Friday 24 February 2023

Black Helium - UM (Album Review)

Release Date: March 03rd 2023. Record Label: Riot Season Records. Formats: CD/DD/VInyl

Um: Tracklisting

Another Heaven

I Saw God

Dungeon Head

Summer Of Hair

The Keys To Red Skeleton's House (I Open The Door)


Stuart Gray - Guitar/Vocals

Beck Harvey - Bass/Vocals

Diogo Gomes (Drums)


Psych Stoner Rockers Black Helium with their third full length album Um and it sees this hugely talented Power Trio venture into darker areas of Space Rock, Sludge Rock and a healthy dose of Drone Rock. The music continues Black Helium's love affair with extended Psychedelic passages and Spaced Out vortexes which all manifest into Extended Freaky Guitar Jamming sessions and jazzy drumming throughout the album.

Opening song Another Heaven is full of glitches, Ambient Noises and Krautrock Sonic sounds with Black Helium creating Psych Stoner Rock jams around this weird and wonderful sound. Inspired by the freakedelic Psych/Space Rock Movement from the 1960's and 1970s with a thrilling modern day Drone/Sludge Rock undergroove appearing. The vocals have a Drone/Space Rock feel to them with effective lyrics setting up an almost trans-dimensional feel. The song truly comes its own original "thing" when Black Helium move to a heavier and muscular style of Sludgy based sound with small flashes of Sonic Experimentation.

Second song I Saw God goes full-on Psychedelic Paranoia with bold creative statements happening with the lyrics. The song feels it was written to be thought-provoking in places with the song touching upon individuals being in personal contact with the almighty himself through the power of LSD. Though, I could be reading too much into the lyrical content despite my atheist beliefs. The music however is structured beautifully with Black Helium blending melodic grooves with a free-flowing Krautrock/Stoner hybrid sound that once again has a Jazzy and Classic Psych Rock flow to it all. Flirting between hopeful 1960's Psych/Power-Pop grooves and the darker WEEDIAN sounds that remain quietly confident in the background when Black Helium need to call upon a heavier style of music. 

Third song Dungeon Head is more of an experimental interlude with solitary drums and lush moments of gloomy Psychedelic sounds. More Ambient driven but still an interesting style of music with the vocals being quite solitary and distinctive. Black Helium use the two and half minutes run time to their advantage and bring a more emotional style of "Weirdo Rock" to a satisfactory conclusion.

Fourth song Summer Of Hair is another slice of fantastical Psych/Stoner/Krautrock exploration into the darker depths of the music levels they create and play here. More Drone based with Electronica beats working surprisingly well. This song is perhaps the most "riff-centric" out of the whole album and perhaps with the fastest creative flow. As Black Helium slowly built up their ARSENAL of different Psych/Space Rock sounds for a more aggressive style of music that easily encompasses the last 40 years of the UK Hard Rock scene to the band's creative advantage. 

Firth song The Keys To Red Skeleton's House (I Open The Door) is a mind-expanding fifteen minutes plus epic where Black Helium include everything but the kitchen sink for this album. It's easily their most ambitious track yet with the band fully getting into the Prog Rock world. Black Helium play strands of Psych Rock and Stoner Rock with the swirling Space Rock rhythms allowing Black Helium to generate a more Doom based feeling to the album. There's a lot to take in with this song but it remains the album's standout track and perhaps the best song the band have written to date. The song's best moments are the sullen Ambient Noises and the laid-back sounds turning into heavier slabs of Hard Rock/Metal. The song also features great vocal performances from both Beck and Stuart with a thunderous drumming performance courtesy of Diogo.

Um is quite a different record from Black Helium and feels tonally different from their previous releases. With first rate production values, Black Helium have offered the Stoner Rock world their best and perhaps craziest release to date. This allows Black Helium to be one of the best Psychedelic Rock bands the UK underground scene has to offer. It's great to see Black Helium teaming up with Riot Season Records once again. 

Um is a huge sounding album and Black Helium deserves to gain a wider audience with this album. Simply unmissable entertainment from start to finish.

Words by Steve Howe

Thanks to Black Helium and Riot Season Records for the promo.

UM will be available to buy on CD/DD/VInyl via Riot Season Records from March 03rd 2023


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