Olav Bjornsen's review for Prog4you and Progressor sites.
Gille Potvin 's review for Prog Archives.
Tom De Val's review for DPRP
Bill Knispel's review for Progscape
Bill Popke's review for Shepard Express.com
Ron Fuchs' review for Prognaut
Joe Geesin's review for Get Ready To Rock
Stuart A Hamilton's review for Space Rock
Tommy Hash's review for ytesjam
Richard Barnes's review for SOT
Duncan Glenday's review for SOT
Murat Batmaz's review at Amazon
Jerry Lucky's review
Garage Band Round Table Threads review
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.
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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
Well here is a fresh new band from Ottawa,Canada with their new cd DIAGRAMMA which will be one of the top 10 for 2007. I love it: good quality, nice recording, good voices, nice guitars, powerful bass, excellent drums, short tracks, long tracks, instrumental pieces ect... It has something for everyone. Some Zappa-Yes-Genesis-Gentle Giant-Rush-Pink Floyd influences but they have their own style, it's not a clone of the great bands that I mentionned earlier, rather it's new and fresh.
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Just listen to the title track Diagramma a 20 min masterpiece (that track alone worth the price of the cd). Threads is a nice Rush & Pink Floyd song - Three Valley Gap a beautiful instrumental à la Genesis & Yes, Tempra a great jazz-fusion piece, Hiding in Waiting a nice prog commercial song, Arachnophobia a superb instrumental track with a hint of Gentle Giant (my favorite of the album) and Awakened a good prog rock song with few turnovers.
You cannot go wrong with this one=4 stars for a great debut album from The Rebel Wheel (with this new line-up ). A few years ago they release a self titled cd "The Rebel Wheel".
They only thing I would suggest is to put more of Angie Macivor voice and sax in their music, but nevertheless it's a great album = one of the best of 2007.
The Rebel Wheel Diagramma Country of Origin: Canada
Record Label: 10T Records
Catalogue #: 10T10028
Year of Release: 2007
Info: The Rebel Wheel
Samples: Click here
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Tracklist: Threads (8:00), Three Valley Gap (2:11), Diagramma (21:22), Tempra (4:35), Hiding In Waiting (6:42), Arachnophobia (5:58), Awakened (11:33)
10T Records are fast becoming a name to watch, with a promising roster of (just about) established names (Man On Fire, Little Atlas) and promising new outfits (Bolt, Fluttr Effect). Ottawa's The Rebel Wheel can be added to the latter category; although they have been around in one form or another since 1991, this is only their second release, and the first to get proper distribution. Seemingly the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist/ vocalist David Campbell, who writes the lion's share of the material, all five of the band members seem to be able to multi-task, meaning that it is very difficult to work out exactly who is playing what at any one time! Between them these guys (and a girl) certainly have some chops, and would also appear to come from diverse musical backgrounds, as Diagramma is one of those beasts of an album for a reviewer which is very difficult to classify.
The band's label describes their music as "modern, genre-blending progressive rock", and I guess that's as good a description as any, as there is both a blend of genres (there are elements of fusion, prog, new wave and funk at play here, to name just a few) and sounds, ranging from some very modern sounding drum loops and electronica to some vintage keyboard sounds that are from the dawn of the original progressive rock era.
Opening track Threads rides in on a fat, loping, vaguely funky bass line, a sound which becomes throughout the album something of a trademark. There's a distinctly dark tone to this track, helped by the icy swathes of synths which are used sparingly yet effectively: the tone is not dissimilar to that used by Rush on Subdivisions. Campbell's vocals linger in the background rather than taking the lead, but this works effectively. Parts of the song could almost have come from UK dark pop pioneers The The circa their Infected album, but just when you think you've got the band sussed, they throw in some jazz fusion-esque rhythms and a fluid guitar solo in the Joe Satriani vein; its that kind of album.
