Helms Alee’s latest is also overflowing with riffs, though it’s significantly harder to categorise. The Seattle based trio seem to revel in this, and have somehow managed to carve out a very distinctive sound for themselves without ever confining themselves to any particular style. They’re often compared to the Melvins, despite not really sounding anything like the Melvins – presumably it’s because both bands love big, sludgy riffs but refuse to be defined by them, anchoring their madcap antics with an encyclopaedic knowledge of classic rock and punk and an inherent knack for song writing (of course it could just be because every slightly off-the-wall guitar band that’s formed in the last two decades is invariably compared to the Melvins, but hey, just go with us on this one, OK?).
Stillicide is their fourth and arguably most accessible opus, despite the fact that it experiences more wild mood swings between tracks than your average teenage headbanger. Whilst the cathartic ‘Tit To Toe’, for example, alternates between hoarse Scott Kelly-esque roars and the kind of unashamedly catchy chorus that Kylesa deployed on their last few albums, the next song ‘Meats And Milks’ takes a deep breath and offers a brief glimpse into an alternate universe where Kim Deal and Slint live together out in the desert and write country and western hits, before crashing back into grand stadium sludge riffery.
Elsewhere, the rampant, hyperactive and vaguely Lightning Bolt-esque ‘Galloping Mind Fuk’ does exactly what it says on the tin, then minutes later the shimmering ‘Creeping You Company’ slams its foot on the brakes and gives us a beautiful indie-pop ballad, whilst ‘Andromenus’ basks in luscious, moody melodies and jarring, jangly guitars like Belly gone goth before ‘Worth Your Wild’ closes the record, sounding like the end of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ stretched out into a gorgeous, aching doom anthem. All of these songs are bound together by Helms Alee’s unmistakable skill as song writers, and coalesce into a very varied, inventive and remarkably assured album.
Listen to “Stillicide” here.