Wheel (FIN)
Charismatic Leaders


3.5
great

Review

by Aerialist USER (2 Reviews)
May 10th, 2024 | 30 replies


Release Date: 05/03/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Charismatically following

Wheel are familiar vegetables in the progressive metal soup. With two hefty LPs under their belt (2019’s Moving Backwards and 2021’s Resident Human) and a quite frankly shockingly beautiful EP (2022’s Rumination), the Finnish trio find themselves behind the Wheel for another joyride. Charismatic Leaders, as frontman James Lascelles opines, is a reflection of humanity's increasing reliance on cult of personalities to consolidate power, and forge cultural identities, rather than true leadership. In a somewhat ironic turn of events, this too hallmarks their latest offering. On first listen, Charismatic Leaders pens everything that you would expect and love from a modern progressive album. It is a cleanly produced and punchy sounding record with chugs and soaring vocals and dexterous drums. To get straight to the point: it is a good album. Perhaps it's a great album. Yet, beneath the shining exterior and moments of brilliance is an subtle yet undeniable lack of earnest leadership and over-reliance on the familiar.

Let me be very transparent: Wheel are an incredibly talented group of musicians, and Charismatic Leaders certainly holds its own among its peers in the progressive space. The album opener “Empire” demonstrates from the outset what makes Wheel a fun listening experience. With bouncy riffing that is bound to bring life to a mosh pit in a morgue, and the patented dissonant and effects laden ambient verses to offset the freneticism, it is clear that Wheel’s blueprint has not changed substantially from past releases. At a similar run-time of just over four minutes, “Disciple” treads a similar path: bouncy riff, chugga-chugga crescendo. While somewhat predictable in nature, the tightly packaged parcels on this album demonstrate Wheel’s capacity to get in, say something interesting, garner a mid-tempo head nod, and get out again. But, as we are all assuredly aware – progressive metal albums are rarely judged on the back of their quick ditties. In addition to the shorter tracks on the album (including the relatively Opeth inspired acoustic transitional track “Caught in the Afterglow”), Charismatic Leaders plates up more than its fair share of sonic marathons, too.

With three tracks over nine minutes in length (“Submission”, “Sabotuer” and “The Freeze”), and another over seven minutes (“Porcelain”) in an album only seven tracks long, Wheel demands your attention. This comes as no real surprise to anyone who has visited their previous LPs. The track “Wheel” from their debut Moving Backwards clocked over ten minutes, luring the listener through winding halls of instrumentation and sharp vocal hooks (“shut up and give me the medicine!”), followed by a surprisingly refreshing slow build of bongos, sliding guitar licks, masterful drum work, and aggressive climax that brings sweet relief. While Wheel certainly could have been accused of overwriting tracks in the past, their ability to snag with a hook and build to a climax ameliorated the inflated run times. Lengthier tracks from their second LP Resident Human, such as “Dissipating”, were able to justify their run time by conjuring an undeniably juicy atmosphere. Haunting guitars, tight drum grooves, and beautiful vocal harmonies. In short, these tracks possess enough treasure to buy their audience’s attention.

Therin lies the rub. Simply put, Charismatic Leaders’ greatest weakness is that the meatiest of offering don’t bring enough new material to the table. At risk of revisiting the tired trope of Tool comparisons, Wheel fall headfirst into their musical father’s Fear Inoculum footsteps: minute after minute of call and response chugging, with far fewer moments of release or genuine atmosphere. While their characteristic atmospheric track “The Freeze” starts with a promising emotive build, it aimlessly wanders off around the four minute mark to play with some all too familiar dancing toms over palm mutes that never really goes anywhere substantially new for the next six minutes. “Saboteur” resurrects things slightly, sporting some memorable vocal lines and distinct rhythmic passages, but again falls flat into tom-fuelled chug fest by the end of the track. Where previous Wheel efforts have always managed to construct shining lighthouses within the darkness that sear into memory (take “Synchronise” from their latest EP Rumination, for example), Charismatic Leaders unsettlingly exists as a great album full of inexplicitly unmemorable, inflated songs.

This places the listener in an interesting position. Can an album of good songs produce underwhelming results? Can a warmly familiar face fail to lead?


user ratings (54)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Aerialist
May 10th 2024


176 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

chugga chugga chugga

bowlermicah
May 10th 2024


206 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I like this a lot. Feels like a step up in the production dept, and finds them shedding that Tool influence more with each release. I wasn't very familiar with their previous output though, so maybe that's why I like it so much.

Teal
May 11th 2024


603 Comments


Saboteur might be one of my favorite songs of the year.

Imperial
May 11th 2024


2050 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Digging Porcelain, Submission and Disciple.

Ebola
May 11th 2024


4526 Comments


Excellent review. I listened to their debut when it came out and found it decent but largely unmemorable.

peartnoy
May 11th 2024


2197 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pos'd for the summary alone.

bloc
May 12th 2024


70260 Comments


Album fuckin rules

onionbubs
May 12th 2024


21109 Comments


ive heard this is wheely good

Zakusz
May 12th 2024


1585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Sounds like creed and tool at the same time somehow

Hawks
May 12th 2024


88483 Comments


Aka worst album ever.

onionbubs
May 12th 2024


21109 Comments


erras got competition huh

Orb
May 12th 2024


9397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I quite this band. They're like Tool without all the unnecessary frilly bits and dumb interludes.

Tundra
May 12th 2024


9740 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Tool worship band, eh

Orb
May 12th 2024


9397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Both are named after common, useful objects!

peartnoy
May 12th 2024


2197 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm pretty much agree with the review 100%.



There's some good stuff here for sure but the pacing is just too lethargic for what little payoffs there are.

Kopkiwi
May 12th 2024


73 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Great review, don't agree on the rating, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.



These guys are fast becoming a personal favourite of mine. Was absolutely gutted their Melbourne show fell through with CH after flying all the way over from NZ just to see them :-(

Aerialist
May 13th 2024


176 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks all! It is my first review so I'm pleased you have enjoyed.



I do really rate this release, I just think the addition of a more memorable track or two in the vein of "Fugue" or "Synchronise" would have elevated things substantially.



@Kiwi I also missed their Melbourne show. Tragic times.

wildinferno2010
May 13th 2024


1907 Comments


I'm interested in checking these guys, heard good things

Relinquished
May 13th 2024


48760 Comments


Saw them with Aviations live, they both ruled

Gmork89
May 13th 2024


8677 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love their sound, if they took the soundscapes even further like Karnivool and Fair to Midland they could make something truly amazing.



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