The short instrumental Three Valley Gap is a chance for a breather; a pastoral number with gently picked acoustic and mellow synths; maybe its just the fact that it comes before a 20-plus minute epic, but I couldn't help but be reminded of Genesis’ Horizons, at the very least it is something you can imagine adorning a Steve Hackett solo album. It's a cop-out to say that a lengthy epic forms the centrepiece of an album, but here it really is the case, as the title track of Diagramma is a tour de force that encapsulates the strengths of the band. The busy opening section contains a number of very dextrous and busy rhythm lines, around which one of the main melodic themes, a keyboard line which again brought Subdivisions to mind for some reason, is woven. This eventually subsides, allowing the mellow vocals to dominate a quieter section, which also features some delicate and affecting guitar work, reminiscent of Pat Metheny’s solo acoustic album One Quiet Night, the harmony vocals featured here carry echoes (sorry!) of early seventies Pink Floyd. Unsurprisingly we're soon dragged away from this reverie into alien territory again, with the re-emergence of the fat bass lines allied to mechanical rhythms and robotically delivered vox. Some quirky loops and jazzy guitar solos in an Allan Holdsworth style are interspersed with stabs of electric piano and a thundering backbeat; unsurprising leading to another quieter section where the band catch their breath. Genesis (and Suppers Ready) really can be cited as an influence here, as a melancholic mellotron melody picks out a melody over which you could pretty much sing the lines of Ikhnaton And Itsacon And Their Band Of Merry Men; likewise the bouncy rhythms that follow could probably be inserted behind the vocal melody of Willow Farm without anyone noticing! Before you've had a chance to wallow in this fact for too long we're off again into a quirky, rocky section with nice chord progressions and some particularly strong vocal work from Campbell – nothing fancy, he just has a good turn of phrase and uses his modest abilities well. A spiralling, slightly Ozric Tentacles-esque keyboard solo is probably the last thing of major note, and the song does perhaps fizzle out a bit as it reaches the end, but you can't blame the band for being as exhausted as the listener must be by now! The description I've given may lead you to think this track is just a mishmash of styles and influences, but its to the band's credit that they can take all these diverse elements and make them into something so vital-sounding and compelling.
Next up is Tempra, a hard edged instrumental jazz fusion work out, again featuring some grooving baselines, suitably stylish guitar licks in a Holdsworth vein and some very old school prog keyboard lines; definitely a slightly spacey vibe to this track, and perhaps suitably The Rebel Wheel's compatriots Spaced Out come to mind at times, as once again do the Ozrics.
Hiding In Waiting is a relatively mellow yet dark-tinged slow-to-mid paced number, the bass once again driving the song along. There's a vaguely reggae-ish feel to the guitar work; think again of Rush, this time Lifeson's work on Digital Man and The Enemy Within. I like the celestial choir effect on the second verse, although the lengthy jazz-inflected guitar solo is rather interminable.
The Rebel Wheel are back in instrumental mode for Arachnophobia, which again shows plenty of dexterity in the arrangements and the playing. Its not surprising that drummer Alain Bergeron had a hand in the writing of this one, as there are plenty of natty drum fills to be heard. Lots of good grooves on this one, and its nice to see sax player Angie MacIvor get a rare moment in the spotlight.
A scuttling drum beat leads us into the closing Awakened, with the languorous vocals providing a counterpoint to the busy percussion. Its another example of the band's uncanny ability to mix mellow with edgy, and there's a lengthy instrumental section with plenty of elongated bluesy guitar work and some more sax, as well as a rare chance to hear MacIvor sing some lead; she has a pretty good voice which compliments Campbell's well, and I'd like to hear more of this combination on future releases. So overall a very diverse but somehow cohesive album that should provide plenty of enjoyment for prog fans across the spectrum. The band's influences are easily discernable, certainly, but in the main they've managed the not inconsiderable feat of establishing their own sound whilst flirting with a large number of different styles. A recommended release, then, and definitely a band to keep an eye on in the future.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
TOM DE VAL
The Rebel Wheel is a fairly new progressive rock band from Montreal. Diagramma is their second album release, but the first with their current line-up. Founded by David Campbell (guitar and vocals, additional keyboards), the current Rebel Wheel lineup includes bassist Gary Lauzon (formerly of Casse-Tete) and multi-instrumentalist Paul Joannis on guitars, keyboards, bass and drums. Also featured on Diagramma is Nethan Mahl drummer Alain Bergeron, who also contributes additional keyboards and vocals.
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The Rebel Wheel's material is based on fairly traditional progressive rock foundations with contemporary rock and jazz-fusion elements added in. While often very traditional in structure, their material has a very contemporary sound and feel, adding freshness to what might have been an otherwise stale style. The five tracks on Diagramma range in style widely, from pastoral acoustic instrumentals to intense fusion-influenced workouts brimming with unison runs and counterpoint. The album is seemingly intentionally structured in a symmetrical manner, with a shorter vocal track and instrumental leading into a massive multi-part epic, then instrumental and vocal tracks leading out.
Threads opens the album, and is a fairly heavy piece with incredibly prominent bass and guitar played down on the low strings. A skittering beat and sustained synth lines skimming overtop adds an air of claustrophobic paranoia to the proceedings, while stabbing organ chords sync with drum hits as vocals kick in. Campbell's vocals seem/feel distant; his delivery is light and almost dreamlike, an interesting contrast with the dark and heavy musical backing that doesn't quite work. The band really shines instrumentally as they shift moods easily; the intense paranoia of the vocal sections quickly gives way to a drum and bass section with wah-laced guitar, which shifts to an angular, overdriven guitar solo with heavy Adrian Belew inflections.
