Seattle trio Helms Alee fulfills the group’s ambition of melding heavy rock and concealed catchiness on their third go-round, the 38-minute Sleepwalking Sailors.
This is a band who can erupt with distorted screams and lacerated guitars, then shift to Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees-like post-punk or braid things down to basics: ambient guitar and a shade of electronics, for example, or a math-rock inclination.
Overall, though, Helms Alee crafts an approachable hardcore/metal hybrid which camouflages an underlying pop sensibility: riffs used to create moody melodies or vocals that swing from guitarist Ben Verellen’s thrashed yells to the pop-leaning, female harmonies of Dana James (bass) and Hozoji Matheson-Margullis (drums), who bring to mind the Cocteau Twins.
Opener “Pleasure Center” has an accelerated determination -- dense but full of precision (and a bit of humor with the nearly indiscernible litany, “I want my MTV!”). The aggressive but accessible “Pinniped” (a scientific term for seals) has a swiveling melodic line, and “Dangling Modifiers” includes tension and almost prog-rock transitions.
Helms Alee will open for Russian Circle March 10, 2014 at El Rey Theatre.