Wheel – Preserved in Time Review

Metal ebbs and flows. Sub-genres within metal ebb and flow. A few years ago, with Khemmis and Pallbearer leading the charge, it appeared we were entering a golden age of doom which honored its classic and heavy roots, while adopting a progressive sensibility. Sadly, Pallbearer veered into hard-rock territory, Khemmis went very prog, and suddenly, the cupboard seemed bare. Sure, Fvneral Fvkk made a classic, but it was the exception rather than the rule. Doom is not going anywhere, of course, and stoner doom bands are more common than Holdeneye 4.0s, but over the past few years, it’s played a supporting role to its black and death metal cousins. Well, Wheel (not to be confused with their identically named prog counterparts, reviewed recently) is here to remind you of the glorious, thunderous, epic power of classic doom.

Wheel have been kicking around since the late 2000s, but the messiness of life interrupted the band’s output. Their last effort was 2013’s Icarus, which was a solid slab of Solitude Aeturnus worship, featuring a distinctly stoner vibe. It was solid, if a bit unremarkable, and it glided under many a radar with impressive stealth. Preserved in Time takes the core sound of Icarus, but makes some clever additions, injecting elements of Candlemass, Warning and even Pallbearer. It takes this combination and buzzes it all with a thundering momentum. If previous efforts sounded like a band seeking out its sound, Preserved in Time finds Wheel truly settled for the first time. The result is not only the best album of their career, but one of the strongest doom albums of 2021 so far.

The real highlight of Preserved in Time is its songwriting. Having established a sound the band is comfortable with, the songs play to these strengths while also exploring entertaining avenues, including classic doom (“At Night They Came Upon Us”), epic doom (“After All”) and even prog (“Aeon of Darkness”). Regardless of where the songs go, they’re all built on a rock-solid base, featuring riffs thicker than oil-saturated peanut butter, and just as tasty. Throughout, these serve as a platform for Arkadius Kurek’s thoroughly excellent vocal performance. The album was recorded in a rehearsal studio, without a click track, and with minor mistakes left in. This shagginess only adds to the charm, and creates a raw feel that suits the material. This combination of varied songs, interesting production, and superb performances prevents Preserved in Time from becoming boring. At a lean 48 minutes, it absolutely flies by.

When watching giant monsters or robots fight, one overlooked feature is that as you up the scale, you need to slow things down to maintain a realistic sense of momentum. It’s subtle, but it’s the difference between scenes that convince, and ones that feel hokey and fake. Wheel understands this concept perfectly, and Preserved in Time has a fantastic sense of majesty and sheer epicness that could only be achieved by keeping the pace slightly slower. It’s this that consistently elevates many of the songs from good to great. “Aeon of Darkness” is prog as King Kong. “Daedelus” is classic doom as Godzilla. The clash is epic. The only real downside to all this is that the sound of Preserved in Time is not particularly original. Wheel is interested in honoring its influences, not breaking free of them, but this is not an album that will challenge the year-end lists of non-doom fans.

Preserved in Time is a triumph, and a welcome return for a band that I wasn’t sure we would ever see again. It manages to focus Wheel’s entertaining sound while simultaneously expanding upon its songwriting. The baton for epic doom, from bands like Solitude Aeturnus and Candlessmass, feels like it has never really been handed over. Until now. This is rousing, epic, and crowd-pleasing, with all the hallmarks of its glorious influences. It doesn’t quite manage to break free of them, but when it’s this compelling, who cares? Essential listening for doom fans, and highly recommended for everyone else.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music
Websites: wheeldoom.bandcamp.com/  |  facebook.com/Wheeldoom/
Releases Worldwide: April 9th, 2021

« »