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As a long-standing fan of Germany's Wheel, Comrade Aleks was inspired by the release, finally, of their third album of soulful Trad Doom earlier in the year. Guitarist Ben explains why it took a while to arrive...

Interview with Wheel.
"Ten - wait…eleven - years ago I was touched by Wheel's self-titled album. Their soulful and pretty Traditional Doom was a good addition to the German underground scene, and I couldn't wait for the next album. However, the flight of 'Icarus' in 2013 went almost unnoticed (although I still find some of its songs remarkable). The next seven years were relatively calm for the band, just a few gigs here and there and that's all, but I remembered. I remember! Oh how could I forget? And my patience was rewarded with Wheel's third album 'Preserved In Time', released just three months ago. Come taste some German doom! We need it now more than ever as good old Dawn of Winter, Mirror of Deception and Naevus aren't going to cheer us up with new good old slow stuff."

Wheel: Benjamin Homberger (guitars), Marcus Grabowski (bass), Arkadius Kurek (vocals), Carsten Jercke (drums).

Hail Ben! Cruz del Sur Music released your third album 'Preserved In Time' in April 2021, and I have to ask where you have been all this time? There's eight years' break between this new album and its predecessor 'Icarus'.

Hello and thanks for having us! Yes, that's always the first question and yes: that IS a long time. There are numerous reasons for that: The main reason was, that we wanted to be 100 % sure about the songs. We did a proper pre-production for the first time and took a year to listen to that alone. Furthermore there were other "obstacles" in our way: we lost our rehearsal place, got new daily jobs, parenthood… and Arkadius quit for one year… that all took its tolls.

Do you mean you aren't sure that 'Icarus' was 100%? I remember you recorded it relatively fast.

In hindsight: no, not everything turned out as intended. But in the end it is ok for us now. We move on.

Wheel's lineup is the same, though I see that Micha Baum took the place of vocalist for a year or so in 2018. What happened back then with the band?

After the Malta Doom Metal Fest in 2017 Arkadius decided to quit, because he had a professional education going on and wanted to focus on that. Maybe there also was some discontent with the new record taking so long… anyway. We are more than happy to be together again now.

Wheel - 'At Night They Came Upon Us' (2021):

And what made you return Wheel to the road in 2021 when everything is still…difficult...as the pandemic keeps on rolling further?

The pandemic is only affecting live concerts most of the time, yes. There were times, when we were not allowed to rehearse either, but most of the time we continued. So it was no big deal. We strongly hope, that the announced shows for this and mainly next year will take place! Fingers crossed!

Ben, do you see Wheel as a strong live band? What was your most impressive live experience with the band?

From what I have heard, we have some qualities, yes. As every human one time better one time a little sloppier, ha ha!

I get your point! How far did you travel with the band before the pandemic? How comfortable were such trips?

That triggers the "Train Nightmare to Austria"-Trauma, ha ha! Seriously: our bass player Marcus and I traveled by train to Salzburg, having +50 kg of luggage and equipment with us on a trolley and Cazy and Arkadius followed by plane, because they both have to work Fridays as teachers and can't take a day off. So we also wanted to catch the Friday at Seeds of Doom 2017 with us on Saturday… Ultimately it was a +11h train ride with multiple train changes and broken rails, so also going by bus, cabs, by foot… That was "fun". So, "Deutsche Bahn"? What could possibly go wrong? Yeah, everything, ha!

…but we also went to Malta Doom Fest. That was just nice!

Wheel - 'She Left In Silence' (Official, 2021):

Wheel's new material sounds a bit different – it's harder, more epic, more… competent. What kind of qualities did you aim to embody through 'Preserved In Time'?

You learn from your mistakes and after a… let's say "weaker" sounding Icarus, we wanted to have a heavy but also warm and "human" sounding album. Therefore I had a couple of records that I gave to our sound engineer Dennis Koehne, for example recent albums by Smoulder and Cirith Ungol, to have a direction. And he nailed it.

I checked, and I see that Dennis hasn't worked with doom bands before. How tightly did you collaborate with him working on 'Preserved In Time'?

After I showed him the direction, a few attempts later: It just worked fine! He works mainly online and with a comment function at the songs after he mixed them, so you can point to every detail and discuss it.

What was the most difficult thing for you during this recording session? How long did you spend recording these songs?

The most difficult part was recording vocals. We did it sentence by sentence in some parts. It was exhausting but worth the struggle. All other instruments were recorded in a relative short time over a few weeks.

Won't that affect Wheel's future gig performances? Will you be able to play these songs live?

Yes, we already did a few times! A live situation is different. It's more important to have a good performance and atmosphere. Some minor mistakes here and there are natural as long as it is not too significant and frequent.

What kind of meaning do you put in the album's title? Most of our readers would agree that Traditional Doom is preserved in time as one of the most orthodox Metal genres! But where are my manners! I'd like to know your point of view!

The title was first, before the artwork. Cazy (drums) came up with it and I liked it instantly, simply because it sounds epic. Also, it has a certain "depth" if you see it on different stages of being: everything is preserved in time, as long as someone remembers.

I guess that every Wheel follower has noticed the song 'Daedalus' on the new album: what kind of message do you channel through this song? Is it connected with 'Icarus' from your previous album?

Yes, the opening riff is pretty similar to Icarus. That was on purpose. Lyrically, if you are familiar with the myth, it is the view from the father of Icarus of the things that happened.

Wheel - 'Oblivion' (Live, 2019):

What kind of themes did you pick up for 'Preserved In Time''s lyrics?

Arkadius only picks things that are realistic in some way, so no sword & sorcery lyrics. Themes range from love, death, depression to social injustice and personal fate.

Ben, what's your own favorite doom song lyrics?

Warning's 'Footprints'.

Good choice! And our last question for today. Germany is known for festivals like Hammer of Doom, and there's a live album from one edition of the festival in your discography. Did you talk with some festival organizers about the prospects of playing live this year?

Yes, there are plans: this year it is unlikely that bigger indoor events can take place (although I hope to play again at Hammer of Doom, which is still announced for this year) but for 2022 we have just got added to the Hell over Hammaburg bill in Hamburg. Let's hope, that the pandemic will not strike again in this autumn and everything will be canceled again…

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Visit the Wheel bandpage.

Interviewed on 2021-09-14 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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