Hot off the back of a splendiferous Roadburn Festival appearance, Helms Alee will be unleashing their highly anticipated sixth opus, Keep This Be The Way, today, 29th April, courtesy of the wondrous Sargent House label.
Who are Helms Alee you ask? How very dare you… Well, to be fair, up until just recently, Helms Alee had completely evaded my radar too, so don’t feel too bad. If it hadn’t been for the various members of The Sleeping Shaman team mentioning the name, I would have been none the wiser, but now I am, boy do I feel special.
Getting in on Helms Alee now feels like being part of some secret club. It’s a club which, once they finally hit the well-deserved oncoming limelight, will be a club everyone will want to say they were a member of from early on. Unfortunately, we are all out of luck, as Helms Alee have actually been in existence since 2007, so we are all more than a decade too late to the table.
Well, those of us who were unaware are anyway.
Hailing from Seattle, it would be an easy hit to try and make some comparisons to the area’s iconic grunge background, as a fair, yet uneducated, parallel. While Helms Alee are as unique as a lot of those bands were back in the early 90s, to write the band off in such a flippant way would be a complete injustice.
Helms Alee are so much more. Yes, there are nods, and none is more obvious than their Beavis and Butthead parody video, 8/16. The band recreate several of the iconic grunge videos, and splice them into a Beavis and Butthead style episode, where the band themselves feature as the anarchic antagonists. It truly has to be seen to be believed.
Anyway, I digress….
So, Helms Alee, let’s explore. Ben Verellen assumes guitar and vocal roles, Dana James controls the basslines and vocal, and Hozoji Matheson-Margullia is responsible for all of the controlled chaos that is the drumming. Between them, they have created something which, in my humble opinion, should catapult them from obscurity, and right into the full view of the public.
Keep This Be the Way is the follow up to 2019s Noctiluca, and this was my point of entry to the band. Noctiluca is an absolutely phenomenal album, and so to match that level, and then proceed beyond it, was going to take some doing. Thankfully, Keep This Be the Way capitalises on that groundwork and absolutely elevates it to a new platform altogether.
Turn it up, and completely lose yourself in Helms Alee…
Nestled warmly into the sludgy, noise-rock genre, Helms Alee are so much more than where those categories confine them to. Elements of grunge and shoegaze can be heard, as well as passages of post-hardcore goodness.
Right from album opener, See Sights Smell Smells, to album closer, Guts For Brains, there isn’t any lull in quality. Each track is considered and played to within an inch of oblivion. Tense, and at times uncomfortable, it rolls through, with an air of ‘fuck off, this is our playground’, about it all.
Picking up on elements of darkwave and shoegaze, to minutes later drawing comparison with punky abrasiveness, is all part of the fun, and Helms Alee know exactly how to make those transitions perfectly.
How Party Do You Hard splices grunge with prog at times, and with its moody bassy ambience, clean vocal, and pulsing drums, it sure feels like a grunge evolution for the 21st century. Tripping Up the Stairs is a darker, more visceral number. Intensity is the name of the game here, and it feels like everything is being thrown into the piece, instruments, and band members alike.
While Three Cheeks To The Wind pulls on ideas of The Pixies at times, in equal measure, its dark and awkward. The mix of clean and shouted vocal is wondrous to hear and is both hypnotic and intriguing. Do Not Expose To The Burning Sun hits all of those heavier tones, and throughout the track, it builds and builds until it cannot be contained anymore. A ferocious beast, a juggernaut, a punch to the throat that you aren’t getting up from.
I could go on, but to be honest, the best thing I can say is to just go out and get this album. Turn it up, and completely lose yourself in Helms Alee. Be prepared for surprises, and some shocks along the way, but be prepared too, for something which needs no explanation for how incredible it is. Enjoy, tell your friends, and be ready to embrace Helms Alee into your very being.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish