Helpless: The UK's nastiest band

Helpless band promo photo

Music can be used to convey a variety of emotions. Ecstasy, tragedy, misery, fear and OUTRIGHT FUCKING HATRED. Carrying the burning torch of powerviolence from the depths of Plymouth, Helpless’ upcoming album Debt is a gnarled exploration in savagery, drawing from the likes of Converge and Nails. It’s grinding, it’s nihilistic, it’s aggressive and it’s one of the best debut albums of the year.

To dig deeper into the destruction, we caught up with vocalist Dan Couch for a chat about the music, their new video for Ceremony Of Innocence and more.

What is the story behind Helpless?

“I was in a grindcore band called Godsick with Steve (bass) and when that ended we were looking for a drummer to start a new project. I messaged Rusty asking if he knew any drummers in Plymouth that could play fast. He replied saying that he could play drums – I only knew him as a guitarist in Brotherhood Of The Lake. We chatted about where we wanted to go musically, arranged a rehearsal and nearly three years later, here we are!”

What is the ethos behind the band? What do you stand for?

“We never set out to impose political or moral sentiments, I think life is too complicated and chaotic for that, and taking your life lessons from musicians always seemed a bit strange to me. I don’t feel the need to preach to the converted either. Most decent people can see the inequalities and injustices in our society and they don’t need us to tell them that things are bad. That being said, these issues are addressed in the lyrics.”

What is the meaning behind the song Ceremony Of Innocence?

“It’s about the social masks we’re forced to wear when interacting with others; and working as habit, as ritual, as necessity. There’s a sarcastic tone to the majority of the words in this song, though. But basically, make your responsibilities few and you might be able to avoid a lot of bullshit.”

Where did the idea for the video come from?

“Rusty made the video, and I gave him the lyrics with the ideas behind them. The video was then made with the lyrics in mind, as well as getting influences from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, George Orwell’s 1984 as well as Terry Gillam’s Brazil.”

What drew you to the more violent and aggressive end of metal?

“I was shown a bunch of bands like Converge, Curl Up and Die and Norma Jean when I was about 15 and it just changed the way I thought about metal. They didn’t follow conventional song structures or chord progressions, and the lyrics were less mystical than most metal I had heard at the time; leaning towards the sentiment and aggression of hardcore punk bands, but without making such obvious statements.”

What bands influenced Helpless?

“The obvious ones would be: Gaza/Cult Leader, The Secret, Converge. While writing this album we’ve incorporated influences from band like KEN Mode, The Jesus Lizard, Sumac, Melvins, Deathspell Omega and Gorguts.”

What is the meaning or story behind the artwork for Debt?

“Steve met the artist, Chris Nicholls at a gig in Bristol, which led to him suggesting we use him to paint something for the album cover. I’m a huge Francis Bacon fan, who seems to be an influence on Chris’ work, so it seemed a perfect fit.”

What is your typical Helpless live show like?

“We set up. We say nothing. We play. We leave.”

How did you get involved with Holy Roar?

“Rusty has known Alex (Fitzpatrick, owner of Holy Roar Records) for some time now. He posted a video of us playing our first show and Alex got in contact asking if Holy Roar could release the EP, which we had already put up for free on Bandcamp. The EP was originally supposed to be a demo so it was cool to have Alex like it enough to release it on CD.”

Why should people listen to Helpless?

“We write music that we would listen to and if people don’t like it then it doesn’t bother us, we will just continue to write music that we enjoy. But if people like it then that’s great!”

Debt is out September 8, via Holy Roar Records, and is available to pre-order now.

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Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.