Today we will talk about a little band called Black Helium; it is based in London and has released two studio albums before today’s focus; their new album, Um, will be released on March 3rd via Riot Season; their third offering from this label.
Per their Bandcamp description …
“Black Helium is a three-piece psychedelic rock band based in London. Never afraid to stray from the beaten path, Stuart Gray, Beck Harvey, and Diogo Gomes fearlessly traverse aural hallucinatory soundscapes, from detuned Neanderthal rock to deep oceans of introspective blissed-out psych.”
On their first two albums, Primitive Fuck (2018) and The Wholly Other (2020), Black Helium displays a fine knowledge of how to blend krautrock, psychedelic, stoner, rock, and drone in a convincing way. Songs like “Two Masters” and “Death Station of the Goddess” from Wholly Other are perfect examples of the depth that Black Helium has to offer, as are “Drowsy Shores” and “Love the Drugs You Make Me Feel Like I’m On” from the Primitive Fuck album.
For their third studio recording, Black Helium pulled out all the stops, attacking their songwriting with the prowess of a band determined to put out their best music to date. With 5 songs and a 45-minute runtime, Um will take you to a higher plane, the music wrapping itself around you to pull you into the journey that Black Helium has embarked upon.
Um starts with “Another Heaven,” which runs just short of the 12-minute mark.
The first sounds we hear are spacey, synth-like tones that would have sounded at home in an old Star Trek episode. This didn’t last long, though, as the band dropped into a riff within 30 seconds of its start. This riff has a jagged attack and a cool tone, and then we get tossed into a serious heavy psych section, showing that maybe we shouldn’t get too comfortable in things because B.H. is here to shake you up before the first verse even begins.
The music for the verse sections is incredible in and of itself, but the vocal delivery takes things to the next level in terms of quality and melodic tendencies. These pieces are almost hypnotic, and the transitions in and out of the different sections are flawless. Add in some extended musical interludes, and you have the makings of one of, if not the best, tracks on Um.
“I Saw God” is next in the tracklist and begins with a nice heavy psych feel. I dig the guitar tone here; it’s ultra fuzzy and recalls the 60s/70s psychedelic sound that immediately feels familiar. The band takes a similar approach as “Another Heaven” while moving into the verse, the music dials back a bit, and the vocals come in to carry the majority of the melody; the nice thing is that the vocal approach is different, showing off some elevated range from Stuart. The longer musical interludes are once again exceptional, and while this track didn’t have the captivating power that was heard in “Another Heaven,” it is still a highlight of this record.
The second to last track is “Summer of Hair,” a groove-laden instrumental that runs for just over 7 minutes.
It begins with a bit of spacey goodness with a definite psych overtone. Then it slowly increases in intensity, creating a pulsing, living organism that takes over all else. This beat will make you want to move to its steady groove, and I found it difficult to not bounce my leg or nod my head in time with it. That vibe never quits all the way into this one, and despite some minor changes in dynamics here and there, that groove has held steady.
I knew going into this record would deliver me into a world of psychedelia, a world that would also be inhabited by some stoner, krautrock, and space elements. Um brings us just that and more, making this a highly enjoyable listening experience!!! As of right now, the album is set to private on Bandcamp, but I would assume that we’ll get a single or two before the March 3rd release date, so be on the lookout for that and for any possible preorder announcements!
Support Black Helium by checking out their Bandcamp, or finding them on social media (Instagram, Facebook).
This review was written by Tom Hanno, who has been writing reviews for the last 7 years but has been sharing his love of music for the majority of his life. Originally starting out at the now defunct Chimera Magazine, he is currently contributing to Doomed and Stoned, The Sleeping Shaman, The Doom Charts, Tom’s Reviews, and The Third Eye. Read more of Tom’s reviews by checking out his Linktree.
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