It's been 10 years since Rage Against the Machine released their first album and signaled the beginning of the age of "Nü metal," a new breed of metal bands who borrowed from the metal of the past and mixed in new elements like rapping, DJ mixing, exotic percussion, sampling and electronics. Bands like the Beastie Boys, Faith No More, Fishbone and Ministry were the first to mix genres, but it wasn't until the mid 90's that this ugly flower blossomed. After Rage, Sepultura and Korn followed, then Limp Bizkit, System of a Down, Slipknot, Snot, Soulfly, etc. Lots of bands with names that start with the letter "$,,and lots of jagged guitar riffs and barge loads of "anger" (it's tough being a millionaire who dates supermodels) - opening for Ozzy at an arena near you.
Whether "Nü metal" is a legitimate evolution of metal, or simply a slick music industry marketing ploy to make rap safe for white kids, the genre-mixing has led to some refreshing new sounds - as well as tons of boring, manufactured garbage.
It might be unfair to categorize Wheel of Doom as Nü metal, but they do share a sonic resemblance with heavier bands like Slipknot and System of a Down, as well as the genre-mixing philosophy. Wheel of Doom is the first act to successfully mix this Nü metal with Joy Division/Southern Death Cult era Goth-rock. This blend is as bizarre as it is grand and satisfying. Guitars switch from chunk-style metal to swirling, echoing strumming,and vocals alternate between clean, echo-drenched singing and "cookie monster" style Doom metal shouts.
Wheel of Doom are Japanese, and the vocals are in Japanese - this is good, because it spares me the task of reviewing their lyrics and it spares the band any resulting criticism.
The first and last tracks of this 6-song EP are the same song (despite the fact that they have different names) - a soothing, guitar-based ambient track. The rest of the album is, well, a mixture of clean and crunchy guitars, mellow and aggressive vocals and slow/gentle/grandiose Goth rock and hyper-kinetic metal. This balance works well, and unlike bands that are either totally soft or totally heavy, Wheel of Doom entertain me without putting me to sleep or sending me into a blind rage. The other day I got pulled over by a cop while listening to Wheel of Doom (see my other reviews to understand why I'm mentioning this), but the good news is the cops let me off without a ticket despite the fact that my moving violation was "blatant" - it's all about the balance: heavy/soft, aggressive/mellow, bad driving/no ticket.
I hope Wheel of Doom find an audience in America. They certainly deserve it.
Post: Wheel of Doom, 1812 Via Visalia, PVE, CA, 90274, USA
Phone: (310) 373-6968
Fax: (310) 375-1920