2nd September 2016 – Sargent House
01. More Weight
03. Tit to Toe
04. Meats and Milks
06. Galloping Mind Fuk
07. Creeping You Company
08. Dream Long
11. Worth Your Wild
Helms Alee have *the* most fun band name to say out loud, and fittingly, on their new full-length Stillicide, the trio are similarly joyous. There are bands who cram their records full to bursting point with ideas and end up with impenetrable, unrewarding efforts. With Helms Alee, part of the charm is how, through the clutter, key themes appear and tie the piece together; it’s this clarity that leads Stillicide to be such a successful record.
There are lots of philosophies of indulging a lot of genre influences, and as reviewers it’s tempting to try and pick through them one by one to deconstruct a band’s sound. Whilst Helms flit from grunge to angular metal to the occasional Deftones-esque flourish it, doesn’t feel like they’re name-checking genres; a great strength of this new record is how deftly they cherry-pick their inspiration. The key to their success is how they’ve focussed on momentum and played around with it; a cascade of percussion and guitars serving as the bedrock for the twin-vocal attack.
From the outset it’s obvious that Helms Alee are great at changing up rhythms to power up their songs. Drummer Hozoji Margullis is on incredible form and hits the sweet spot of adding just enough fills, and in just the right places without, overwhelming the other musicians. Second track “Untoxicated” is an excellent example of this: fills coalesce into blasts into formless noise and back into a recognisable song. Throughout Stillicide the vocal play is brought to the forefront, playing off this mad percussion. Their roared harmonies, drenched in studio echo, are especially effective on early bangers “Tit to Toe” and “Meats and Milks“, though later track “Bullygoat” is another good example.
The dual vocals and chaotic vibe leads the music to be fairly unpredictable. This comes to head with the Deftones-y “Galloping Mind Fuk“, which includes a flourish of semi-rapped vocals at its climax. It’s easy to loose yourself in the soup of fills and this curveball does a pretty good job of snapping the listener back; the bouncy chugs at the conclusion are a breath of normalcy in their maelstrom. This and the longer follow-up “Creeping You Company” are prime examples of how Helms Alee can write effective tracks with more standard elements.
Very notably, it’s the crispness of the production that helps the ideas to be expressed; the album is often quite dense with a lot of percussion playing off the guitars. With an uncluttered production such ideas are granted clarity. This has the additional effect of stopping longer tracks like “Creeping You Company” from being lost in the mix, which with a sludgier production they’d risk. I’m pleased to see their production qualities are on point; this is an ambitious record and the production they’ve chosen is crucial to its success.
Helms Alee are getting good at this; Stillicide boasts a lot of energetic, unpredictable grunge-sludge with some solid material for future single releases. Their brand of chaos is always wonderfully listenable, satisfying stuff despite being so mercurial. In any case this release should put them in good stead for future tours, having released Stillicide just prior to Red Fang‘s new effort. Is this the best year on record for fun band names?