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Wheel “Charismatic Leaders” album review by Jorge Pozo

Wheel Band Members

Within the labyrinthine landscape of progressive metal, Wheel emerges once more, redefining their sonic identity with their latest opus, Charismatic Leaders. This endeavor marks a pivotal moment for the Helsinki-based ensemble as they pivot towards a heavier, more introspective sound, all while grappling with the departures and changes within their lineup.

From the get-go, Charismatic Leaders propels listeners into its depths with “Empire”, a track bursting at the seams with energy and ferocity unforeseen in Wheel‘s previous works. This isn’t simply an evolution; it’s a revolution of their sound, managing to retain the band’s characteristic melodic intricacies while dialing up the intensity to new heights. The seismic shift in musical direction isn’t just felt; it’s palpable, carving out new realms of expression within their already diverse discography.

James Lascelles, alongside Jussi Turunen and Santeri Saksala, crafts a narrative that’s as much a reflection on the external tumults of our times as it is an introspective journey. The thematic focus on charismatic leadership and its double-edged sword in contemporary society resonates deeply, inducing a reflective state in the listener. This thematic core, entwined with their foray into heavier soundscapes, creates a rich tapestry of emotional and sonic complexity.

The new material showcases a band unafraid to delve into heavier territories, with Lascelles’ vocal delivery adapting to this newfound aggression without losing its emotive potency. Tracks like “Porcelain” and “Discipline” maintain the band’s penchant for atmospheric depth, while “Submission” and “Saboteur” exhibit a masterful balance of technical prowess and melodic grace, anchored by Saksala’s intricate drum patterns and Turunen’s captivating guitar work.

What stands out about Charismatic Leaders is its cohesiveness. Despite the array of influences and sounds at play, Wheel manages to weave a narrative that feels singular and purposeful. Credit is also due to the production team, including Fredrik Thordendal and Daniel Bergstrand, whose expertise elevates the album’s sound quality to match the ambitious vision of the band.

Yet, the album isn’t without its faults. The departure from the varied sonic landscapes of Resident Human to a more unified, heavier direction may alienate listeners enthralled by the band’s previous versatility. Additionally, the album at times feels as though it might benefit from a tighter focus, trimming the excess to reveal the raw, emotional core even more distinctly.

Charismatic Leaders showcases Wheel‘s undiminished drive and creativity, marking a bold step forward in their journey. It is a dense, thought-provoking album that might require multiple listens to fully comprehend its breadth and depth. While it may not recapture the full magic of its predecessors, it stands firmly as a vibrant, compelling addition to their catalogue. As Wheel continues to evolve, one can’t help but wonder: what territory will they explore next?

Rating: 9/10

Wheel Album Covers

The full track-listing is as follows:

1. Empire 04:20
2.Porcelain 07:12
3.Submission 10:46
4.Saboteur 09:01
5.Disciple 04:12
6.Caught in the Afterglow 01:12
7.The Freeze 10:35

The band will be celebrating the release of their new album with their first ever shows in Australia (supporting label-mates Caligula’s Horse) as well as their first ever North American headline shows. Later in the year the band will return to Europe for further headline dates, which have just been announced and can be found below:

Tour dates:
05/02 Orlando – Conduit
05/05 Philadelphia – The Foundry
05/06 Vienna – Jammin Lava
05/07 New York – Mercury Lounge
05/08 Boston – Brighton Music Hall
05/09 Montreal – Petit Campus
05/10 Toronto – Adelaide Hall
05/12 Chicago – Beat Kitchen
05/13 Minneapolis – 7th St. Entry
05/16 Denver – Moe’s
05/19 Phoenix – Underground
05/20 San Diego – Brick by Brick
05/21 Los Angeles – 1720
05/22 Berkeley – Cornerstone
5/23 Sacramento – Goldfield Trading Post
05/25 Seattle – Barboza

31st October – Olympia, Tampere, Finland
1st November – Sawohouse UG, Kuopio, Finland
2nd November – On The Rocks, Helsinki, Finland
7th November – Lutakko, Jyväskylä, Finland
8th November – Finlandia-Klubi, Lahti, Finland
9th November – 45 Special, Oulu, Finland
15th November – Logo, Hamburg, Germany
16th November – Melkweg Up, Amsterdam, Netherlands
17th November – 013, Tilburg, Netherlands
19th November – Rebellion, Manchester, UK
20th November – Cathouse, Glasgow, UK
21st November – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham, UK
22nd November – 1865, Southampton, UK
23rd November – Underworld, London, UK
24th November – Thekla, Bristol, UK
26th November – Kavka, Antwerp, Belgium
27th November – Luxor, Cologne, Germany
28th November – Colos Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany
30th November – Backstage, Paris, France
2nd December – Komplex, Zurich, Switzerland
3rd December – Legend, Milan, Italy
4th December – Backstage Halle, Munich, Germany
5th December – Analog Music Hall, Budapest, Hungary
6th December – Chelsea, Vienna, Austria
8th December – Hyrdrozagadka, Warsaw, Poland
10th December – Lido, Berlin, Germany
11th December – Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, Denmark
12th December – John Dee, Oslo, Norway
13th December – Nalen Klubb, Stockholm, Sweden

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