The Rebel Wheel shifts gears entirely for the album's first instrumental, Three Valley Gap. Gently pastoral with lots of acoustic guitars and strummed/plucked harmonics, it's a welcome respite and breather from the intensity that Threads offers, albeit a shocking 180 in a lot of ways. I'm not sure how well this piece would translate in a live setting, but it offers up a strong piece of evidence that the band excels at creating atmosphere without bombast.
The gentle mood is shattered as drums and evil, calliope-esque organ signal the beginning of the epic Diagramma Suite. This lengthy track shifts through a plethora of styles as the track evolves. A heavy section with organ stabs (reminiscent in a general sense to Dream Theater's Erotomania) gives way to heavily processed vocals and synth heavy arrangements; this fades in a wash of ambient sound effects as mellotron chords and clean guitar evoke a strong King Crimson/early Genesis vibe. Campbell's vocals here fit the music well with their fey-like dreaminess and distance. The band shows great restraint here, maintaining the gentle arrangements in a casual, almost off-hand way. The track swells as drums and a heavy bass groove provides backing for filtered, over-the-phone-line sounding vocals (a contemporary trick that Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson loves to use). The groove here is almost impossible to resist; I've caught myself giving into its charms a few times and swaying with it.
All this and we're only 8 and a half minutes into the track!
Diagramma Suite shifts through an impressive series of styles and moods across its more than 20-minute duration. The variety of moods does lend an air of multiple short ideas played in sequence, yet they flow fairly smoothly, with few jarring transitions. I’m not totally convinced by the open Windows section, but it's probably the only moment in the song that I was less than fully engrossed in what the band was doing.
Diagramma's second instrumental is the heavier Tempra. This track features some extensive Zappa-esque unison runs and excellent use of counterpoint between guitar and keys. Lauzon and Bergeron provide a solid groove for Campbell and Joannis to trade off solos over, while not being enslaved to that groove; they change things up and shift time as needed to simultaneously drive the track and add quirk and complexity. Tempra is an enjoyable fusion romp that draws as much from Mahavishnu and Return to Forever as it does from Zappa and King Crimson. The album closes with a final vocal track, the slightly more straight-forward Hiding in Waiting. Opening with tron and organ chords, a slower vamp with breathy multi-tracked vocals gradually gives way to a funky reggae groove, then to a spacier, ambient interlude. The track's guitar solo reminds me of Zappa in a lot of ways...short bursts of notes followed by sustained lines with slight tremelo. The track ends with a series of pedal tone guitar notes that fade, along with some sweeping synth tones, into digital silence.
The Rebel Wheel offers a diverse selection of sounds and styles on the 43-minute Diagramma. Far from presenting a disjointed idea of what the band has to offer, it instead shows a group unafraid to mix things up. Strong songs and stronger playing mark this as an album well worth checking out.
David Campbell - guitar, vocals, keyboards
Gary Lauzon - bass
Paul Joannis - guitars, keyboards, bass and drums
Alain Bergeron - drums, keys and vocals
Reviewed by Bill Knispel.
Ottawa's The Rebel Wheel expand to a quintet for their 2nd full-length CD. Their
brand of progressive rock is more instrumental than vocal and favors dark
ambiances -- dark but not despairing or ugly.
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Though nothing sounds unfamiliar,
the level of originality is high; The Rebel Wheel don't sound quite like any other
band. Ultimately one has to call their sound contemporary.
There is a lot of
classic symphonic prog here as well as a little fusion, but they mix that up with
modern sonics and current technologies. It is atmospheric, cinematic, dense, and complex, yet it is also
melodic and emotive.
When a new label picks up an independently issued album, the disc sometimes gets re-released with additional tracks that hurt the quality of the original. Fortunately, that's not the case with Diagramma, the second album from the Rebel Wheel.
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The two new songs at the tail end of the original five-track disc offer additional musical insight into these modern Canadian proggers. "Arachnophobia" weaves an intricate web of progressive jazz-fusion elements, while "Awakened" invokes the ghost of classic post-Barrett Pink Floyd. In fact, Floyd and Porcupine Tree references abound on the rest of this album, including the pastoral instrumental interlude "Three Valley Gap" and David Campbell's David Gilmour-like vocals on "Threads." The 21-and-a-half-minute title track emerges as the moody album's pièce de résistance, delivering an alternately frenetic and ambient mix of elements that sounds like a dozen different songs ultimately wrapped in one cohesive piece.
Without a doubt, this is serious music for serious listeners
Reviewed by Bill Popke.
The Rebel Wheel sent me their second full album, Diagramma a few months back but then asked me to wait for the new edition for a proper review. My first impression of the music was it’s a dark heavy progressive style similar to King Crimson’s mid-70’s era.
