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The Rebel Wheel - 2007 - "Diagramma"


THE REBEL WHEEL is a Canadian group, with roots going back to 1991. It took some time before The Rebel Wheel crystallized into a regular band, though, and thus their debut album wasn't released until 2003. Shortly thereafter the outfit experienced a hiatus, but the band name was revived sometime during 2005, and eventually this second formation of the group ended up recording "Diagramma", which was released in 2007. In the interim, two members have left the band and one new member has joined the fold, and this new line-up is currently busy recording a new album. The slightly chaotic history of The Rebel Wheel may explain the variety in songs found on "Diagramma". All sorts of styles are explored here, with the easiest identifiable ones being classic symphonic rock, dissonant and disharmonic rock somewhat similar to King Crimson in style, more straight forward progressive rock similar to Rush, fusion, as well as atmospheric and slightly more industrial tinged rock. What sets this band's approach slightly apart from other bands are how these influences are utilized, with the title track Diagramma (which is also the central tune with a length of more than 20 minutes) as a prime example. Unlike many other acts, the influences usually aren't mixed in the compositions here; instead, the dominating approach is to explore the different styles individually. This approach results in songs where styles are changed more or less each time the tune goes from one segment to the next. The various styles aren't revisited too often. The tracks move and change, but don't always evolve in a conventional way, at least not in a manner easily noticeable by non-musicians. This is an adventurous approach in many ways, and is both the strength and weakness of this release, depending on one's perspective. Of the seven tunes contained here, this approach is mostly used on 3 of them, but as these three songs clock in at more than 40 minutes, it is also highly dominating on the album as a whole. The other 4 tunes, all relatively short, are more conventional in structure. 2 tunes are dominated by a complex, fusion-dominated style, one by a mellow symphonic approach with industrial elements, and one is similar to Rush. What ties this album and these songs together is a distinctive mood and atmosphere rather than a specific style. A big drum sound and a dominating bass guitar are central elements in the soundscapes that most times are dark and solemn, but at the same time with a slick and modern tinge to them. Overall this is a release by a talented outfit with an adventurous approach to music in general and compositional structure in particular. I do get the impression that the band is still somewhat in search of their own identity, and that the plethora of styles explored mostly individually in tunes or distinct segments is due to that fact. Still, most of the tunes are enjoyable, and for people open to encountering a variety of musical styles this is a CD worthwhile checking out.

OMB: July 1, 2008

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The Rebel Wheel


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