Creating a sequel to something as compelling as Melter couldn’t have been an easy job for Helen Kelter Skelter, but the Oklahoma-founded outfit still makes it sound relatively simple in the new EP Chroma Crawl, one of the summer’s most provocative alternative listens that I’ve had the chance to review thus far. While there was much discussion about the distorted psychedelic elements in the songwriting we were exposed to with Melter and the self-titled Helen Kelter Skelter, Chroma Crawl is a bit different in style, bringing progressive weaponry into what increasingly feels like a post-desert rock battle, with little resistance in the instrumentation.
Nothing in the tracklist sounds improvised, yet none of this could have been born of recycled concepts – it’s just too original a document for this to be the case. Throwing the rule book out the window isn’t a new idea at all, but I don’t get the feeling these musicians are expecting us to praise the rebellious attitude in this extended play by itself – it’s what they do with it in “Best Friends,” “Ship of Fools,” “Feel That,” “Sceptre,” and “Chill” that makes their eminence as an underground heavyweight quite literally impossible to debate.
The guitar is the group’s best friend when looking at Chroma Crawl from a compositional point of view, and it’s not used so much that the core of the music here starts to sound inauthentic or robotic in any way. Instead, there’s a DIY sensibility that has been granted to the production quality which reminds us – rather constantly – how indebted to the heroes of stoner rock, grunge, proto-alternative rock, and classic garage rock Helen Kelter Skelter undeniably is.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that this EP is steeped completely in retro indie aesthetics, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a critic incapable of recognizing the vintage nods included in songs like “Ship of Fools” and “Feel That.” The beats behind “Sceptre” and “Best Friends” are aggressive because they have to be, to the extent of giving us as defined a look at the organic musicality in the adjacent melodies as is possible in this situation. The lyrics are never shrouded in mystique, nor do they devolve into silly metaphors we’ve heard a thousand times before. Simply put, if there’s such a thing as being both barebones and pleasurably sustaining, HKS has found a way to create it.
Indie aficionados will likely agree with me when I say that Helen Kelter Skelter has surpassed the expectations set for its output time and time again since the release of the band’s debut album back in 2015, and in this sense, Chroma Crawl is everything we would want it to be. It will be interesting to see how it’s received by the longtime followers of their music more than anyone else, as something tells me it’s going to do well with newcomers to this sound regardless of overall critical reception. This is a young, fresh brand of heavy rock for a generation that needs it, and I think it’s going to affect the mainstream in one way or another.
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