But that’s just the foundation of their sound due to the offbeat quirky moments and full of some unexpected twists. On the new edition, there’s two extra songs that fit perfectly with the originals.
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My favorites off this are, the opening track Threads with it's modern sounding vibe that in some ways remind of how King Crimson would have sounded now if they stayed with the Wetton/Bruford line-up. The other song is the epic 20 minute title track that really allows the band to flex it's musical muscles if you will.
Other bands you can hear that influenced The Rebel Wheel are, Yes, The Beatles, Van Der Graaf Generator. Some newer bands that they remind me of are Beardfish. In fact I'd go to say The Rebel Wheel and Beardfish have similar approaches to progressive music without copying each other or their influences.
After several listens to Diagramma, I'd put them high up on the recommended purchases for 2007. If you want your progressive rock to be melodic, quirky, modern with a classic feel then look no further and order your copy ASAP!
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on September 20th, 2007
This Canadian progressive unit mix rock with fusion, and as the 8 minute opening track 'Threads' shows there are a range of moods and rhythms. Imagine a modern mix of the more eclectic sides of ELP and King Crimson.
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'Three Valley Gap' kicks off acoustically with a lot of guitar oriented noise experimentation.
'DIagramma Suite' features keyboards and a nod at Rick Wakeman and 90s King Crimson. But running at over 20 minutes the room for manoeuvre is well utilised.
Elements of fusion punctuate 'Tempra' and like the rest of the album it is largely instrumental. Some nice bass runs.
A good set if you like prog fusion at the modern experimental end.
Reviewed by Joe Geesin.
Bloody hell, that was a bit good! The Rebel Wheel are a four piece progressive rock band from Ontario, Canada, and there's no faffing around pretending to be owt else. It's pounding, symphonic prog from beginning to end, and damn the torpedoes!
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David Campbell is the dude who writes all the material, and he is to be highly commended, especially for the opening, claustrophobic 'Threads', a song steeped in dark, dynamic Van Der Graaf oppression.
The other tracks are no slouches either, with the off-kilter, avante garde 'Diagramma Suite', a particular treat. Hopefully, one of the prog labels out there will get their asses in gear and snaffle this lot up sharpish.
Added: June 29th 2007
Reviewer: Stuart A Hamilton
Here is a band that is inventive in their musical approach, like crossing Trans Am with Ozric Tentacles, Canada's Rebel Wheel doesn't take the stereotypical progressive rock route when it comes to executing their melodic skills; so put them along side the many artists that are waving the flag for the whole new-prog genre. With Diagramma filled with breathy vocals, sub-house beats, tripped out interludes, sax & guitar riffs, and other synth nuances, the band holds a musical stance towards the experimental, but yet melodic forms of indie/college rock.
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The music is fairly consistent throughout the album, although you have harder driving tracks with Threads and the frenzied title cut as well as more laid back cuts like Hiding in Waiting and Three Valley Gap. Between the improvisations and the layered instrumentation, The Rebel Wheel have created a record that executes the finite technicalities of Floydian soundscapes with lush rock passages, binding their often chaotic melodies and bold compositions with tuneful gusto & intelligent originality.
Added: August 2nd 2007
Reviewer: Tommy Hash
This is the Wheel’s second full album of dark heavy progressive music, interspersed with lighter freaky moments and full of interesting twists and turns. The Ottowa band has produced a very slick professional sound utilising modern studio techniques but with a keen eye on the development of playing skills.
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A brash opening fades back to a stealthy organ and bass march with the original theme retuning at intervals in Threads. Sparse vocals pepper the piece which consists of three main repeated themes and a degree of embellishment in synths and vocals. Oddly the short acoustic guitar piece which follows titled “Three Valley Gap” reminds me of the intros and interlude in Yes’ famous Close to the Edge album.
The twenty minute epic title track starts with a complex guitar/bass/drum composition and adds keyboards in odd time signatures before David Campbell, the main man in the band, gets in his subdued vocal commentary. The track moves through several stages of development from reflective pastoral arrangements to heavy pounding rhythms and slow building menacing passages and occasionally departs into lighter almost tongue in cheek asides. There are touches of jazz in some of the guitar parts as well as psychedelic moments and many changes of tempo and metre throughout. A mellow middle section provides a brief respite before we get a waddling rhythm played on wah-wah guitar and drums with a lively dancing synth figure surrounding it. There are some Beatles influences displayed here as the track begins its resurgence toward the heavier sections of the composition again. This track really does go round the houses and back again, dragging you with it all the time and peering in all those windows as the lyricist describes.
The vibrant hovering and diving guitar over a jerky bass and drum pattern provides a refreshing up-tempo ride in the introduction to Tempra. When keyboard joins, the sound develops a jazz-fusion feel like Liquid Tension Experiment or some later Mastermind compositions. A short but very infectious track.
