Helms Alee
"Night Terror"

(Hydra Head Records 2008)Helms Alee - Night Terror

Having been subject to the night terrors that are an official side effect of anti-malaria drugs, I was eager to check out this record. Although I didn't have any relapses, and I am considering writing to Helms Alee to enquire about renaming the album to "Night War" or maybe "Night Extermination." I've reached a lighter place since my dark days of Nirvana for breakfast and Nine Inch Nails for lunch, but this album reminded me how fun it is to step into that dark place of wantonly destructive daydreams. The opener "Left Handy Man Handle" evokes Chris Isaak fighting off hordes of zombies, and it only gets stranger from there.

The thing that really drew me in is that the band is seriously heavy without even the slightest hint of metal. Helms Alee will crush your soul without any annoying chugging and double bass. "Rogue's Yarn" is an apocalyptic and raw adventure that is neither doomy or clichéd. "Big Spider" is terrifying, dark, and bewildering all at the same time. The album achieves these effects in three ways: 1) Huge raw drums - the production is similar to the Pixies drum sound. The epic rumbling grooves usually stay off of the back beat, and the odd-meter bits peppered throughout the album keep you on your toes. 2) Wasteland guitars - when the guitars are not layered on top of each other tearing through grim fuzzy riffs, they are laying down bleak, gritty atmospheric odes to darkness. During these parts I like to imagine the band on a hill overlooking the smoking ruins of a city that has just been hit by an atomic bomb. 3) Effective use of the voice as an instrument - spookily harmonized male/female vocals (another Pixies trademark) makes it feel like two wailing apparitions are guiding you through the wasteland. Then the male singer will give you a screeching monotone chorus worthy of Chris Cornell having the worst hangover of all time.

If I had to guess where this music came from, I would say that Helms Alee had the Pixies over and listened to lots of Frodus and The Dismemberment Plan records while smoking a ton of drugs and playing Fallout 3 for twenty-four straight hours with the opening sequence of Terminator 2 on repeat in the next room before going into the studio. Night Terror is a dark vision of noise, power, and annihilation that is best heard at high volume and low light.


buy it!