Given the kind of attention span that exists in the world, it's a marvel that people can remember anything from four months ago let alone four years ago but such was the impact of grindcore practitioners, Helpless.
The trio's crushing debut, Debt, presented a fluid combination of articulate venom and punishing precision - a menacing molotov that took on the extremity of hardcore and grind in a captivating, compelling way. The album's reverberation is such that the trio's follow-up had amassed the kind of interest that only swelled as reach of the band's pummel continued to permeate.
Surfacing selectively to align with kindred crushers like Full of Hell, Gatecreeper and Nails to name a few, the underground buzz of the band was such that spots on festivals like Download and Dreadfest not only made sense, they were among the highlights of the day. Balancing accessibility and elusiveness, intensity and intrigue, Helpless managed to withstand four years between their debut and their sophomore release, building their momentum in the process.
Connecting with an important ally in the band's assault on outsider art, Helpless joined the ranks of one of heavy music's most important, progressive banners in Church Road Records - in a move that seemed to reaffirm what those in the know were long convinced of - there is a new era of extremity in the making.
The band's architect, Dan Couch spoke candidly about the kind of affect the band has managed to assert despite a relatively lean catalog. He shares the stylistic adjustments the band has made to only increase the kind of vehemence that results on the track and details the kind of bleak, realist outlook that fuels the band's vitriol.
'Wraiths of Memory' is relentlessly punishing and quite a statement as the first single released from upcoming album, Caged In Gold. What were the inspirations for the ferocity of the track?
This was actually the first track we had written together as the new line up and also the first track I had written with this guitar tuning, used on the whole album. The lyrics comprise reflections on the haunting nature of regret, in situations where we are powerless to resolve them. We can learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, but once the damage has been done, there is no going back. Even when armed with knowledge and reason, I'm often left with a sense of defeated fatalism which offers no consolation.
How has having more time over the past couple of years affected your songwriting? Your debut album Debt was full of straight-up face melters, can we expect the same level of intensity here or have you been playing with different sounds?
Sam's drumming style has naturally brought out much more intensity than the previous album, and utilising all 3 members for vocals has also contributed to that. At the same time I feel we have explored a few new avenues on Caged In Gold. More atmosphere, more slow sections, use of noise and effects. The time factor I think has allowed us to pace ourselves better, rather than rush a release out. It has definitely taught me to be more patient.
How does it feel to sign to Church Road Records, joining a roster quickly becoming one of the best in the world, and what do you hope it can bring for Helpless?
It's been great, Church Road was our first choice of label and we were all stoked that Sammy and Justine liked the album enough to want to release it. In terms of what it can bring the band, I'm keen to tour and play some festivals, which is difficult around full time jobs, but we never really did a lot of touring with the previous line up. We're looking at doing something in October so hopefully we can make that work.
I saw you play at Louder than God Festival in Leeds a few years back and was taken aback by how savage the live show was. Do you feel that such a long forced hiatus from shows has brought that out even more over the last few months when you've been able to return to the stage?
I'm usually concentrating on not fucking up, so on stage what comes out, comes out. I suppose we've all been keen to get out there again. The style of music we play doesn't allow for anything less than savage I guess.
What are your hopes for the album's release? What do you want the listeners to take away from it?
To be honest just having it out there on a great label is more than I could hope for, but tour and festival slots would be a huge bonus. I'm just stoked that so many people still like and remember this band, when there's so much awesome music out there already.
In terms of what I'd like listeners to take away from the album, it's main themes are illusions, the ones we are forced to deal with daily, the illusions we create to protect ourselves and how harmful these are in distorting our world view and perpetuating misery. It's as outwardly scathing as it is internal, though I do not offer any solution other than personal reflection. A lot of the lyrical inspiration came from the book 'The Plague Of Fantasies' by Slavoj Zizek and though not from that book, this quote sums up my aims (lyrically) quite nicely:
“I despise the kind of book which tells you how to live, how to make yourself happy! Philosophers have no good news for you at this level! I believe the first duty of philosophy is making you understand what deep shit you are in!”