A languorous opening leads into the mysterious Hiding in Waiting which features angelic choruses, a creepy guitar, drum and bass figure, a spacey interlude and finishes on an emotional guitar solo. The slow tempo is continued into the equally creepy Arachnophobia which makes good use of semitones to build a fear element into the sound. A number of quick time changes in the track and the introduction of a lilting sax provide additional colour.
Awakened is the closer and at 10 minutes has plenty of time to spread its wings. Again the band show just how far they can develop a song in interesting directions. Starting with a laid back vocal section, there is a sudden contemplative instrumental break and further verses which then return to the original melody. A metal vamp with Angie MacIvor's wandering sax moves the mood in a completely different direction followed by a short but wild Campbell guitar solo. The rhythm section of Alain Bergeron and Gary Lauzon shine here. Another interlude follows when the vocal returns this time with Angie accompanying Campbell's whispered words. A soaring guitar lends a positive note before again falling back to the languid, slightly jazzy instrumental background with loops and synthesised percussion to take us out.
You can tell that a lot of care and attention to detail has gone into this work. It's adventurous without being opaque; loads of variety without losing too much stylistic cohesion. Fans of Porcupine Tree's heavier material from their more recent albums will enjoy this especially but most prog fans should be adding it to their buy lists.
2. Three valley gap
5. Hiding in Waiting
Added: October 14th 2007
Reviewer: Richard Barnes
Ontario-based The Rebel Wheel has a heading on their CD-Baby page describing their music as Modern Progressive Rock with elements of Neo, Rio, and Fusion.
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Fusion and modern prog, yes. RIO? Maybe - at a stretch. But Neo? Nope - not at all. This is modern prog that doesn't easily fit any of the sub-genres. Its key characteristics are the prominent percussion and strong bass lines, and its complex structures.
With a vocal track, an instrumental, an epic, another instrumental and another vocal, it's well balanced. Track 4, "Tempra" is an interesting all-instrumental fusion piece that showcases the band's musicianship. Listen for the unusually tight lead/bass guitar lines. Very interesting. There are vocals in tracks 1, 3 and 5 - but this is not song-oriented music. The singing is rare and restrained, held back in the mix, soft and withdrawn with a bit of reverb yielding a relaxed Floydian / Porcupine Tree effect.
The standout piece is clearly the 21-minute title track "Diagramma Suite". This is a restless, ever evolving piece that loosely recalls Echolyn in parts. It ranges from an energetic proggy intro through soft ballads to nimble jazzy sections, to complex Crimsonesque rock, and many other styles ... and ends with the opening theme, now played with an elegant proggy synth and bass guitar. It is rich in complex guitar riffs, laden with atmosphere, and the performances are as tight as a drum - and that track will probably end up being one of the songs of the year - and definitely one of the best epics of the year. Heck - you could set your CD player to repeat that track over and over and it could keep you rocking happily for hours.
The packaging is eye catching, straightforward and sparse on information, the production standards are solid if not not spectacular - and the music shines through nicely. And there isn't a note of Neo to be heard.
Get it for the strong musicianship. Get it for that excellent epic. Get it for the intelligent songwriting. Get it.
Canada's The Rebel Wheel has reissued their sophomore release, Diagramma, through 10TRecords, with a new packaging. My understanding is that their debut was housed in a jewel case; this one, on the other hand, comes in a neat digipack. However, the credits are somewhat vague; it is hard to determine who plays what on which track, so I'll just address the music in general.
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Comprised of five members, The Rebel Wheel has been a great find for me. They play a darkened style of progressive rock that touches on a plethora of influences, but at the same time, the music has an urgency to it that lends itself to more modern arrangements, often evoking Porcupine Tree's recent material (especially Deadwing). Rather than following in the footsteps of bands like Genesis, Yes, and Pink Floyd, The Rebel Wheel leans more heavily towards a King Crimson-styled progressive rock, but they also sustain beautiful and complex compositions.
With all five members playing keyboards, it has to be noted that the music on this disc boasts all kinds of synth textures and notes, coming to the fore immediately on the opener "Threads", a perfectly composed piece that summarises the band's sound. Its intensely dark intro, heavily emphasized bass groove, and creepy keyboard work underline the vocals of multi-instrumentalist David Campbell, whose deep voice fits the flow seamlessly. There is lots of fusion-inspired guitar work present during the instrumental part, laden with plenty of wah effects and modern-day Porcupine Tree sound cosmos.
