It’s too bad (for their sake) that the majority of critics calling metal “the new indie rock” 10 years ago fell off the bandwagon way too soon to hear their old meme implode via Stillicide. Without straying even half a degree from the strictly post-whatever waters they’ve steered their speculative metal vessel through with escalating success since 2008’s Night Terror, Helms Alee have very casually made one of the decade’s most substantial indie rock records.
A solid chunk of the Seattle-based trio’s fourth album feels newly minted even after multiple listens, thanks in equal parts to producer and engineer Kurt Ballou’s impeccable placement and processing and the band’s imaginative arrangements—aspects that rank just below the songs themselves, simultaneously tightly structured and surreal in a way that both pays homage to their highly collaborative origins and subtly showcases the band’s superior musicianship. Vocals are ridiculously good and optimally deployed, with bassist Dana James, drummer Hozoji Margullis, and guitarist Ben Verellen offering enough variation in color, texture and emotive flavor to render broadband gender fluidity audible. For all the album’s originality, the band makes no effort to hide their roots, instead just tweaking and braiding them into unlikely juxtapositions that add more depth than ever to their many shadow identities. Stoner Fugazi/PJ Harvey-hybrids, Slint as Jovians, the Pixies if they’d formed in 2015 and were heavily influenced by SubRosa—all (and more) flicker in and out of earshot on an album that’s strangely inexhaustible, given how easy it is to love.
— Rod Smith
Via Decibal; dB rating: 8/10