If you’re a metal fan living in an outpost, far away from the larger communities of likeminded people that many of us take for granted, then starting a band and forging a path in the ways of heavy isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
“When we first started, it was just me and our bass player, Dan,” says Helpless guitarist Steve. “Finding a drummer to play the type of music we like in Plymouth isn’t very straightforward, so we messaged Rusty to ask if he knew of anyone, ’cause he seems to know everyone, and he just came back saying he could play drums!”
If Plymouth, and the West Country in general, seemed like an unlikely place to find someone able to step into a heavy band at short notice, then this message from Rusty, formerly guitarist in the excellent Brotherhood Of The Lake, proved to be an amazing piece of serendipity for the band that would eventually become Helpless.
“We got chatting and asking him what he could play,” Steve continues, “as our previous band, Godsick, were way more grindcore than what Helpless is. So he sent a video of Ben Koller from Converge and just said, ‘I can play that.’ That was enough for us!”
This happy accident has given birth to one of the most ferocious new bands in the country. Helpless have taken the pain-inducing, pure white heat of grindcore, the disgustingly dingy rumble of all the best hardcore and melded it with brain-spinning noise rock to create their crushing debut album, Debt. It’s relentless, utterly disorientating and as full-on as it gets, all while being difficult to pin down to a single genre… unless ‘very fucking noisy’ counts as one.
“We never really knew what we wanted to make,” shrugs Steve. “Whether we were a punk band or a hardcore band or a metal band. It’s just like, ‘What do we like? Stuff that’s angry and fast? OK, let’s do that.’ It’s a mixture of all of our various influences.”
True, and there’s a definite melting pot of inspirations on display throughout the album, but one influence seems to loom large that is totally at odds with almost any band that you’ll read about in the pages of this magazine: the long- forgotten underground punk bands of the pre-grunge movement.
“We took a lot of inspiration from that jarring kind of noise scene,” Steve nods by way of agreement. “We are really into stuff like The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Melvins. I think we’re in a position now in this country with a lot of bands where nothing really fits in one place.”
As Steve explains, the confines of coming from a place on the outskirts of the country could have made it difficult for Helpless to properly get off the ground, but actually, in a roundabout way, it may have aided the youngsters in tapping into a more open-minded approach. And the results certainly speak for themselves.
“Yeah, I actually think it has helped,” considers Steve with a smile. “Because the scene is smaller, there isn’t as much pressure to conform to that one sound. Anything we do is basically a bonus – just talking to you is more than we really thought we would ever do as a band anyway! So we just made the music that was most likely to satisfy us. That’s what you do if you reckon no one’s actually going to hear it.”
People are going to hear this, though, and we’re pretty sure they’ll be satisfied, too. Prepare for Helpless to blow your speakers very soon.
Sounds Like: Punishing, grinding hardcore with a British flavour
For fans of: Trap Them, Breach, Unsane
Listen to: Moral Bankruptcy
Debt is out September 8 via Holy Roar Records