Of the three instrumental pieces, "Three Valley Gap" is built around a cold acoustic guitar base, with lofty synths wafting across the whole piece. It sounds like a very simple track, but the relentlessly cold vibe achieved within its two-minute length is testament to the band's keen sense of atmosphere. "Tempra" is a bit more fusion-inflected, recalling King Crimson's improvised stylings, with dense instrumentation and scintillating guitar elements. On "Arachnophobia", on the other hand, the use of drone-like synth waves and Alain Bergeron's phenomenal drumming lead the song into a more instrumentally challenging domain, adding in oddly tuned bass and a strangely memorable saxophone part by Angie Maclvor.
The title track is over twenty-one minutes, and one of the greatest epic compositions I've heard in a long time. The complex, shifting time signatures and odd-metered rhythm arrangement is not too unlike the earlier Echolyn albums (think Suffocating the Bloom) and even Spock's Beard's first two albums. The Rebel Wheel adopts a similar method in song arrangement, allowing carefully seized rhythms and melodies to overlap each other (in a strangely Beatles-like manner), while also sustaining a whirlwind of angular guitar riffs and very strange-sounding keyboards. As expected, the song moves from one section to another, touching on pastoral acoustic passages at one point and jagged free-form jazz experiments at another -- complete with a good amount of percussion elements. It is particularly this part that reminds me of the unmatched Echolyn. The song concludes with an extended instrumental part that relies on groovy soundscapes and wadding rhythms.
One of the most moving tracks on the album is "Hiding in Waiting", which boasts an emotionally draining guitar solo towards the end. The zenith of the song comes after an unorthodox mix of acoustic guitars and very creepy keyboards laying the foundation for a strong theme-based solo. Despite each member playing the keyboards, it would be wrong the say the album is more keyboard-driven than guitar. The Rebel Wheel utilises synths in order to build thicker soundscapes, but the songs are generally more guitar and bass-driven.
Angie Maclvor joins David Campbell on "Awakened", possibly the most Porcupine Tree-like piece in that it is structured by a similar sizzling electronic sound patch and atypical synth shuffling. Maclvor's vocals are simply fantastic, though very scarcely used. She also offers another saxophone lead during the heavier section of the song to further intensify the finale.
Diagramma is an essential piece of work that needs to find its fans of great bands such as Porcupine Tree, Rush, Gentle Giant as well as more obscure yet frighteningly gifted acts like Echolyn, Eyestrings, NIL, and Leger de Main.
By Murat Batmaz (Istanbul, Turkey) . Note: the same review is also at Sea of Tranquility
Have you ever caught yourself with a preconceived notion that proved to be so very wrong? I'm sure we all have. Well it happened to me the other day. I'm looking at the new release of a band called The Rebel Wheel called diagramma and I’m thinking by the look of the cover this is probably something either really hard and heavy or maybe just weird. Well once again I’m reminded not to judge a book or in this case a CD by its cover.
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The Rebel Wheel is an Ottawa, Canada based quintet where besides the traditional instrument line-up everyone plays keyboards. The band consists of Alain Bergeron (drums, keyboards), David Campbell (guitars, vocals, bass, programming, percussion, keyboards), Paul Joanis (guitars, keyboards), Gary Lauzon (bass, bass pedals, keyboards) and Angie MacIvor (saxes, vocals, keyboards). Now you might think with so many hands on keyboards the music here is going to sound lush and symphonic, but you would be wrong. While there are some moments such as this, with lovely Mellotron sounds and so forth such as on the track Hiding and Waiting (6:42), for the most part the music created here is a dark, moody, angular and at times industrial sounding progressive rock. The 7 compositions on diagramma each display a strong musicality. Everyone here is really playing off each of the band members producing a kind of rock-fusion with a hint of jazzy undertone because of the business. However the compositions are highly structured and arranged, allowing for the faster sections to be offset by the slower, the busy moments to played against more pastoral Mellotron or synth atmosphere. The vocals all display a kind of Pink Floyd breathiness but rarely dominate the powerful musicianship. Most of these compositions are on the long side, the longest being Threads (8:01), Awakened (11:33) and the epic length title track diagramma (21:23). The shortest track Three Valley Gap (2:12) acts as a kind of bridge from the busy opening track and displays some gorgeous acoustic guitar and Mellotron. Another aspect to the music of The Rebel Wheel is that is carries a strong element of discord; the composition will roll along in a certain melodic fashion only to be upended any number of times with a massive rolling sense of aggression and dissonance. The neat thing is it all fits extremely well together, making the symphonic passages sound even more wistful and sublime: a kind of sweet-and-sour effect where each enhances the flavour of both styles.
I have to say how impressed I am with The Rebel Wheel's diagramma. Philosophically it sounds very proggy, yet very modern and very unique. Full of challenging melodies and unusual structures this is a winner for any number of prog sub-genres. I'm putting this on the list as one of my favorites for 2007.
