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Brocas Helm, USA




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Brocas Helm - Into Battle. 1984 Steamhammer (Germany) LP; 2005 Eat Metal (Greece) CD
Brocas Helm - Black Death. 1988 Gargoyle LP+CD; 2005 Eat Metal (Greece) CD
Brocas Helm - Defender of the Crown. 2004 private CD; 2011 Eat Metal (Greece) LP

While on the topic of weird metal bands, San Francisco's Brocas Helm has to be in the conversation. Perhaps even at the top of the list. I'm not talking avant garde off-the-rails strangeness like Mr. Bungle or similar either. No, I'm talking about something that is just a bit off-center. It seems normal until you put the magnifying glass on it, and whoaaaa, this band is weird, man. Even the album cover of the debut is bizarre. That's not a heavy metal cover from 1984. The band themselves claimed this topic was a major dispute point - and I can imagine why. But it's such an anomaly, and so it's wonderful in its quirkiness. It looks like a French new wave album from 1981. So why would Steamhammer, who was a dedicated metal concern, put such an oddity out like that? Well... it's Brocas Helm that's why. The Eat Metal reissue cover (second scan) is certainly more appropriate and typical for the genre, but I have to admit the first cover is so intriguing. After that, the band went completely DIY and have been cult underground stars ever since. And before the Greek label Eat Metal came around, their first two albums were rare and cost a fortune. As such, there's plenty of reviews out there for you to learn about this band. So they're not under the radar really. It's worth mentioning that the Eat Metal CD reissues of the first two albums include their EP demos from 1983/89 respectively, which are also interesting in their own right.

A quick summary of Brocas Helm will net you this: Thrashy, but traditional metal, through the Manilla Road lens. It's epic metal, Wichita, Kansas styled - from a band based in thrash's home ground. By every measure imaginable, Brocas Helm will not win any awards (composition, production, musicianship, execution, professionalism, etc..), and yet their albums are absolutely unpredictable and infectious. Relistenability is very high with Brocas Helm. And over a 20 year period, their style can only be described as: Brocas Helm. Even their 2004 reformation album sounded like a natural follow up to Black Death. I love metal like this - underground bands that came out of the late 70s/early 80s before the rules of the genre were so strictly defined, and everyone needed to be in lockstep with the scene. Screw that, and hear a band who had an enormous imagination, where perhaps the talent just didn't quite match up with the ambition. The CDRWL and UMR is filled with similar bands from the progressive and psychedelic rock eras. And I love many of them. As we look back on the early years of metal, it becomes clear with 20/20 hindsight who those bands were from this genre as well. Even though I was a ground floor metalhead going back to 1979, I'm still discovering interesting bands that I never heard "back in the day." Brocas Helm is one of those.

If you're looking for something a bit different to hear, check Brocas Helm out. Like Payne's Gray, it's not completely foreign, but there's something off about it (not wrong or incompetent - just different). And that's what makes them interesting.

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