Reviews Helms Alee Sleepwalking Sailors

Helms Alee

Sleepwalking Sailors

Sleepwalking Sailors is just too good, promptly inserting itself at the top of my list for album of the year (for now, and yes, I keep a running list all year long because I am a weirdo); and Helms Alee continues to impress me with every new release not just in the fact that with a few exceptions, there music is consistently good but also that they manage to be fun and catchy while not sounding like some lame pop punk band. Getting Sleepwalking Sailors released seems like icing on the Helms Alee cake because some friends of mine and I were worried that labels out there would be lame and not fill the void left by Hydra Head for adventurous bands like this three piece, and finally holding this sucker in my hands is definitely a treat, particularly for my ears.

One of my favorite aspects of this record is how solid and strong all of the tones are, and these tones make for a sweet overall sound that just makes going back to the album so much easier (really it is some of the best ear candy); the bass is just so thick and burly and crunchy, and the guitars just match the bass perfectly from the clean notes to the fuzzed out chords while the drums are nice and roomy. Listening to songs like “Pleasure Center” (awesome music and cool, subtle melodic sensibilities along with a beef-y muscle) and “Dangling Modifiers” (love Verellen’s vocal performance) and “Fetus Carcass” (the male female vocal duet is so good) the evidence is all there for what makes Sleepwalking Sailors so infectiously listenable; by taking cues from past efforts, Helms Alee have honed their attack to something that the group’s Pacific Northwest pedigree slyly touches upon but only with a less razor edge (listened to the bending guitar lines in “Pinniped” and draw some of your own conclusions to my veiled comparison). Allow me to likewise draw your attention to the strange but somehow awesome vocal choir in “Crystal Gale” because it sounds like an excerpt from a song while strangely sounding just as it should; interestingly enough, the follow up track, “New West”, is captivatingly excellent with some awesome mellow moments juxtaposed with a hell of a closing climax.

I am completely unsure if there is any way for me to gush any less for Sleepwalking Sailors because Helms Alee deserve any and all kudos for this their third full length, and the band may have perfected their heady brew of grunge-y doomy not quite pop; nary a bad track exists in these twelve tunes that might just put a smile on your face in ways that you did not think possible.

8.0 / 10 — Bob

Helms Alee’s Sleepwalking Sailors is a ferocious asteroid of post-hardcore, doom metal, and noise rock. The Seattle-based trio’s third album, released on Sargent House Records, hurls you through a deathly metal ocean, into the Earth’s burning core, and back out again; it’s Michael Bay making rock music.

“Pleasure Center” puts the 11-song fireball into motion. Starting with synchronized guitars and drums, it spontaneously becomes a thunderstorm of bombastic, majestic energy, which lasts throughout the entire album. “Heavy Worm Burden” begins with a short, calm guitar intro, then launches into an awesome doom metal explosion, and ends with a Swans-like breakdown of drone and cymbal crashes.

Guitarist Ben Verellen’s operatic singing style adds a real grandness to the album. Almost like a sludgy Freddie Mercury, his vocals are a rare find in modern underground metal. Along with Verellen, his harmonies with bassist Dana James are great, especially on “Dodge The Lightning” (I’d be damned if this wasn’t some reference to Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning”).

Energy-wise, I know metal isn’t about having rests or breaks, but Sleepwalking Sailors is way too epic, with barely any breathing room; ironically, its constant power bored me a little bit.

Also, I feel that Helms Alee really have the capability of making amazing 10-minute long songs, and the album definitely needed some (the tracks averaged around four minutes each). Sleepwalking Sailors is perfect for a workout or any other high-energy activity, but don’t play it in hopes of a soothing listen.

If you’re into Mastodon or KEN Mode, Helms Alee is totally right for you.

8.3 / 10 — Eli Zeger
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