Reviewed by Jerry Lucky All Rights Reserved
This sophomore release by Canadian outfit The Rebel Wheel is an adventurous affair, a good release but also one that will only appeal to an eclectic audience.
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What's unique with this CD isn't the influences from all over; but how these influences are showcased. Classic symphonic rock, dissonant and disharmonic experimental rock slightly similar to King Crimson, harder riff based rock similar to Rush, fusion and industrial rock are all styles of music represented on this release. But rather than having an amalgam of these influences, The Rebel Wheel mostly choose to showcase the elements individually; either by concentrating one of these influences in one particular composition, or by conveying them one after the other in the individual segments of each tune.
This is especially true of the long title track Diagramma, a composition more or less consisting of various parts in different styles put together as a whole. This approach is the major asset as well as the major weakness of this release. The adventurous listener will enjoy this mix, while the more conservative listener will yearn for something a bit more consistant where there's more of a stereotypical evolvement of a tune from start to finish.
All in all a promising album, and it'll be fun to see where this band are heading for their next release
#1 A very nice and grooving 5/4 rhythm is played by the bass and drum switches to 10/8 when the guitar comes in and it maintains groove. The keys add awesome tonality and ambient riffs.
The vocals remind me of pre Adrian Belew Krimson and Roger Waters.
Their is a phased out clean guitar solo that is interesting and played over the 5/4 which is difficult for many and ta Then the solo gets overdrive and more intense still holding it down with the rhythm.
intervalkid from Oak Island, North Carolina on 22Jul2006
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All the prog elements and a decent song!
Nice industrial noises at the start, then the obligatory odd-time-sig bass- and drums-driven riffing and doomy mell strings before it drops into something more conventional for the song. Good, though, and the song is very fresh a and it's a relief not to have the usual anguished screaming. Can't make out the lyrics. Good production, nice balanced sounds, excellent playing throughout. Less sure about the very simple and dated sawtooth synth solo. I DO like the interestingly quirky shift at about 3m50 and the following up-tempo section with Barclay James Harvest sounding guitar tones in the background. Overall more Spock's Beard than Dream Theater, which I regard as a good thing; More human than mechanistic showy thrashing.
Chris DeLeitt from Norwich, Norfolk, United Kingdom on 21Jul2006
Industrial Prog. kinda refreshing.
That's some bassline at the top makes this very funky. A very tight kit player, kinda reminds me a bit of how Greg Bissonette plays; he's REAALLY good. The vocals are layered strangely, but it leneds itself well to the song. I really miss the basslines from the beginning, It would be nice if he strayed from just roots during the verse. Cool synth solo,
Pixie Bezo from Beaverton, Oregon on 20Jul2006
Very cool intro, as a bass player thats one kick ass bass intro. It sounds like les claypool, very interesting till vocals eneter. I think it could have gone in a diffrent direction, as far as vocals go maybe a little more grungy. Again what can i say?: that bass player is very simple but rocks. Very cool instrumental section. A bit too long
fatman5bass from Punta Gorda, Florida on 20Jul2006
This is good prog! Have a listen!!!
Industrial intro sets a dark mood straight away. Drums are well recorded and the mellotron strings give it a Spock' feel to it. Unusual time signatures as well. Good strong sound on the bass. Vocals have Floyd feel to them. It's nice to have an actual prog song in the prog genre! Synth solo is Wakemane-sque and right on the money. Even though the sounds are retro there's still a modern feel to it. I would have liked to hear the lead vocals stretch out more though. Nice change at 3:50 mark with unusual touch wah solo going on. Great bass work. Drums are well recorded and played.
truey from Adelaide, South Australia, Australia on 18Jul2006
Another spooky intro. Great bass line to reinforce that. Yes, a mellotron, don't get more prog than that. Nice organ and dreamy singer. Deep Purple meets King Crimson? Great players and performance. Very unique sound, way to go!
Scary xandal from Indianapolis, Indiana on 17Jul2006
Great Players, Great Song.
I Liked this one right from start.
Its refreshing to hear a good song amoung all the junk here. This tune has it all! Great drummer, holy crap!
Bring images of UK to mind
howler2 from Holtsville, New York on 16Jul2006
Complex Solid Piece
Start has a movie feel about it. Good buildups, like the drumming and bass with off beat pinch stops. Guitar joins to the drama. Good solid bass rhythm and drumming. Vocals suit the style quite nicely. Keys create an older feel. Some really interesting ideas coming through here. Band is tight and solid. Some complex patterns which take serious skills. Synth sounds like Rick Wakeman. Like the stop at 3:25 and subsequent instrumental piece. Sounds a bit Z at times especially towards the end of the track. Well done, very interesting stuff.
DRFOX from Westville, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa on 16Jul2006
True progressive, with LOUD bass! A very progressive song all round :)
Organ at times reminds me of Genesis, and at other times, like Pink Floyd.
