HELMS ALEE  Lionize / Truly  7" VINYL   (Hydra Head)   11.49

A brand new two-song 7" EP from Seattle sludge-pop rockers Helm's Alee, whose debut album Night Terror on Hydra Head is also listed in this week's new arrivals list. Like I mentioned in that review, Night Terror was one of my favorite albums of 2008 and one of the best things that Hydra Head put out in a year that was already full of awesome releases. Super catchy, epic heaviness with a gorgeous pop sensibility hidden under all of the massive Melvinsy riffage and the bellowing vocals of frontman Ben (formerly of Harkonen), heightened by the dual female vocal harmonies provided by the guitarist and drummer who push the album in this awesome Karp-meets-Pixies sort of ultra-heavy powercrush.

This 7" features two exclusive new songs on a super thick piece of wax - the first, "Lionize", shows the darker, heavier side of Helms Alee, a series of crushing sludge riffs and slow, pummeling dirge, dark and doomy, with spidery math-rock guitar parts dropped in the midst of the downtuned heaviness, the vocals harsh and howled. Definitely one of the heavier, sludgier Helms Alee songs.

On the b-side we get "Truly", and this is more like the poppier stuff from the album, starting off with a jangly indie rock riff over a pounding drumbeat, very early 90's sounding, kind of reminds me of Archers Of Loaf or Superchunk at first with soft emotive singing over a simple, moving melody, but then the crushing guitars and Ben's bellowing vocals drop in and it turns into a punishing sludge-metal riff. The song continues into delicate math rock with majestic piano accompaniment, gorgeous female vocal harmonies, and the slow-burning metallic sludge, totally captivating and catchy, like Melvins and Karp being filtered through chiming old school indie rock. I love this stuff.

The 7" is on the sort side, but is limited to 1000 copies, available on a mix of colors and pressed on incredibly thick vinyl and packaged in a cool foldout jacket with spot varnish printing, making this a neat collectors item for anyone that was as hooked by Helms Alee's debut as I was.