Skip to main content

Brocas Helm, USA


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.


Popular posts from this blog

Elephant9, Norway

News: Elephant9 are set to release their 5th album (on Feb 16) entitled Greatest Show on Earth (who remembers that fine early 70s UK band?). Label says: "On this, their fifth studio album, they are back to the core trio of their two first albums, with Ståle Storløkken (keyboards), Nikolai Hængsle (bass) and Torstein Lofthus (drums). "The Greatest Show On Earth" displays some truly astonishing playing and is a more dynamic, structured and focused album with all tracks clocking in between five and seven minutes." Hmmm, not liking that guitarist Fiske is not around anymore, but OK, let's see what they come up with.

Facebook Samples
Location: Oslo

Overview: If you like overdriven Hammond organ and Rhodes piano - completely fuzzed out to the maximum - all immersed within interesting instrumental compositions, then Elephant9 are for you. Their last 2 albums feature former Landberk / current Dungen's guitarist Reine Fiske, and have started to move into a 1970 era …

Hills, Sweden


Originally published on July 17, 2011 and updated on February 3, 2012. Moving post forward to highlight their new album Frid.

Hills are among the finest of the neo Krautrock bands one can hear today. They are still active as of August, 2016..

Hills - s/t. 2009 Intergalactic Tactic Records (LP); 2010 Sulatron (Austria CD)
Hills - Master Sleeps. 2011 Intergalactic Tactics Records (LP); 2011 Transubstans (CD); 2013 Rocket Recordings (UK CD; LP)
Hills - Live (EP). 2013 Cardinal Fuzz (UK LP)
Hills - Frid. 2015 Rocket Recordings (UK CD; LP)
Hills - Live At Daemonens Port. 2015 Kommun 2 / Svensk Psych Aften (2 LP)

Regarding the debut, this is one of those cases where I bought the LP (the pink vinyl edition no less), since I didn't figure it would be issued on CD. I probably would have waited otherwise, but what the hey, the LP is pretty cool looking. But owning it on CD with the bonus tracks was necessary too. I may one day part with the vinyl, but not in a hur…

El Circulo de Willis, Spain

News: El Circulo de Willis are active and playing live shows in their native Spain. No word on a new album. I've only heard the latest from 2015 called Retales, but I was mightily impressed with the music and will certainly explore their back catalog as opportunity affords.

Facebook Samples Website
Location: Madrid

Overview: El Circulo de Willis play an exciting instrumental progressive music driven by flute and guitar, with some sax, synthesizer, and metal touches. Like a blend of Ozric Tentacles, Naikaku, and Dream Machine with a bit of Kong thrown in.

Homunculus Res, Italy

News: New album out February 15th (was slightly delayed and is now available as of March 8). Title is Della Stessa Sostanza dei Sogna.

Facebook Samples
Location: Palermo, Sicily

Overview: Homunculus Res are a tremendous new Canterbury styled band from Italy that have perfectly captured the spirit of another era. Brilliantly mixing melody and complexity, with a jazzy undertone.

UMR notes

Necronomicon, Germany

News: Well, forget what I said. There is a new album (see cover above)! It's noted as such in the comments but I missed the meaning. Oh my goodness, this band is something else...
Website Facebook
Location: Aachen

Overview: Necronomicon released one famous album (in the underground that is) in 1972, and only reappeared with some archival releases in 1990s. Then completely out of nowhere they released an album in 2012 that was even better than their original release!

UMR notes

Space Debris, Germany

News: Space Debris have just released their 8th(?) studio album Behind the Gate now available as a 2 LP or 2 CD set.

Website Samples Facebook
Location: Stuttgart

Overview: I would consider Space Debris a Jam Band first and Krautrock band second. Their approach to music is based on the long form improvisational jam centered around the soloists for guitar and organ.

Reviews (click on album covers)

Tusmorke, Norway

News: And yet another new album from Tusmorke! Quite prolific I'd say.

Facebook Samples
Location: Oslo

Overview: Tusmørke started their career as a band very much influenced by Jethro Tull. Today they are far more native ,and recall some of the great 70s Norwegian bands like Host and Hades.

UMR notes

The Cosmic Dead, Scotland

News: The Cosmic Dead are a very active band, playing live shows throughout 2016 and 2017. They also have numerous albums, their latest being Psych Is Dead from April of this year. I've only heard The Exalted King (2013) to date.

Facebook Website Samples
Location: Glasgow

Overview: The Cosmic Dead are a Scottish quarter whose raison d'etre is improvised space rock

UMR notes

The Worm Ouroboros, Belarus

Website This site is similar to Facebook, but most of the posts for the band are in Cyrillic
Samples Same site - go to Audio Files section

The Worm Ouroboros - Of Things That Never Were. 2013 Fading (Italy)

The Worm Ouroboros is a new band from Belarus, a country that up until now has yet to make an appearance into my collection. No doubt they came as a reference from Rational Diet, a popular Belarusian chamber rock group, also settled in the AltRock canon.

The Worm Ouroboros are clearly informed by the classic Canterbury scene, and it's most apparent with regards to the fuzzy keyboard tones, copious use of flute, complex meters, kinetic electric guitar, and a melodic disposition.  All of which automatically elevates the album to top tier status in UTR's world. Certainly other classic early 70s progressive influences come to the fore where one can easily spot Steve Hackett, Pink Floyd, Camel, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and even Magma! Some of the acoustic guitar and flute duo's …

Wobbler, Norway

News: Wobbler have announced their latest album From Silence to Somewhere which is due out by Oct 20th.

Facebook Samples
Location: Hønefoss (NW of Oslo)

Overview: Wobbler are a retro prog band from Norway who initially followed in the footsteps of Anglagard and Sinkadus, and have since moved onto the sounds of early Yes. Wobbler are as good as it gets for the style. Superb band.

UMR Notes