Released: 2018, Inverse Records
Review by: Pete Mutant
Wishing Well came into my inbox and it was a blast from the recent past as I also reviewed their first album in ‘Chasing Rainbows’ which was as bad ass as you could imagine with that title. The Helsinki rockers are back and with a new lineup as guitarist Anssi Korkiakoski and bassist Rick Becker are the only members to retain their position in the band. Out goes Peter James Goodman and Rip Radioactive and in steps Rafael Castillo on vocals and Juha Mivikanto on drums. They have also employed Arto Teppo, who brings the Hammond organ into the mix as the band chase a sound that is not so prevalent in the modern age, but one of the last with roots in early hard rock and prog.
Have they moved much forward? In some ways yes, but losing Peter James Goodman was always going to be a big loss, but Rafael Castillo has his own qualities which he brings to the band. He has a great range, which is demonstrated from the onset of ‘The Children Of Paradise’, which serves as a fine opener and barometer for the sound that Wishing Well are aiming towards. There are riffs and there’s plenty of upbeat tempo, and when lined with Teppo’s Hammond organ skills, we get an overall enjoyable sound if not a bit recycled still. That was one of my issues with ‘Chasing Rainbows’, as it was nothing we hadn’t heard before but it had its charms still and was a good launch pad for the band.
There’s plenty to like with ‘Rat Race’ as well with some solid instrumental performances, which is captured well by the mix. There’s a big influence of Ritchie Blackmore throughout, both in the way the organs build and also the timing and structure of the riffs implemented by Anssi Korkiakoski. His lead is nowhere near as abstract or psychedelic but he does possess a knack for writing flowing songs which at no point seem abrupt or unnecessary, so plaudits are due. ‘Sleepless Nights’ is one of the songs where it all comes together well, from the funeral doom organs at the start to the well orchestrated body of guitar rhythm and solo towards the end. They’ve kept a lot of their classic metal influences as well, which serve well to introduce a lot of the music on this album, such as ‘Pilgrim Caravan’ and You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’, which maintain the strength of the album’s flow.
There are less favourable aspects though and they are mainly to do with either Rafael Castillo’s delivery or just the lyrics in general. I mean, it comes off rather hilariously, especially with the title track of the album when he’s rhyming off ‘I’m a man not a rat, where’s my cheese’; it is rather ridiculous and totally betrays the fine music going on beneath this cheese-laden moment. Sure, it could all be in jest and one really hopes so as it is just too cringe-worthy to accept as serious. I actually burst out laughing when I first heard it, so is that a good thing or a bad thing? Depends on the nature of the band of course, and they are some pretty cheesy gents after all, so I will leave this up to yourself to decide. The end track ‘Grain Of Sand’ also kind of drags a little, but has some nice bass coming through and some more intuitive guitar parts.
Overall it is another slice of alright, but there are many pros and some cons, so there’s a balance somewhat. In the age of nostalgia, we need bands like this to remind us of the roots of our tastes and have to take it with a pinch of salt when we recognise the familiar. There is plenty to enjoy after all, and Wishing Well have some great music in their growing discography. They have taken a bit of a turn but nothing too drastic with ‘Rat Race’, but will it be enough for them to get their cheese?
Band Music Video:
Wheeling and Dealing
Children of Paradise
Falling Out of Love
A Little Dream
Grain of Sand
You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down
The Day of Doom