Every music nerd has gotten roped into the desert island conversation. You know—what’s the one record you would bring with you to some remote location to provide solace for the rest of your days? Or better yet, what’s the one band whose catalog would always remain fresh to your ears, even after years and years of isolation? Of course, the ideal candidate would be a band who has a significant body of work, a band who’s songs span a variety of temperaments and timbres, and, obviously, a band that just plain rules. With their fourth album, Stillicide, Helms Alee prove that they might be the only group you would need for the rest of your life. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But the Washington state trio of Ben Verellen (guitar, vocals), Dana James (bass, vocals), and Hozoji Margullis (drums, vocals) delivers the kind of expertly crafted, dynamic, nuanced, and diverse songwriting that is both instantly engaging and—as evidenced by their previous albums Night Terror (2008), Weatherhead (2011), and Sleepwalking Sailors (2014)—increasingly gratifying after years of repeated listens.
With Stillicide, Helms Alee continues their sonic tradition of blending heavy riffs, dark guitar pop, and math rock into songs that are at turns brutal, anthemic, and cerebrally engaging. Starting with the syncopated poundage and epic piano line of “More Weight”, Helms Alee demonstrates that they’ve fortified every angle of their attack. You want amp worship? Try to find a more barbaric chug than the riff in the appropriately titled “Galloping Mind Fuk”. You want melodies so powerful you break out in goosebumps? Try to quell your follicles during the final crescendo of “Tit to Toe”. You want one of those proggy odd-time signature moments where you can flex that you know where the “1” falls while banging your head? Listen to “Bullygoat” and bask in the knotty introductory guitar line that sounds like Duane Denison fucking with Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”. Relish the brutalage of the title track. Savor