This is the third installment for the Sacramento, CA-based metal band Soulmotor. A thriving side project for Tesla bassist Brian Wheat and ex-UFO axeman Atomic Tommy “M” McClendon; the record picks up where last years self-titled sophomore outing left off with more growth and development. Focusing more on straight hard rock, the band move away from their early Stoner, Monster Magnet-like direction to take full advantage of lead singer Darin Woods gruff bellowing vocals.
Formed in 1996 from the ashes of Tesla, the band briefly reunited bassist Brian Wheat with guitarist Frank Hannon. Adding vocalist Darin Wood and drummer Darren Minter, the group began gigging locally, but after a few months Hannon exited to form “Moon Dog Mane”, and was replaced by Tommy McClendon. In 1997 Soulmotor issued their debut album “In Super Hi-Fi Sound”, which was sold over the internet as well as at live dates; the exposure brought the group to the attention of the CMC International label, and after replacing Minter with drummer Mike Vanderhule they issued their self-titled sophomore LP in the spring of 1999 with an extensive tour following.
Although built from the remnants of Tesla, Soulmotor has little of the original band's flavor. In fact, the band has more in common with modern-day heavy metal bands especially on this their new release. The production on “Revolution Wheel” is pounding riff-rock at its finest with a crushing rhythm section. That crush is attributed to the addition of yet another Tesla bandmate, drummer Troy Luccketta.
The lyrics have also taken a radical turn focusing on the dichotomy of modern man the break down of the soul of man. A number of industrial references pull at the idea of man being controlled by machines as if to counter flesh and steel. Some of it comes off angry (Shut Down, Gods And Monsters, Today) other bits are more concepted (Brand New You, Man Made God, Long Live The New Machine). Though on the surface it comes across as man fighting machines it really applies to relationships and plays a lot like Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime”.
“We wanted this record to be different,” says guitarist Tommy McClendon. “We did it a lot different than the first two. We spent a year working on it and we wanted it to be focused on one central theme. The first record for CMC was done in like four weeks, mixed in a week. This one was much longer. We really got to live with these songs before committing them to the album.”
During the production of “Revolution Wheel”, Tesla reformed and did a surprisingly successful string of dates putting Soulmotor on the backburner. “We went into this dormant stage while Brian and Troy were out on the road,” continues McClendon. “I continued to work up ideas with Darin but this is a band effort and can’t really be done without the input from the others.”
The record was eventually finished in the fall of 2001. However, by then CMC had been pulled into the Sanctuary giant and the record was release in the beginning of 2002 with little to no fan-fair. Since Tesla is also signed to Sanctuary and a much higher profile the worry is that “Revolution Wheel” may get buried.
“When we put Soulmotor together it was suppose to be a working band”, says Tommy McClendon. “Brian and Frank thought Tesla was over and they were moving on. My brother and I had been friends with them for years and so we started Soulmotor as a brand new thing and fully expected it to work as a band. We even toured for almost a year on the first CMC record.”
Though Tommy won’t comment of the bands future with Sanctuary records Brian is quoted as saying, “At this time, I don’t wanna comment on Sanctuary Records…but we’d like to see more of a commitment from them.” Tommy did mention that “Shut Down” was being worked on radio and that “18 Years In The Machine” was defiantly radio worthy.
McClendon goes on to say, “This record has a lot to offer. It’s defiantly a melodic hard rock record and works on a number of different levels. It’s true that Soulmotor fans are different than Tesla fans but both bands offer a unique style. We sold 15,000 copies of last years record and we’d like to see that grow with ‘Revolution Wheel’.”
For the band, the commitment to Soulmotor does not wane. Whether we see another Tesla album out next year matters not to the survival of Soulmotor. “Oh no, we are in it for the long haul,” repeats McClendon. “We are all friends and work well together. I can see us doing this for a long time.” Packed with a monster 14 tracks “Revolution Wheel” is a marvelous listen and showcase four top-notch players doing what they love to do best. ROCK!!!
Check them out at: www.soulmotor.com or www.sanctuaryrecordsgroup.com.