Helms Alee are one of those bands who never take for granted the goodwill of their fans. For some bands, when your labs production, it usually means it is time to break up, probably due to lack of funds to take their music on the road minus a label. When Hydra Head decided to halt production of new music, Helms Alee turned to a direction that, regardless of the amount of fan appreciation people carry for their favorite bands, can either suffice or fail: they asked for their help in financing their next record. Once Helms Alee was able to gain enough money to record, they suddenly found fans in Sargent House, a label that hosted experimental bands such as Tera Melos, Hella, Russian Circles and almost any band linked to art-punk visionary Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.
Fans of their music shouldn’t be the least bit disappointed, and neither should newcomers. Sleepwalking Sailors is the kind of album that sounds simultaneously like a fist clenched and ready for combat, and a well-crafted adventure. The ocean-inspired album cover loudly suggests the latter. It’s an album that isn’t afraid to turn a tranquil dream (or a dive into a light-shone ocean) into a brutal dream and back. Being so nice as to keep the fading entrance short, they head straight to the rock, jumping across just enough types of rock to satisfy a fan of any. “Pleasure Center” goes from raw sludge metal to psychedelia (especially dark psych) to math rock and back. Though, compared to “Tumescence”, “Pleasure Center” is merely an introduction to their music style.
Saying that an album feels too short can be cliche, especially since there is a reason as to why the artists or the bands do that, but really that is the only complaint I can have about this album. The best tracks of them are “Fetus Carcass”, the frantic and short “Animatronic Bionic” and “Dodge the Lightning”, which is an equivalent of a walk in the park or float in the ocean, before a brutal bludgeon to the nose.
Any paranoia people have about the money being wasted on a bum record should be put to rest, as Sleepwalking Sailors is the kind of record that should satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers looking to get into them.
Note – check out the album stream here.