If the cats with lasers for eyes on the cover and throughout the liner notes of Helms Alee's new record, Weatherhead, aren't enough for you, then perhaps the gravelly riffs within are. The Tacoma band's follow-up to their excellent debut, Night Terror, shows how unboxable this Tacoma trio is. Weatherhead is an album of surprises: a record that is equal parts pleasantry and assault. At times it is melodic and pleasant, other times a racket of crunching guitars and vocal outbursts. Weatherhead dips in and out, up and down - offering not just songs, but a complete body of emotion as living and breathing and human as the people who made it. But when the band constructs complex, technical storm clouds (see "8/16" and "Music Box") - songs that erupt violently before blooming into something melodic and soft - is when they are their best. Guitarist Ben Verellen (Harkonen) roars alongside drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margullis' (Lozen) warrior-woman vocals, as bassist Dana James murmurs behind the din. It's tasteful and hair-raising. And when the band slow things down, they lay out rolling landscapes of introspective guitar work and delicate harmony. The calm, for Helms Alee, always comes after the storm. - Leah Sottile
Recommended Download: "8/16"