By James Olson
March 25, 2015
VANCOUVER — “My vocals don’t sound like I’m in a cave in space yet” Helms Alee drummer Hozoji Margullis joked as the band did a quick tune-up before launching into their thunderous set of burly rockers.
Early in their set my friend equated them to an “indie Mastodon” which I found to be too limiting a comparison for the group. Their music had a strong sludge-metal undercurrent akin to fellow Washington muck-slingers the Melvins. It is unavoidable to hear the similarities between guitarist/vocalist Ben Verellen’s hair-raising howl and the vocal stylings of one Buzz Osbourne.
The Seattle-based trio played a number of tracks of their latest and potentially greatest record to date, Sleepwalking Sailors, which showcased the plethora of other influences that they bring to the table. Space, progressive, and even art rock stylings could be heard on songs like “Pinniped” and “Heavy Worm Burden.” The three-part vocal work coupled with the incredibly tight rhythm work of bassist Dana James and drummer Margullis made for a pummelling and uniquely compelling experience. The band’s use of off-kilter, serpentine time signatures made headbanging in time a challenge for some crowd members, which was a hilarious spectacle to behold. Admittedly Verellen’s guitar work was somewhat indistinct if not completely obscured by James’ rumbling bass work but their performance more than made up for it. The band had headlined the Electric Owl as recently as two months ago and they received a rapturous reception from the crowd.
As various audience members ordered more drinks or milled around the merch booth, red curtains were drawn across the stage during This Will Destroy You’s set-up, lending a theatrical air to the proceedings. Launching immediately into one of many cuts off of the band’s fourth record, Another Language, post-rockers This Will Destroy You set a dreamy, spaced out mood for the crowd to get lost in. Sound triggered lights made for a fascinating visual compliment for the band, the vibrating static lines making for an interesting deconstruction of image and sound. Yet this effect was overused over the course of the set, as it was the lone visual effect in the band’s arsenal besides some tasteful mood lighting. The sound throughout was immaculate, particularly the electronic work used on tracks like “Grandfather Clock” and “Invitation.”
Halfway through their set, guitarist Jeremy Galindo asked for as little between-song chatter as possible, which was a dubious request. The band was easily loud enough to drown out anyone who was speaking in the crowd. Further, to demand that your audience treat your show, as Galindo put it, “like you’re watching a movie,” came off as extremely pretentious. Reverence is earned, not requested.
As great as the band sounded and as well executed as their instrumental material was in a live setting, This Will Destroy You was frankly tiresome by the end of their set. As my buddy and I walked out we saw a lot more people leaving the show with Helms Alee merchandise in hand than merch from the headliners.BC, British Columbia, Electric Owl, Helms Alee, This Will Destroy You