In conjuring a phantom soundtrack to a nonexistent bikesploitation film from the early-70’s Québecois sleaze-kongs The Death Wheelers skate a blurry line between the kitsch of shocked-out 60’s garage rock and the sludgy clangor of proto-doom/stoner metal. Conceived and recorded entirely by multi-instrumentalist Max ‘The Axe’ Tremblay until roughly 2017, The Death Wheelers gained major traction with the release of their ‘Mind Blowing Trip!!!’ EP in 2015. Now tasked with a full-length, and a larger concept, the full range of this project ends up being a fun enough ride that manages memorability by juicing it’s energetic and raucous sound for all it’s worth.
The moment you fire up any release from this band you’ll quickly realize that Tremblay is a monster truck of a bassist first and foremost. His tone is fuckin’ filthy as it is huge but it isn’t so much gnarly as it is raw in it’s statically-charged sound. In crafting a full-length the grander vision of Tremblay proves itself well enough with intense performances driven by loud-clanging bass freak-outs that land somewhere between ‘Melvins covering The Cramps‘ and the burliness of early Truckfighters. It is an viciously old school jammed set that manages some quick nods to everything from classic Black Sabbath to Dave Allan & The Arrows‘ ‘Loud Loose & Savage’. All of this was so enthralling that I didn’t realize there was no vocalist in The Death Wheelers until after listening to it for the tenth or so spin. Still reeling from that realization, honestly.
The setup for the album’s concept is no less fantastic than the films that inspired it with a Surrey, British Columbia motorcycle club (The Death Wheelers) being resurrected after 45 years to fuck, fight, kill and recruit their way across the country as the living dead. I doubt you’ll pick any of this up without a lyric sheet or whatever but, it’s a fun idea for an album and the damn film doesn’t exist so use your imagination. It reeks of midnight movie kitsch and crime exploitation movies in the best way. Although I liked the concept and samples from movies like Pink Flamingos, I found myself listening to ‘I Tread On Your Grave’ primarily for the bass and guitar interplay. I’m a sucker for any sort of 60’s surfer guitar work as well the fuzzed-out stuff pioneered by Allan, so a lot of what Tremblay does resonates with me. The only part of the tracklist that doesn’t entirely register is the Led Zeppelin cover at the end, which seems pretty pointless beyond the already effective closer “RIP (Last Ride)”.
‘I Tread On Your Grave’ gets in and out quick like any effective rock record might but I can’t help feeling like the album itself was stretched out into a full-length where it might’ve functioned better as an EP. I wouldn’t say it has any true ‘filler’ moments but coming off of extended listening sessions I felt like they could have filled those last 4-5 minutes with something stronger than a note-for-note rendition of ‘Moby Dick’. Likewise the “Marche Funebre” bassline at the end of “Deaf Wheelers” might be cool but gets cheesier every time. Still, this album is a great dust-up in overall quality and songwriting since their ‘Mind Blowing Trip!!!’ EP a few years ago and it carries 30 minutes better than most instrumental experiences in recent memory. Would highly recommend the whole thing as a full listen but, if you’re just previewing, jump straight to “Deaf Wheelers” and “Black Crack” then over to “13 Discycles”. Should know whether or not you’re interested by then.
|Released||May 11, 2018|
|BUY/LISTEN on RidingEasy Records’ Bandcamp!||Follow the Death Wheelers on Facebook|
Kill everyone now. 3.25/5.0
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