Boldly called “the UK’s nastiest band” by Metal Hammer, Plymouth’s Helpless have burst into the public’s ears with their debut record, ‘Debt’.
It certainly is a nasty affair, an unrelentingly abrasive and heavy outing throughout its 22-minute run. With no time to spare, opener ‘Worth’ launches straight into a triple-speed drumbeat, complemented by buzzsaw guitars and guttural vocals. Plenty of tracks are content to stick to this ridiculously speedy crust-punk formula, which is well-established at this point. Tracks like ‘Grief Vultures’ and ‘Sinkhole’ also veer into grindcore territory with their blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speeds. But the sheer brutality and pace are pretty pedestrian in heavy music.
Luckily, then, ‘Debt’ isn’t simply fast and heavy, thanks to Helpless creating a claustrophobic, almost evil atmosphere through influences from noise and dark ambient on tracks such as ‘Moral Bankruptcy’ and closer ‘Denied Sale’. The latter track runs for longer than most individual songs on ‘Debt’, allowing it more room to breathe. Its opening, marching riff adds to the aforementioned atmosphere, creating a sense of finality and dread.
Elsewhere, there are hints of sludge metal on ‘Sertaline’, which somehow manages to cram multiple song sections into a minute and 19 seconds, and pulls it off masterfully.
Helpless don’t particularly do anything we haven’t seen other bands of this ilk do before. For example, acts on the fringes of heavy music, like Full of Hell and The Body are well-known for incorporating noisy influences to elevate their sound to the next level of horrid. Where Helpless are more interesting is that they lean far further towards the modern hardcore-punk template than either of those bands, creating a sound that lives within those confines but allows just enough room for experimentation.
‘Debt’ isn’t a perfect, or wholly original debut. But it wasn’t meant to be: it was supposed to be abrasive, challenging, and uncompromising. And it certainly succeeds at being all those things. It’s not for the faint-hearted.
‘Debt’ by Helpless is out now on Holy Roar Records.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)