One thing that's immediately apparent is the bass guitar - it's very loud! In fact, bass and organ seem to be the focus of this song.
Nice short pink floyd-like keyboard solo at 2:30.
Cool guitar solo at 4:50. Love the tone on the guitar. Love the note selection as well. Actually there's quite a few styles of different types in this song. Everyone gets a workout. Mixing is well managed and a good balance between all the instruments.
Not sure about the outro - I think it would be better with a dead-stop at 7:39, without that extra 45 secs or so. But small gripe in an otherwise very cool song.
Song goes for 8:23, but you really don't notice it. It evolves and twists and turns in cool ways. Very impressive; a professional effort all round.
SOULARFLAIR from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 16Jul2006
You know what you're doing!
Great atmospheric intro, even better growling bass (GREAT sound on it), even BETTER guitars adding to it, all in 5/4 time signature. And then an organ comes into the mix? The somewhat chromatic guitars in the chorus provided a indecision, while the 2:30-ish prog synth just helped this song go over the top in a I-can-throw-this-in-its-that-good-a-song way. The song took a Brand X turn at 4:00 minutes, which surprised me, but was still executed perfect over-the-top style. The 5/4 jam around 5:15 was done well also, and by this time I got the impression that it could do no wrong. And it didn't. This song is by far one of the top few I've heard from this site and doing dozens of reviews. I hope it gets all the accolades it deserves.
earthdyedred from Tuscaloosa, Alabama on 14Jul2006
What To Do?
Normally it's so easy. One of the two songs is better. But now I don't know. THis song is very good, very thrilling. sooo f***ing good. The organ just Rocks, drums are good (little dry)
The different rhythms are very enganging. Nice riff around 2.29. And that synth solo sound is just my sound. Oh my, I love this, as i did the other song. Which one is best? i think this one because it's a little more original.
baaij from Beverwijk, Noordholland, Netherlands on 13Jul2006
Yup... it works
Yes! It all hangs together brilliantly. Great all-round musicianship. You have a seriously talented bass player! Vocals sound fantasic throughout. Your arrangements are faultless. Sequencing works well. Moments of tension, rhythm, love the 5/4 time signature.
Love the ending.
What can I say... it does EXACTLY what it says on the tin. I'm looking forward to hearing more.
cellofiend from Leeds, United Kingdom on 12Jul2006
Am liking the slow build, lots of eerie noises and mood going.
Crazy beef!! The bass has just come in with a very strange time signature but hey this is prog!
Even though prog tends to be complicated be careful not to make it more complicated just for the sake of it. I am loving the bass sound itself but thats just personal choice. The vocals are very Floydy and nice and clear sitting nicely in the mix.
The guitars could be a touch louder for my liking but other than that its definitely an interesting piece.
The production could do with just a tad tightening up but nothing major. Ooo The B section has gone all Frank Zappa on my ass. Nothing wrong with that of course.
Overall a great tune, interesting and different. Like it.
FlannelClout from Scotland, United Kingdom on 11Jul2006
Song that has everything.
The 16th note hihats and the low end industrial noises really get this track off to a great start. The introduction of the guitar and Mellotron strings and the 10 beat time signature are classic hallmarks of prog.(At least the prog I like!!!
The chord progression is not standard. I like the changing structure over the pedal point bass work. After the 1st goes back to the 10 time signature.
Wow!!! There's a synth Moogish solo before the intro of the 2nd verse. Long live Robert Moog!!! We miss you!!! you make it longer?????
The vocals are just right for this style of prog. Very David Gilmour/Roger Waters with the double tracking in the verse.
What a unique middle section at the 4 minute mark. The timing is spot on for such a complex rhythm. The touch solo is inspired. Into the straighter fuzz solo, which doesn't disappoint either. Then come those Santanaish bent o gee, this song has everything.
Back to the main theme at the 6 minute mark and I'm still entranced. The only critical comment I could make woul the mix is a little bass/vocal heavy. Some more grunt especially in the drums and guitars wouldn't go astray. Full the arrangement though and the use of keyboards.
SeanTimms from Adelaide, South Australia, Australia on 10Jul2006
Over 8 mins. Now we're talkin'! Who wants to hear 3 min radio tracks??? Good bass riff in 10/8. Some great Mell strings as well. I thought the last track was good. This betters it because of the inventiveness. Vocals are Floydian. The bass more than holds it's end up all through. Good organ work as well. Nice to hear some keys in tracks. It's what separates prog from ordinary metal. Synth solo!!! Love it!!!
acbau from Adelaide, South Australia, Australia on 10Jul2006
Track Of The Day, Best Vocals, Best Rocking Track, Best Beat, Most Original, Best Bass