Helmut – ‘XI IX XI’ Album Review

Having never heard the name Helmut before, the gentle Spanish overtones of opening track ‘A decade of lost freedom’ came as something of a surprise, as did the multiple instrumentation that followed, developing into a fine bluesy heavy metal riff complete with half-time drums and a Black Label Society feel. It’s the sort of opening to a record that instantly captures the attention because it is something so different to the norm, and Helmut continue to entice and engage as the album progresses over its ten songs.

Vocals don’t make an appearance until the second track – the throbbing, churning psychosis of ‘divine kebab’ at which point we’re introduced to the multiple personalities of Peter who varies between a Phil Anselmo scream of pure, primal rage and a more Mike Patton-esque smooth vocal. Just to really keep you on your toes he throws in some throat-scraping death metal techniques for good measure. It keeps things fresh and interesting, as do the guitar solos which are delivered with considerable technical skill and direct to the needs of the song rather than as a sop to the ego of the player, all of which makes Helmut a fascinating metal band in today’s crowded scene and more than worth your time. ‘The road to pokhara’ is no less intense, with a real hardcore feel to the disjointed riffs of the verse and Peter’s raw-throated screams although the chorus, rather oddly, recalls American legends Helmet, although it is  but a fleeting comparison. ‘Tap 7’ continues in the band’s vein of mixing up violent stabs of hardcore guitar and blues but throws in some Faith no more style manoeuvres in a disconcerting manner that recalls nothing so much as Maryland nutters Dog Fashion Disco. When you factor in the fact that the band also employ the Sitar and you have a truly original sounding banc who stand head and shoulders above the pack.

‘Chicken brain’ has a sublime solo over the bridge, not to mention some rock solid riffs where you can really see the band bringing together their different influences of blues and metal. ‘Chouchenn’ is a pretty straight forward rocker with elements of Metallica’s stripped down, latter-day approach to southern-style metal; whilst ‘the legend of Glenn Baden’ is a reflective instrumental, featuring  the wind and waves backing a stunning sitar passage courtesy of guitarist Sam, before the band return to action with ‘Karl Lagerfeld’ which batters the listener with a dextrous riff and deathly screams. ‘Colson blues’ is a sludgy number – the blues updated and filtered through the eyes of Buzzov*en but with the solos retained from the source. It makes for astonishingly violent, exciting listening and you’re left once again astonished at how good these five musicians are. The final track ‘doomkopf’ rounds things out with a very Sabbathy number, all slowed down, corroded riffs and doom-laden tempo. It’s a fitting conclusion to a sonically excellent album.

There really is nothing to fault on Helmut’s masterly album. The song-writing is ubiquitously tight, the musicians are excellent and the production is solid and occasionally blisteringly powerful. Everything from the music to the enigmatic artwork speaks volumes about the hard work the band have put into this effort and it has paid off as this is a fine album indeed. Make sure you track this down!

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