Born from the ashes of Brotherhood of the Lake and Godsick, Helpless are an aggressively heavy entity hailing from Plymouth. This is their debut album after their demos were released as an EP by record label Holy Roar.The first thing to notice here is the progression in terms of recording quality. While the EP sounded like it had been recorded in a biscuit tin, the sound on Debt is far richer while still maintaining it’s furious nature and still sounding disgustingly heavy. The guitar is rough and ready, a truly grinding and unfriendly tone. Seriously, this is so nasty it’ll steal your nan’s seat on the bus.
Beyond the initial fury of the record though, the musicianship is outstanding, from the complex drum attack in the introduction to Grief Vultures to the bouncing bass-line on Sinkhole. Although, as I will expand on later, there is a degree of simplicity to the song structures, the riffs are punishing and all the instrumental parts accent each other perfectly to create this crushing masterpiece.
This album is a fantastic example of how to plant a riff idea and grow a song from it, moving in different directions whilst staying recognisable and relatable to the original riff concept. Where a band like Converge, or even label-mates Employed To Serve specialise in freaking out in all directions during a single song, Helpless bulldoze through 22 minutes with less ideas but no less power and brilliance.
If this album finished after 9 tracks it would still be absolutely fantastic. As it is, they save the best (and longest, at over five minutes) for last with Denied Sale grinding through on the same initial doomy riff with atmospherics swirling as Steve bellows his anger over the top. And just as you think it has ended, the riff kicks back in and blasts on for a further assault on your senses before ending.
This album is a definitive statement in modern heavy music and stands toe to toe with the best works of the year which, in this annus rockabillis, is truly saying something.