Wheelfall
Glasrew Point

Holy shit, this is the same French Wheelfall that concocted the heady, stoner/psyche brew Interzone in 2012.  While there’s still riff-y churns and doom-addled debauchery to be found here, suddenly this band has went from a Dozer/Colour Haze psilocybin pomp n’ circumstance to a groove-laden industrial pummel that’s like a mixture of early Fear Factory, Alchemist, Meshuggah, Ministry, Halo, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly’s metal period and Red Harvest.  Not only did they completely change the inner-workings of their sound, but their newest record Glasrew Point is an exhausting double album affair that sticks it to short attention spans with song after lengthy song of mechanized madness.  The weird fuckin’ thing is that the more time I spent listening to these songs, the more I actually kept noticing that there’s still some fuckin’ pot-huffin’ stoner/doom tendencies in Wheelfall’s sound besides all of the industrial clattering.  Stick with Glasrew Point…it’s pretty interesting.  The only bands that I can make direct connections with in the end are Skin Chamber and Gilla Bruja, two outfits that mixed liberal rock riffs into their piston-pressed industrial molds.

Disc 1 kicks off with “I Descend into the Deep,” a simple blast of drone with hazy, machinated guitars beaten into place by factory percussion and atmospheric dabs of noise.  It sets the tone for the lengthy post-doom cum industrial wallop of “Dead Eyes.”  Staccato riffs groove and thrash into mercurial double-bass percussion played by a very digitally recorded kit.  Guitarist/vocalist Fabien Wayne Furter is the dry lung vocal martyr in question; his scratchy, mid-range roar is full of throaty gristle as noisy minor chords pierce the mind like shrapnel and electronic deviance prowls the background behind the vocal gallows.  Eventually, the tempos halt to a magmatic crumble full of impending doom pacing and sluggish rhythmic turns.  Synths maintain a caustic, foreboding rumble, playing a similar role to Scott Wexton’s work on the Self-Titled Today is the Day masterpiece.  The riffing starts to throw its girth around the room and definitely hints at a vague touch of the stoner sludginess that Wheelfall embraced in their not so distant past.  A ringing, strangulated minor-key ambience along with drummer Nick Elbow’s pulverizing double-bass sends a black metal shiver up the spine as the music disintegrates into soft psychedelia.  “Strangers” has the urban industrial sprawl of Skinny Puppy/Front Line Assembly down pat with a jabbing vocal style that’s half spoken/half rapped.  The repetitive drum syncopation gives needed lift to the meld of clean guitars and sustained noise.  It’s hypnotic at first, yet it never builds on what it establishes during the first minute of playtime.  Rapid, machine-gun riffs are such dead-ringers for the formative work of Dino Cazares during “Vanishing Point” that it actually hurts.  Some NYC white-noise washouts are more akin to Cop Shoot Cop than anything in the Fear Factory catalog that it provides a little bit of variation, but overall this could have been a stopgap recording between Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture and nobody would have questioned its creation.  It’s not a bad tune overall with some dense chording and bleaker, doomier chugs giving it legroom.  At 3:15 the boys bring in a sunburnt stoner riff that is the only true reckoning of Wheelfall’s past work thus far into the record.

“Now Wakes the Sea” is a nearly 4 minute long ambient soundscape.  It’s not enticing enough to really take hold of the brainstem and it unfortunately saps some of the energy that “Vanishing Point” worked up.  The sprawling expanse of “The Drift” floats in on the drone of the prior track…synths, heavily reverbed clean guitars and murky industrial menace aiming for a baroque creep-out.  Pretty guitar melodies are spliced throughout the entirety of the song, which turns out to be a seeping doom jam full of begotten sludge churns, scathing vocal screams and festering tempos.  The end result is like a more restrained take on noise-lords Halo and their feral, apocalyptic industrial hatred.  A couple of winding Sabbath-y riffs come slinking in, although their overwhelming weight and puncturing noise blasts bring Iommi’s groove by way of Neurosis.  Vocally, this one takes some nasty turns into death metal turf which is a nice touch.  At the end of the day this track borderlines on almost being too long for its own good but somehow the impact, weight and punch is there for a beast that keeps you hanging on till the finale.  Rounding out disc 1, “Pilgrimage” employs that post-metal attitude of quiet/loud dynamics right from the get go and boasts some really grumblin’ bass lines thanks to Niko El Moche.  This tune is like throwing Pink Floyd, Kyuss and Fear Factory into a blender…it’s got smooth psyche guitars, piano, brutish stoner riffs and numerous raspy industrialisms going on all at once.  Sound weird?  It is…but that riff at 2:30 rules hard and I can’t deny it.

