Artist: Helms Alee
Album: Keep This Be the Way
Label: Sargent House
Release date: April 29, 2022
Across the span of their first five studio albums, Seattle trio Helms Alee have consistently refined their signature sound—a blend of lilting siren songs, crushing thunder and sludge, and heady guitar pop filled with lush guitars and elaborate three-part vocal harmonies that reach widely across various subgenres of the heavy music world. On their latest album, Keep This Be the Way, the band expanded their palette by delving into the production possibilities afforded by recording the album themselves, creating their most dynamic and technicolored work to date.
Guitarist/vocalist Ben Verellen, bassist/vocalist Dana James, and drummer/vocalist Hozoji Matheson-Margullis found refuge during the pandemic in their music and bunkered down in a makeshift studio in Verellen’s amplifier shop, recording songs with the assistance of Ron Harrell as they were writing them, composing the material with the added benefit of hearing them come together from the engineer’s chair. Keep This Be the Way still very much sounds like a Helms Alee record, but it’s their first album that diverts from the faithful recreation of their live sound and delves into a vibrant tapestry of surreal sounds and invented spaces.
This new approach is immediately evident on first single “See Sights Smell Smells,” where reverse cymbal crashes, fragmented piano, layered drums, woozy drones, saxophone freak-outs, and trippy vocal treatments transport the listener to an altered state of exhilarated anticipation. The pendulum swings towards more adventurous and exploratory sounds on songs like “Tripping Up the Stairs”, it’s nightmarish synth glides pitted against distorted barrages steeped in classic Helms Alee timbre. And therein lies the power of the Keep Us Be the Way: it reflects a period of change, ambiguity and perseverance through its fearless curiosity, cathartic rumble, and sublime beauty.