviewer of American Gods Trouble, melodic and musclebound in equal parts, whilst the slow building Aeon of Darkness epitomises what epic doom metal is all about; Carsten Jercke lays down an adamantine beat, so solid it’s probably anchored in about fifteen feet of concrete, over which Homberger and Kurek weave what can only be described as pure sonic sorcery. Again, the slight fragility in Kurek’s voice somehow adds impact to the latent heaviness of the music- he’s close to the edge, yet he holds all together to deliver his defining performance of the record. It’s amazing to listen to.
The final brace of tracks, Hero of the Weak and Daedalus keep things nicely varied; the former sees the band at their most melodic – although that doesn’t mean they let up on the heaviness, as Homberger unleashes some of his most jagged riffs of the album, whilst the latter rounds the album off almost in microcosm, drawing strands from everything that’s gone before to create a glorious epilogue to the album.
With Preserved In Time, Wheel have created a work of timeless excellence – and certainly a work that metalheads will revere for years to come.
Preserved in Time releases on April 9th.