Helms Alee's debut for Sargent House is a complete monster of an album, full of melody and math. They strike a delicate balance of outrageous fuzz and clean post-rock that allow for an enormous pallet of sounds. Every song is layered expertly and shifts organically between savage riffs and delicate sound-scapes.
On Sleepwalking Sailors Helms Alee have added to their bag of tricks, building off the dynamic and aggressive records Weatherhead and Night Terror. As usual, Matheson-Margullis lays out lots of toms, with a touch of double-kick here, extra rolls there. The vocals have more harmonized passages and layers. James' bass lines walk melodically, and Verellen's guitars sound dynamic and live. Everything has a little extra heat in it.
Pleasure Center starts the album off going from shoegaze-y guitars to thunderous double-kick drumming, with wonderfully layered vocals. Tumescence follows with some savage fuzz, tom-heavy rolling drums, and ends by showing off their expertise in head-banging maths. More loud-quiet-loud rocking comes next in Pinniped, starting with a crashing intro, falling into a rolling melodic passage, and a crushing end.
Jangling guitars start off Dangling Modifiers, joined by a heavy dose of toms, fuzzy bass and alternating screams with airy singing. Heavy Worm Burden has some of the busiest drum work on the album, leading to a heavy turn and melodic build that finishes the song. Crystal Gale is a short interlude before the heavy start of New West. Here, with the drums solo, the quality of the recording really shines. The drums are nicely resonant and live sounding, even when the rest of the band joins in. Nothing gets muddy, despite heavy doses of delay, vocals, and distortion.
Fetus Carcass brings more counting fun and head-banging riffs. Slow Beef evokes Mogwai with a build from atmospheric guitars to a bombastic end with touches of keyboards adding another layer in the mix. The penultimate track, Animatronic, is a brief, but superbly heavy tune. Dodge the Lightning finishes off the record by showing off a little bit of everything Helms does so well, with multiple vocal lines, rumbling bass, and dynamic guitars.
This is by far the best sounding record they've released. Every instrument and vocal line sits perfectly in the mix, the drums clear and live. Each sound distinct but unified, creating a colorful and layered aesthetic. The songwriting is superb, and as always there is a fun complexity to their rhythms while steadily grooving through odd-time. This is a gem of an album. Everyone should buy it as soon as they can.