Skip to main content

Helms Alee: Sleepwalking Sailors

Sprawling Canadians refuse to cover up the cracks

This band is charming. Aside from the obvious wholesale riff on 90s video culture in their 8/16 video, they approximate what Melvins and Karp might sound like were they soaked in shoegaze, dream-pop and oestrogen.

Furious, fuzzy basslines and quasi-tribal drum beatdowns splay out linear sequences that collapse somewhere between doomy grunge and alt-rock hardcore, with dynamics and delicacy utilised as a go-to element in the likes of Fetus Carcass and Pinniped.

Guitarist Ben Verellen’s hoarse banshee wails cut through like a circular saw through a two-by-four, while bassist Dana James and drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis vocally coo and caress with a L7/Hole edge very much alive and well. That everyone’s voice often cracks and warbles off-key with emotion is touching and powerful.

There’s definitely some work to be done on consistency, as the trio has the tendency to musically meander into non-sequiturs (the transition to twangy soft rock in Dodge The Lightning, for instance), but this is a mere quibble with music so heartfelt and bordering on uniqueness.