Release Date: 25th March 2021
Label: Church Road Records
For Fans Of: Nails, Converge, Deathspell Omega
For a genre that is unapologetically heavy, it sure can be easy to become desensitised to the monotony of aggressive riffing. Contrast is key to good songwriting. In metal, that is often exemplified by light and shade, soft and heavy, fast and slow, push and pull. Simple tricks, but always effective, and a tactic often overlooked in many a band’s quest to become the heaviest thing since sliced lead.
On their second full length album, Helpless have crafted a record that perfectly demonstrates a wealthy range of dynamics, all without compromising their relentlessly heavy sound. No one would argue that this isn’t a powerviolence album. But by occasionally slowing things down, changing the register of the guitar riffs, and generally displaying a greater level of chaos than the genre is known for, Caged In Gold is one of the strongest powerviolence releases in recent years.
With this being Helpless’ first record with a new lineup (guitarist/vocalist Dan Couch is now joined by drummer/vocalist Sam Trenchard and bassist/vocalist Simon Walker), it would be expected that there would be a noticeable change in sound. The most immediate difference is that of the drum work. Trenchard’s ability behind the kit is amazing, channelling the fill-heavy, frenetic energy of the late Joey Jordison. Much like with Slipknot, having a manic drum sound forces listeners to pay attention, and will become the focal point of discussion. Trenchard’s impressive patterns exalt what was already a compelling powerviolence album into a landmark record of the genre, showing that there is more to be done than alternating between blast- and D-beats.
The less predictable influences on Helpless shape their sound into something uncontainable. The jangly, atonal guitarwork dominating ‘Time Worship’ is taken straight out of Kurt Ballou’s book of riffs, while the haunting dissonance of ‘Focus Group Extraction’ recalls the sinister work of Deathspell Omega. In fact, the stylings of modern black metal can be found lurking throughout the record, evoking the genuine feeling of darkness achieved by the likes of Portal, but in a more polished, digestible format. With a relatively crisp production for a genre that isn’t known for its high fidelity, Caged In Gold treats the listeners to riffs that are actually discernible and identifiable – a novelty within the genre!
With so much variety of content packed into a runtime of under 30 minutes, while still remaining in the field of powerviolence, Helpless’ sophomore record is altogether more engaging than their debut – which itself was astounding. With bands like Full Of Hell achieving more attention and recognition in recent years, could we be entering an age where powerviolence reigns supreme?
Recommended Track: ‘Suppression’
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