By Dan Perretta
Everyone has a handful of albums that seem to stay with them no matter what and, for me, Helms Alee’s 2014 release, “Sleepwalking Sailors”, is one of mine. Their most recent release, “Stillcide”, is equally amazing, but “Sleepwalking Sailors” just holds a special place in my rotation. My ever-shifting top ten list consistently has this beast towards the top. To be perfectly honest, the album art can tell you everything about what you are about to experience upon pressing play. “Sleepwalking Sailors” is deep, heavy, ethereal and just damn interesting.
Helms Alee is a three-piece from Seattle, WA. They always seems to challenge my perception of the heavy genre with every album they release. Whenever someone asks me to describe the music, I find myself avoiding genre specific language and in the end I simply concede and say, “You just have to listen to it.” The vocals go from soothing, spacey cleans to deep, heartfelt yells. Not screams. Yells. The same can be said for the guitar work on the album. All of the guitar parts really lend to the melody of the music and help give it that spacey and deep sound. Then as the song intensifies, so does the guitar, but it still never overpowers the song. The use of reverb and delay throughout the album also give it that far off feeling, like you are blissfully floating through darkened waters. The best example of which is in the beginning of the track, “Slow Beef”. Also, for instance, in the track, “New West”, the leads do so much to set the mood and tone of the song, it just would not work without them. Another thing to note is the bass pulls double duty on this album. It does exactly what bass is meant to do, which is hold it down, so to speak, but with added distortion and fuzz, often acts as a rhythm guitar. The drumming is absolutely perfect. I found my self really digging the fills and symbol work. It is not that it is anything entirely difficult for an experienced drummer, of course, but it is another great example of a musician knowing exactly what the song and album need. The drumming choices help keep a lot of these songs memorable and interesting.
“Sleepwalking Sailors” is the kind of album you get from a band that works extremely well together. There is no piece of the puzzle that consistently sticks out or does not fit. The entire album is cohesive from beginning to end and every song is in the right spot, every note carefully chosen, every beat purposefully placed. If I had to classify it, I would say that Helms Alee falls into the general metal genre, but they are so much more than that. You just have to listen to it.