Bioluminescent effect— slows but then glows
Continuing with the same ocean theme since the beginning, Helms Alee fifth studio album Noctiluca is a treasure at the bottom of the sea. With a shift from aggression to a slower tempo in both the vocals and instruments, the American rock band creates an engaging, hypnotic atmosphere.
While this album may not propel that band into fame, it will do what their other four have done and that’s grow and reaffirm their fan base. It’s as if the band is in its own little depth of the ocean that, over time, attracts new life. Overall, the band’s fluctuation between songs and within one song itself will capture people’s ears and keep them in a trance.
Throughout Noctiluca, the duality can be felt between the male and female vocals that both go against each other and harmonize in different songs. All three members, Dana James, Hozoji Margullis and Ben Verellen contribute vocals and play off each other’s voices well. While the male vocals tend to be present for the more aggressive moments of the album, “Pandemic” is the outlier in which the vocals are melodically slow.
Out of the ten tracks on the album, “Interachnid” and “Play Dead” are two highlights. The former, also the opening track, is a great introduction for listeners to understand what’s to come for the rest of the album. New listeners and long-time fans will be drawn in. The latter is soon after that and its fast pace combined with the commanding vocals that shift from male to female gives it depth. While other songs do switch between to two, as in “Beat Up,” it doesn’t pack the same punch as “Play Dead” delivers.
Honestly, each track carries its own weight on the album for different reasons like the chant-esque nature of the vocals in “Lay Waste, Child” or the way that “World Problems” concludes the composition as a whole.
Another element that is at the forefront of this album is the drums. Each song has a distinguishable drum element that listeners easily tune in to. While the skills are praiseworthy, some songs do feel unnecessary due to the repetitiveness of this instrument. In “Be Bad Tomorrow,” it starts off with a girthy guitar riff that entices fans, but by the last three minutes, listeners are ready for the end. It does incorporate new beat patterns, but it is still a struggle to make it through the entirety of the song.
In the end, Noctiluca is a great representation of Helms Alee and, while they may not be breaking records, those who listen and appreciate them are in for a treat.