Helms Alee Live @ Lola’s in Portland, Oregon
Photos by James Rexroad
Helms Alee headlined the latest edition of McMenamins Blasphemous Collaboration series hosted by Lola’s in Portland, Oregon. For each variation of the quarterly event, a new beer is brewed to pair with a particular band. On this occasion, the Stillicide Pilsner. Named after Helms Alee’s latest album, it provided an excellent opportunity to enjoy both.
The two bands chosen to kick off the evening, Stöller and Thrones, are similar in that they are both one man acts, but strikingly different in every other aspect. Stöller is the project of Ben Victory, a combination of live drumming over the top of synthesizer. The synth work is retro, at times reminiscent of 80’s video games. The live percussion brings it back to present day with its physicality and style, keeping the final product fun, without being too kitschy.
Thrones music comes from a time warp where psychedelic metal collides with experimental noise rock. The long time solo project of Joe Preston, a stalwart on the northwest metal scene who’s been a member of Earth, the Melvins, High on Fire and Harvey Milk, among others. Thrones set leaned heavily on sludgy doom riffs over drum tracks and noise squall with occasional vocals, creating a nice ebb and flow between the noise layers and riffing. To close, he played an excerpt from “Obolus”, off his Sperm Whale release, slowing the sludge down to acid flashback tempo and running his vocals through a vocoder for a high pitched watery keening tone that brought a killer ending to an all to brief set.
Helms Alee played straight through Stillicide in it’s entirety. The pacing was excellent, cranking the energy to a fever pitch on “Tit to Toe” and “Galloping Mind Fuck” while bringing it down to brood and simmer on “Untoxicated” and “Creeping You Company”. “Andromenous” was a highlight of the night, coming on with tribal drums and eerie guitar work. The song climaxes with Hozoji Margulis (drums) and Dana James (bass) giving frantic voice to the refrain “you won’t sleep till breast oozes milk” while Ben Verellen (guitar) wails over the top, “always awake!” After wrapping up Stillicide, they rounded out the set list with several offerings from their 2014 release, Sleepwalking Sailors.