Review Summary: The spiritual successor to Gaza we deserve.
When it comes to heavy music it’s getting more and more difficult and time consuming to sift through the superabundant imitators to find bands really doing the bands that have clearly inspired them justice. If you live in a city with a halfway active music scene it’s almost guaranteed you could see a band playing homage to any given trope or gimmick within the last twenty years that ever had a following. Heavy music in particular is funny that way; things seem to truly ebb and flow in popularity as years go by. However, Helpless, a noisey three-piece from the UK, is anything but run-of-the-mill.
Playing what would normally be an all too familiar blend of dissonant hardcore and grind, Helpless manages to stand far superior to the droves of bands playing this style in modern music. There are a lot of bands that clearly influence the furious cocktail found on Debt
, but it would be absolutely impossible to bring up Helpless without also mentioning the obvious influence that Gaza has had on their aesthetic. Gaza had a sound that has proven very hard for bands to imitate effectively, and after their dissolution in 2012 even their “spiritual successor” band Cult Leader hasn’t really scratched the very precise itch that Gaza did for me. Helpless taps into Gaza’s unbridled rage and unpredictable chaos better than any other band I’ve ever heard while impressively boasting a lineup of even less members than Gaza ever had. Debt
is an amalgamation of everything that made Gaza truly spectacular and more, and importantly showcases a band putting its own personality and spin into Gaza’s steps rather than simply retreading them.
Right off the bat in opener “Worth” the listener is assaulted with a barrage of absolute fury. The intensity does not fade once it’s established for the entire run-time of Debt
, which clocking just over the 20-minute mark, feels more akin to a frenzied sprint than an exhausting marathon. The drummer manages to put on an awe-inspiring performance for the duration, changing between frantic blast-beats and crushing half time sludge with ease. The guitars flip seamlessly between anxiety inducing dissonance and driving metallic riffs – think more Jane Doe
era Converge than Deathspell Omega. Filling in the mix between the two is a thick distorted bass that not only provides the backbone for the guitar to continue its aural assault, but also features some tasty bass lines that make for some really enjoyable highlights throughout the record. Most notably the bass takes the reins in closer and clear standout “Denied Sale”, hitting you with a quick little riff before one of the only brief moment respites on Debt
, immediately followed by Helpless delivering the final killing blow to the listener with a violent kick in the chest of sludgy vitriol. Vocally both the guitarist and bassist take on equal duty, and it is here that the listener sees the most obvious Gaza influence. Buried just slightly in the mix, both vocalists flow through a mixture of vicious growls and piercing screams with ease, and tonally it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say it’s almost as if Jon Parkin himself were providing them.
It’s tricky to travel the paths of preceding innovators without being labeled a copycat or a one trick pony. Even harder still is picking up the metaphorical torch and filling the shoes of the heroes of yesteryear, but this is exactly what Helpless manages to do on their first LP. Throughout the discordance and pulverizing heaviness displayed on Debt
the record establishes exactly what it sets out to do. It serves up a tasty and unique slice of heaviness with loads of replay value and completely levels the other would-be imitators in the process. This is the spiritual successor to Gaza we deserve.