I’m going to get myself into trouble here, but I think heavy metal is supposed to be hilarious. I don’t mean to disparage the genre in any way; I think that there’s an aspect of self-parody intrinsic to every great metal album. Look at it this way: anyone who really just wanted to be angry and scare people would be making stuff like this. No: metal has always been far too overblown with its urgency and intensity to ever be taken seriously as musical self-mutilation. It’s a melodrama, it’s theater; it is – gasp – funny. Every metal outfit really deserves a brutal poster or display on Amoeba or Fat Buddha Store of them riding a black dragon or being impaled by the characters of their name.
With “Tumescence”, culled from their new LP Sleepwalking Sailors, Helms Alee prove to be everything (I think) metal should be, sans giving us some free ridiculous merch. Seriously, just look at the cover of this album. Harrowing, war-ravaged drums are so in your face and confrontational that you feel as much bear-hugged as you do smothered. Ascending guitars climax in ridiculous orgasms of a major-scale arpeggio that would make Neal Schon blush. Dana James and Ben Verellen have an exceptional vocal interplay, with Velleren screeching like a manic forest demon while bassist James sails smooth as a Viking ship across the waste of an intergalactic war. Ridiculous, outrageous, insane: a must listen.
Check out the incredible “Tumescence” below, and look out for Sleepwalking Sailors on February 11.