High Wheel - Back From The Void

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Ispo Facto Music
Catalog Number: 824
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:51:00

Germany's High Wheel are better than a first few listens to their CD would reveal. Sure their sonic palette uses colors we've heard before, but that doesn't mean that they can't use them to pain the canvas with something very nice and pleasing to the eye - erm, ear. High Wheel have been together for the better part of fifteen years, having formed in the mid-80s and releasing their first CD 1910 in 1991. As I was listening to their most recent release, 2002's Back To The Void, two bands came to mind most, one of which was early Echolyn, especially in their use of layered vocals and in the use of keys. I thought this was just me, but in reading the NEARfest brochure, it seems I'm not the only one that thinks of Echolyn. Their music style also incorporates latter day UK prog rock styles - that is, symphonic prog a la IQ (and briefly Marillion). But their style is more angular than is associated with, ahem, ?neo-prog.? It is this angularity that brings to mind that second band - King Crimson, and mainly Crimson of the Red period, reinforced by vocalist/guitarist Wolfgang Hierl sounding a lot like John Wetton at times, albeit with a slight German accent. This thought came to me during the second track, the multi-part ?The Screamer.? The first segment, ?Before The Raid? begins with light guitar tones in a somewhat jazz-folk style. Hierl comes from the less is more school of guitar leads - where feel and emotion come ahead of speed. He demonstrates this beautifully on ?Silent Room? that closes out the ?The Screamer? suite, a lush track with lots of tasty keyboards as well. Though ?Sleepless? reminds me of something by the Hollies at first (which I'm certain is just coincidence), this does turn into a very nice, proggy track (Marillion, IQ, Jadis-esque of course). Where High Wheel excel is in their musical interplay, creating some very nice symphonic passages.

?Try An Error? puts bass drums high in mix, giving this track a very punchy sound. Over this are some classic organ sounds, heard more in the quieter sections. The chugging intro to ?Void? sounds familiar, like something you've heard before from the likes from Threshold or Arena or Saga, or even, AOR groups like Loverboy, but the effects laden vocals veers it more towards the former. And then we get more layered vocals, a la Echolyn (and, in fact, ?Thoughts? by SB). ?Dark? begins with a lyrical, old-world, folky feel with plucked electric guitar and a sound that sounds like a recorder (synths likely since none are credited) along with flute. In there, too, is violin.

The album's centerpiece is the 30-plus minute epic ?Blind Archer? which has High Wheel sounding a bit like Magellan, down to the vocal delivery that seems Gardner-esque. It have has a down and dirty grind to it that is characteristic of Magellan, angular lines highly punctuated. A very nice piano interlude separates the first section from the second, and is one of the band's most sublime moments. It leads into another Wetton like vocal passage -- classic Asia (?The Smile Has Left Your Eyes? will come to mind just in terms of style and feel). Keys very much at the forefront backing a very nice vocal performance. I suppose latter day Greg Lake also comes to mind as this could also have been a late period Lake penned ELP tune. They do get a little like early Collins-led Genesis during the ?Arrows? section, but still with a very strong Asia/Wetton feel.

All in all a very pleasant album to listen to that doesn't wear out its welcome after a few listens as there's something new to discover upon each listen. In a crowded field of bands also playing in this symphonic style, High Wheel might get overlooked as bigger names or bands with a bigger profile get the attention, though their recent appearance at NEARfest might help to change that.

Try An Error (5:02) / The Screamer: Before The Raid (2:32) / The Screamer: Blasted By Screams (4:02) / The Screamer: Silent Room (5:48) / Sleepless (6:06) / Void (5:43) / Dark (3:21) / Blind Archer: On The Archers Hill (2:24) / Blind Archer: Harvest (6:16) / Blind Archer: Twisted (1:50) / Blind Archer: Intersphere (3:51) / Blind Archer: Man In The Cloud (2:23) / Blind Archer: Globes (1:44) / Blind Archer: Strings (3:02) / Blind Archer: Arrows (3:57) / Blind Archer: Hall Of Fame (4:23) / Blind Archer: Archer (2:08)

Wolfgang Hierl - guitars, flute, keyboards, vocals
Erich Kogler - bass, double bass, vocals
Uli Jenne - drums
Andreas Lobinger - keyboards, vocals
Pia Horn - violin

1910 (1993)
Remember The Colours (1994)
There (1996)
Back From The Void (2002)
Live Before The Storm (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin DE

Added: July 7th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.high-wheel.de
Hits: 747
Language: english


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