Wheel of Doom – Ladiatia

Wheel of Doom

If anything can pull all my attention right into an album it’s a combination of a truly unique style and interesting vocals. Wheel of Doom’s Ladiatia managed to not only seize my attention in about two seconds, it flat out floored me from start to finish. Though the album contains only six songs, I’m absolutely mesmerized by everything here.
I really had no clue what to expect from a Japanese band that describes themselves as “oriental, chaotic, heavy rock.” Perhaps it was simply the word “doom” in their name that made me imagine tuned-down, droning instruments and incomprehensible vocals. I didn’t even know if any of the vocals would be in English!
Wheel of Doom is a five-piece featuring the seven-string guitars of Mitsu and Tsuka, with Numa on bass, Matsu on drums, and Shinn providing the vocals. These guys form an extremely powerful unit with a heavy tribal sound. They somehow manage to toss a bunch of things into the mix – Eastern philosophy, some hardcore style vocals, elements of progressive metal, and emotional bits – and come out with a thoroughly enjoyable result. This is despite my complete inability to understand any of the lyrics, although I’m sure at least some of them (or all, who knows?) are in English.
Ladiatia starts out with the mysterious track “Bassuqio,” a short instrumental piece that employs a little bit of electronica with a simple rhythm and the sound of wind blowing in the background. The effect is hypnotic, and the song gently but persistently begins to build up like a wave ready to crash over onto the beach. That wave pounds into “Origin,” a song that makes me wonder if the singer, Shinn, has multiple personalities. His voice seamlessly transforms from high pitched to chanting and from soulful singing to hardcore growl in the mere moments. I had to double-check that Wheel of Doom wasn’t hiding a sixth and seventh band member somewhere, and indeed they aren’t – Shinn just has a vocal range that few others dare to try, let alone match.
“Zo.Di.AC” plays melody off chaos without absolute precision. This is the type of song that manages to dig right into your body, find an empty space inside, and make you tremble from the inside out. I get the distinct impression that the lyrics are full of limitless meaning as Shinn’s voice is so evocative, and I rather enjoy experiencing the vocals physically and spiritually as opposed to dissecting words. “Border-less” and “Float” carry on in a similar vein of a crushing, melodic metal assault. Ladiatia wraps up nicely with a return to a style similar to “Bassuqio,” complete with entrancing electronic effects and soothing pulse of the guitars. At over seven minutes long, this track manages to pull the ocean’s tide back out for a result opposite of the opener.
Wheel of Doom is an intense experience. Because of the infusion of a variety of styles, the band’s overall sound is nearly unparalleled by anything else out there today. This also means that they will likely appeal to a broader audience of rock, metal, and hardcore fans. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that Wheel of Doom makes a tour of the US soon, because I don’t think I can wait much longer to experience this live!