The second disc goes back to rather humdrum ambient drone for its opener “Shelter.”  Some bands can pull this notion off but Wheelfall’s static space drones don’t really seem to add anything to the full recording and just take up time.  If you cut some of these out of the equation, you could easily end up with a pretty strong single disc affair.  “Absence of Doubt” is a swirl n’ whirl of oscillating melodic guitars, bulging basslines, clanging percussion and gruff vocal narrations that go on for quite a noticeable amount of time.  Just when things are about to become boring the volume swells to 12 and a noisy bout of Am-Rep riffage inserts its scalpel into your earholes.  Things progress musically just enough to keep things interesting with the riffs getting fatter in the midsection as the vocals return to haggard snarls and the grooves adopt a hallucinatory stoner swirl with bonged-out chord patterns eroding away into acerbic melodies while the drums rattle the sternum with chunky double-bass heft.

“Shape Shifter” possesses one of the best riffs on the album…a doom-splattered bastard of groove that slowly lurches forward like some cyborg version of Crowbar or 16.  This tune also gets some nice flux going on in the vocals with robotic chants and spoken dementia turbulently reverting to primal shit-kicker screams within seconds of one another.  Soft post-rock waves and acoustic guitars further the many qualities of this behemoth.  Techno synths give way to tribal drum thumps during “A Night of Dark Trees,” perhaps the album’s only worthwhile instrumental piece which acts as a set-up for the sludgy riff passages and oddball melodic textures of “The Skeptic and his Shadows (great song title!).”  It’s more or less a mirror-image of “Shape Shifter” in terms of its numerous segments of rise and fall dynamics with its sludge riffing almost identical to the aforementioned “Shape Shifter.”  Darkwave elements are all over “Sound of Salvation” with more staccato Fear Factory riffs in place, danceable industrial beats being a focal point and rhyming vocals causing some irritation.  It’s not a particularly strong track and a definite skipper…approaching a nu-metal head-bob in a few instances, though it does feature some killer noise guitar towards the end and the bass lines are well-played.  “Return Trip” brings us home and it’s shimmering with ample walls of post-guitar noise and electronic manipulation.  It’s another whiff because it never seems to change its pattern across 8 minutes of music.

Glasrew Point is certainly a different animal than Wheelfall’s past releases.  At first I thought they dropped all of their heavy 70s riffs, doom breaks and stoner grooves but the closer I inspected each track I found that there is still a shitload of the old swing in place.  It’s just harder to find and buried beneath the industrial sod.  The biggest problem here is that this could have easily been a one disc album because the second disc peters out during the last couple of tracks and the majority of the ambient instrumentals don’t yield any extra value.  Yet something about this record kept me listening.  It’s a mess for sure but an often well-executed, ambitious one at that.  The strong songs are really strong and anyone looking for a different take on riff-based heaviness should give it a fair shake.  If I had to give it a number, I’d say it’s a 7/10.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
December 15th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: glimmerfunnel

    Sweet review!

    and HOLY SHIT a Skin Chamber reference!


  2. Commented by: Jay

    Thanks a lot for reading it! Kick ass!

    Ha ha, hell yeah, I’ve loved those 2 Skin Chamber albums for a long, long, long damn time. They really slipped under the radar at the time and it’s a shame. I always felt they deserved more attention than they got.

    This isn’t a perfect album (IMO of course!). There’s ALOT of material here so not all of it hit the mark for me BUT the best moments are really good and there’s enough of them to warrant giving it some attention. Cookie-cutter this is not. I’ll pick it up when I can, that’s for sure. I like that they take a lot of chances and especially considering Wheelfall’s previous material, they really go out on a limb this time. Cool band all around!


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