Title: A Spectre Is Haunting the World
Label: No Good To Anyone
Release Date: 4 December 2020
Format Reviewed: Digital Download
Although Nancy, France’s Wheelfall have been releasing music for over 10 years now, it was only by chance that I discovered them this year. What a revelation that was! Written by lyricist and multi-instrumentalist Fabien W. Furter, “A Spectre Is Haunting the World” is the band’s fourth full-length release and in keeping with the constant spirit of creativity that burns at the heart of this musical project, it’s an evolution of the band’s sound (as each release has been). From the band’s second album “Glasrew Point” (a multifaceted Sludge Metal masterpiece) to their follow-up “The Atricity Reports” and now this their latest release, I feel like I did when I discovered Neurosis via “Souls at Zero”, then continued to have my mind blown as I fed my brain through “Enemy of the Sun” and “Through Silver In Blood”. Stumbling upon a band that not only makes powerful unique music, but also manages to keep reworking their own style is a thrill. So, yeah anyway… this album’s really good.
Opener “1000 Ways to Kill a Man” starts with a bang, as a malevolently intense rhythm, pounds away with intent, while the deep guitar and bass tone has a little hint of Meshuggah about it. The rhythmic interplay between the vocals, drums and guitar is great, and an adjective that keeps popping into my head throughout listening to this album is hypnotic. While the drum patterns are never over-the-top in complexity, the music often feels like it’s pulling me into some kind of dark trance. This is also particularly the case on the closing section of “SEX / OBLIVION / SEX” with the overlay of the mantra “I remain in control of myself”, interweaving with the rhythm beneath it to great, unsettling effect.
The frequent back and forth of bellowing vocals (particularly on the opening track and “Saltwater”) bring to mind the great, vocal interplay of Neurosis, while in the breakdowns that frequently add a contrast to the hard-hitting tracks, there’s a nod to Godflesh with mournful vocals drifting over the surface. On tracks like “Cold & Pure” and “SEX / OBLIVION / SEX” the Industrial Metal influence is apparent, but the drumming is always more organic and shifting in style, never fitting so neatly into that mechanised aesthetic. The rhythms are extremely effective, with a procession of great, repeating drum patterns, perhaps nowhere better than on the relatively understated, but incredibly infectious “Scorched Throats”, coming off as a mutant, bastard offspring of a Godflesh, Ministry, Young Gods and NIN gangbang.
Never overwhelming the music, but adding to the strange, dark and futuristic atmosphere are various electronic textures, employed especially effectively on the fantastically titled “Wisdom is More Erotic When Wasted” Here again the rhythm of the vocals and how it plays off the rhythms of the drums and guitar lines is really excellent. On first listen the album may feel oppressively dense in all of its churning heaviness and there is little reprieve from the intensity, but what comes out from repeated listens are the clever layers of rhythmic interplay amongst the band members and the interesting instrumental textures.
Perhaps just as important as the atmosphere the musical textures create, are the thematic concerns of the record. “A Spectre Is Haunting the World” is not the band’s first concept album. This time the underlying story is of a suicidal protagonist, who turns his self-destructive impulses outwards to what he sees the root cause of modern society’s ills: global capitalism and a plan to assassinate the head of the IMF, with the album exploring what led him to this point. Like all the best concept albums, you don’t need to be following the story to appreciate the power of the record, but understanding the underlying meaning adds an extra impact to the whole experience.
The album finishes with two mini-epics, first the by turns moody and intense Industrial pummelling of “Saltwater” that builds to a final whirlwind, capturing that same energy of Neurosis at their most psychotically charged, followed by the awesome closer “Amplitude Death”, on which a deep droning guitar line is joined by another brilliant drum pattern and the track is as malevolent and harsh as anything else on the album. Mid-way through the track takes off into this almost soaring mix of hypnotic drums and shimmering guitars that brings to mind “The Great Annihilator” era Swans. And then stops as suddenly as the album starts.
“A Spectre is Haunting the World” is anything but an easy listen. The music is crushing, churning, burning and aggressive, like being relentlessly pounded into a flaming tar pit. The atmosphere meanwhile is no less brutally bleak, with lyrical themes that drag the listener to dark mental spaces and hold them captive. Don’t come here expecting hope for humanity and a light at the end of the tunnel. What you will find though is the latest chapter from a band that do not disappoint with their intensity, creativity and inventiveness, all driven by their visionary leader Fabien W. Furter. Welcome to the world of Wheelfall: it isn’t nice here at all, but you might just like it. 8.5/10 Tom Boatman
8.5/10 To greatness and glory
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