Steven Wheeler: Terminal Velocity Review: A Story Told Through Music

“Terminal Velocity” is a three-track EP by electronic composer Steven Wheeler which displays an almost visual sense of mounting tension generated via atmospheric movement.

Title track “Terminal Velocity” opens the album up with a classic synth chord progression that builds and swells into a victorious sounding string section that calls to mind an epic battle scene in a video game. The percussion on this track is integral to the atmosphere with toms that sound like war drums, and a drawn-out snare that fires like a musket. The movement and flow of the track appear to represent a struggle that ends on a triumphant note, at least for now.

The next track “Fist of the Heavens” lives up to its name by introducing a more ambient, and atmospheric sound. A tribal drum beat starts off before the synths and strings drop in for some epic vibes. The drums here are a bit more contemporary, as they drive the song track forward with a groovy hi-hat and snare oriented rock beat. The addition of operatic choral vocals contributes to the ethereal atmosphere, until about midway through when an electronic, dubstep-influenced breakdown is introduced. The buildup into the final section of the track is effective and satisfies the anthemic quality of the project as a whole.

“The Endless March of Time” is the final movement in this composition, and serves as an effective epilogue. The tempo here is slowed down significantly, with sparse synthesizers and chimes building and ebbing for the better part of two minutes, and a marching snare roll that mounts tension before the string and choir sections are introduced. The operatic vocals here are once again effective in their representations of triumph and glory. An eerie section begins toward the end, with some swelling minor notes that provide a sense of dread, before the final choral and string sections emerge with a powerful, and triumphant final run. Where the other two tracks fade out, “The Endless March…” ends with a definitive conviction, and concludes the trilogy with a sort of emboldened assertiveness that implies the final surmounting of a great struggle.

“Terminal Velocity” succeeds in creating a three-part series that effectively conveys the triumphs and glory of victory. The scenes that Wheeler paints through his choice of drum sounds, string sections, and well-placed operatic vocal parts flow naturally throughout the EP, giving the tracks a sense of movement that works individually and as parts of a whole. Given the electronic sound of the instrumentation, this EP would work most effectively as the backdrop of an epic video game, or another electronic media outlet, rather than a live-action film, but the feelings induced are palpably human nonetheless.

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