It’s not easy for bands not avoid tethering themselves to a particular sound. They have an idea for how they want to operate going in, often times, and as their careers go on, usually the members stick to a certain path and only veer off here and there. Then there are those who have no particular journey in mind and let the music take them wherever the hell it will.
Puget Sound-based trio Helms Alee are the classic unidentifiable band sound wise, because they change what they do not just from song to song but from section to section. Typically sludgy and agitated, the band is heavy enough to lean into the metal world but, for the most part, they operate on the edges and dump in anything that works for them. A bastard creation of the Melvins and the Breeders (that’s kind of close, right?) is the best way I can think of a way to describe them, and that’s only tangentially. They again prove the perfect chameleons on their great fifth record “Noctiluca,” named after bioluminescent marine algae that glows when excited. That’s likely how you’ll feel when taking on these 10 beasts that all have different personalities and DNA, created by the masters of disguise—bassist Dana James, guitarist Ben Verellen, drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis (they all do vocals)—who have guided this band through the past 12 years and kept their sound dynamic and unpredictable.
Interachnid” kicks off the record with a surge and a howl of, “You can’t stop what you can’t move,” before the track gets into a weird trippy section before spiraling out of control. “Beat Up” is sludgy and punchy as Verellen roars away as James and Mathseson-Margullis add their own colors to the mix while the guitars stretch out. The music may make you feel a little light headed as wild howls rumble, and a muddy psyche jam brings the song to a close. “Play Dead” buzzes and pounds, as they all take turns on vocals, with the cut feeling poppy and fun, and the demand of, “True friends don’t let friends play dead,” repeating before everything bleeds away. “Be Rad Tomorrow” has a cool riff and a mid-tempo push, with the singing soaring and reminding of Veruca Salt. Verellen’s howls rejoin the mix as sounds fall, the drums circle, and the cut comes to a chilling end. “Lay Waste, Child” has drums opening fresh wounds, as all of the voices meld together over a calculated, rhythmic pace. The vibe remains steady while the singing mesmerizes as the song melts into the ground.
“Illegal Guardian” also spills psychedelic colors as it builds slowly with an icy texture and the singing freezing blood cells. Guitars sting while the growls start to punish, and the call of, “If you kill it, you have to eat it, wear its skin, know its secrets,” delivers bruising before chaos erupts and consumes everything whole. “Spider Jar” has killer drumming leading forward, guitars trickling, and harmonized singing that leads the way to an awesome chorus that kicks up dust and makes your skin crawl. “Pleasure Torture” has the bass swirling as James and Mathseson-Margullis command with their voices, heads swim in the atmosphere, and then the guitars set fire and torch the place. The track explodes with power as Verellen howls savagely and blasts the door shut. “Pandemic” has guitars smearing, psyche-rich singing, and a sun-drenched ambiance warming up your body. Breezy vocals push into the mix, jamming and pulling before bleeding into closer “Word Problems” that instantly bashes in heads. The pace is faster, the vocals nastier, and the intensity hotter as the band brings everything to a proper, raucous conclusion.
Helms Alee continue barreling wherever their swashbuckling hearts take them, and “Nocticula” is another stuffed serving that’s paced just right and is a blast to take on from front to back. It’s the something-for-everyone style of heavy music album that could find followers in any corner of a room, which is a testament to the group’s creativity and daring passions. This collection will blister you during its duration, and you’ll feel like you’ve gone on a smashing adventure when you reach the end.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/HelmsAlee
To buy the album, go here: https://www.hellomerch.com/collections/helms-alee
For more on the label, go here: https://sargenthouse.com/