Helms Alee
Sleepwalking Sailors


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex Carlson USER (50 Reviews)
April 12th, 2014 | 18 replies | 2,096 views


Release Date: 02/11/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Helms Alee's third LP is a mass collective of otherwise incongruent influences that, when combined, breathe new life into the sludge metal formula.

2 of 2 thought this review was well written

At first glance, Helms Alee is your typical sludge metal band. They were raised in Seattle, hometown of sludge metal kings The Melvins and the birthplace of grunge. Their music features a lot of rough vocals, droning guitars, and heavy rhythms. They appear to be just another sludgy trio looking to brood and creep across the metal scene.

But they’re not.

Despite being educated in the way of proto and early grunge, Helms Alee tear the sludge metal cookbook to shreds, bathing the genre in soaring post-rock distortion and nimble prog metal fluidity. The result is the group’s third album, Sleepwalking Sailors, a record that enlists more influences than you can count and delivers a sound that confidently and comfortably sits within its own altered state.

The mass array of influences and sounds are easily Sleepwalking Sailors’ strongest feature. Helms Alee takes such a huge assortment of influences and mashes them together into a purely creative and fascinating form. Many of the songs follow the sludge metal trends: very heavy riffs, guttural vocals from guitarist Ben Verellen (former guitarist for Harkonen and Roy) and a consistent use of thumping, stomping drum rhythms from drummer Hoziji Margullis. The Seattle trio produces weighted, sluggish riffs, taking strong influence from Seattle-based proto-grungers The Melvins. The fuzzed out tones in the first few passages of “Animatronic Bionic” are taken right from the book of late 80’s Seattle rock, drenched in intensity and warped, abrasive guitars. The climactic ending to “Dodge the Lightning” bursts with metal identity, a loud fury worthy of the final word.

But Sleepwalking Sailors is not a sludge metal album. Well, I should say it’s not just a sludge metal album. The influences tear through convention at nearly every chance; everything from progressive metal polyrhythms to distorted, shoegazing guitar walls to melodic alternative rock arrangements are here. Helms Alee develop a constantly curious sound; using so many influences, Sleepwalking Sailors is a multi-faceted and frequently surprising album. One of the best tracks on the album, the opener “Pleasure Center” mixes the roughness of metal riffs and rhythm with ascendant post-rock texture and ambience-laden vocal climbs. “Heavy Worm Burden” soars atop shoegaze distortion, while Margullis’ clean, psalmic vocals refresh the rougher aesthetic produced by Verellen’s screams and draw influence from female-fronted grunge bands like L7 and Hole.

The toned guitar notes and the rising slides from Verellen’s vocals echo the melodic, alternative experimentation of Sparta (in fact, Verellen’s vocals sound very similar to Sparta vocalist Jim Ward’s, albeit rougher). Fuzzy guitar squeals and jangly chords appear in “New West” taking cues from both early 90’s Soundgarden and late 2000’s alternative rock. On the technical side, the rhythms are rarely stationary on Sleepwalking Sailors. Bassist Dana James produces a fluid and amorphous sense of pacing that comes alive when combined with the low bass thumps and jazzy jumps of Margullis’ drums.

But despite this cavalcade of unique influences, Sleepwalking Sailors displays fortitude to this expansive brew. The group might have a huge amount of ideas circulating in their minds, but the resulting combination of those sounds stays pretty consistent throughout the album, perhaps a bit too much so. Aside from some superb and memorable moments in songs like “Pleasure Center”, “Tumescence” and “Heavy Worm Burden”, the song-specific risks are actually rather few. While the overarching musical aesthetic isn’t like anything else out there, the album feels more like a superb, singular package, a lengthy demonstration of the group’s desire to cross genres and challenge convention. In essence, Sleepwalking Sailors is best enjoyed as a complete album and not as individual songs.

Sleepwalking Sailors is one of the most bizarre experiments to ever come from sludge metal. Helms Alee have already proven their proficiency with Seattle-inspired brooding and warped grime, but with post-rock, prog metal and alt rock influences, the album is an outright challenge to the genre itself. Fuzzed-out guitar walls burst past heavy riffs, jazzy rhythms dance across droning vocals, and clean melody appears behind screeching solos. Despite all that, the album is a focused and healthy endeavor, and while the songs could use more distinction from each other, Helms Alee show an equipped and versatile sound with Sleepwalking Sailors, a captivating sound that’s gritty, but pure; loose, but intense. A pleasant surprise from start to finish, Helms Alee’s third LP is a hypnotically curious record.



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user ratings (40)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
PostMesmeric
April 12th 2014



347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This was a really weird album, but it didn't have a review yet, so I thought I'd write one up. Hope you dig my review; I really recommend this album.

fromtheinside
April 12th 2014



17911 Comments


had a review for this but never got around to cleaning it up or even reading it again.

this album though sits rough with me. they have a very simple and almost over used formula but i can't deny how cool most of this sounds.
first two tracks are awesome

Digging: Coroner - No More Color

Confucius
April 12th 2014



163 Comments


Overrated

bloc
April 12th 2014



34735 Comments


Album art is so wicked

Digging: Messiah - Choir of Horrors

fromtheinside
April 12th 2014



17911 Comments


u listen to this bloc?

PostMesmeric
April 12th 2014



347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@fromtheinside

I agree. The formula itself is amazing. They just overuse it a bit too much. If they added a little more variety, this would be higher for me. Still a great album, though.

NakedSnake
April 12th 2014



265 Comments


These guys opened for Russian circles. Not terrible, just not all that interesting.

PostMesmeric
April 12th 2014



347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They totally would open for Russian Circles. Lots of post-rock influences here. I really like this album, though.

aircycle
April 12th 2014



917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

heavy worm burden + crystal gale < 3

LordePots
April 12th 2014



6526 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Overrated


it has 32 ratings dumbass




glad this got a review. liked the last 2 better tho, would like to see more people check those out

tempest--
April 13th 2014



13043 Comments


need to check this one, sounds really cool

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

PostMesmeric
April 13th 2014



347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Go for it. First song instantly made me think Sunbather, but it shifts beyond that throughout.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
April 13th 2014



7346 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Finally a review for this, and a great one too.

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

SpritzSpritz
April 13th 2014



527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

the more i listen to this the better it gets. they have a split lp with young widows coming out soon that's going to rule as well.

http://pitchfork.com/reviews/tracks/16837-punchy-stabby/

there's the first track from that.

aircycle
April 13th 2014



917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

what about this sounds in any way like sunbather?

PostMesmeric
April 13th 2014



347 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lots of post-rock aesthetics with heavy metal rhythms and tone. That's just me, though.

LordePots
April 13th 2014



6526 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

not feelin that

tempest--
May 30th 2014



13043 Comments


listening to this finally it is good



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