As a musician and a critic, I get very excited about new music. When I heard about the new Ben Verellen project Helms Alee a few years ago, I began listening intently and watching the band from afar. I was never a religious listener, even though I enjoyed the band very much, until the release of their latest album “Weatherhead.” There is so much material to sink your teeth into; its a very eclectic release. This past July I finally got to see the trio perform live when they opened for Torche and Big Business. Needless to say I was not prepared for the monstrous sound that awaited me. I walked in as the band began their song “Pretty as Pie” and immediately took note of Verellen’s epic guitar lead intro. The reverb and delay made the part sound gigantic, especially in the hall like environment of the Bottom Lounge. And finally when bassist Dana James and drummer Hozoji Margullis joined in for the big verse, the impact felt like the explosion of an atom bomb. This band sounds huge, and they really know how to use dynamic. Their softer parts, as demonstrated in songs like “Music Box” and “Epic Adventure Through the Wood,” really make the heavier parts seem all the more devastating.
If I had to put a label on this ground-breaking act, I would say it is the new wave of grunge music. It has all the characteristics of darker 90s alternative rock music that was bred in Seattle, but is mixed in a bowl with ingredients from today’s experimental and metal genres. The song “Music Box” is a great example of that, with a ballad-like feeling that might be found on an old Alice in Chains record. Verellen’s vocals stray away from gruff normalcy and produce a more calming effect, matched up with laid back bass and drums and never ending guitar melodies.
Note that the band never ventures into the realm of rock that might be deemed “cheesy,” they always manage a very tasteful use of their influences and formulate them to be something new and exciting. Just think of it as if grunge/alternative rock never took a turn for the worse. It was never influenced by the very 80s cock-rock travesties that it set out to dethrone and destroy.
From their set at the Bottom Lounge, the song “Mad Mouth.”
What the critics are raving about, their latest effort “Weatherhead,” available from Hydrahead Records.
I hope you find the verse of this song as punishing as I do, the track “Pretty as Pie.”