Monday, August 18, 2008

A Wheel within a Wheel - Southeast Engine

As profound as Ezekiel’s strange wheels

A Wheel within a Wheel
Artist: Southeast Engine (
Label: Misra Records
Length: 13 tracks/41:44 minutes

For those who like depth, A Wheel within a Wheel by Southeast Engine provides plenty to explore. This reminds me of a rock opera, but not in the traditional sense. The words don’t tell just one story. It’s more like a stream of introspective reflections with occasional apocalyptic images of Ezekiel making their way into songs and the intriguing cover art.

There’s none of the oratory bombast of Queen, though frequent style changes in song do give them an opera-like feel. Instead of a hyper Freddie Mercury, you get a world-weary Jeff Tweedy in vocalist and songwriter Adam Remnant. He pours out his heart and ultimately surrenders to hope, but it’s the journey that makes this interesting.

The music is an amalgamation of both old and modern. It has a little of the passion and raucousness of sixties rock—at times explosive with a few notes of discord thrown in for interest. This reminds me of the Biblical concept of meekness, which you could define as power under control. One moment contains gentle sounds, even strings. Thundering rock may be just around the corner.

It can be as unpredictable as Ezekiel’s whirling wheels. "We Have You Surrounded" is just one example. It starts off quietly and builds with hard rock rhythms before ending with a screaming guitar that sounds like an old-fashioned siren. It ends with the band playing a rough mix of power pop with some sixties background vocals. It can be diverse and raw, but it’s under control.

Lyrically, it’s a thicket of words—the loftiness of Ezekiel with the heart of a Jeremiah. It’s musings on everyday life informed by faith but avoiding clear articulation. One exception is "Oh God, Let Me Back In," which is a quiet, earnest plea for God to take the singer back.

In stark contrast, it’s preceded by one of the heaviest-sounding songs, "State of Oblivion." The sound is ragged—the band plays with reckless abandon—and the view is cynical: "Daybreak has broken and I’ve long since begun to set all my feelings aside to live in a state of oblivion where happiness is my guide where I’m in control where I’m in total control." "Quit While You’re Ahead" throws a few jabs at politicians: "tell me what I believe tell me what it is I need tell me you’ll provide it for me … I’ll mistake the lies you sell me for the truth."

For those who want to listen deeply, there is much to glean both musically and lyrically. These songs can be as simple and complex as one of Ezekiel’s wheels. Fans of alternative rock will enjoy this the most.
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