Here's a great band that unfortunately I had never heard before, and probably most people hadn't for that matter. With the release of Back From the Void, I am sure that Germany's High Wheel will no longer have that problem. This is the bands fourth release, and it is indeed a fine one, combining complex Gentle Giant inspired prog-rock with atmospheric keyboard induced soundscapes.
The Gentle Giant reference is especially refreshing in a world where many bands mimic Yes, ELP or Genesis. Combining quirky, intricate instrumentation (keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, flute, violin) and intelligent multi-part vocal harmonies, High Wheel have taken the Gentle Giant formula into the new millenium and added lots of symphonic textures to that complex strategy. The 32-minute "Blind Archer" is an awesome piece broken down into eleven parts, the highlights being the rampaging guitar/keyboard arsenal of "Arrows", the fantastic interplay of "Strings", and the majestic "Harvest." Keyboard player Andreas Lobinger pushes all the right buttons with layers of synthesizers, including many hot duels with guitarist Wolfgang Hierl. Vocals are shared by most of the band, and are quite pleasant. "Try and Error" is a organ-driven churning rocker with dark lyrics of the rigors of an uncertain life, while "The Screamer" is a somber 12-minute epic containing gentle vocals, atmospheric keys, and wonderful acoustic guitars. There is even some nice poppier material, such as the acoustic "Sleepless", which helps balance out some of the more darker material. There is a hot synth solo on this track which just cuts through the lush acoustic guitars like a knife!
Back From the Void is a must for any contemporary prog fan, as well as those who appreciate the greats of the 70's. High Wheel have put together the perfect balance of complex, virtuoso progressive rock with dark lyrical material and atmospheric tapestries. If you are clamoring for the Gentle Giant reunion that will never happen, check this band out. While no copy band, High Wheel uses the GG influence, adds some muscle, and presents a fresh updated sound that prog lovers will no doubt enjoy.