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 …

Secret Saucer, USA

News: Secret Saucer have just released their 7th album The Reset. It appears to be LP only at the current time (and released in Germany). I've lost track of Secret Saucer, as I haven't heard anything from them since Tri-Angle Waves in 2009.

Facebook Samples
Location: The band usually just state that are from Ohio, but if I recall right they are from near Cleveland in the northeast part.

Overview: Secret Saucer could best be described as a space rock jam band. Similar to Oresund Space Collective and  others of its ilk.

UMR notes

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.

Forgas Band Phenomena, France

News: According to the latest Wayside flyer, Forgas Band Phenomena's 6th album will be coming soon. No other info has emerged.

UMR notes

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

Ske, Italy

News: Not much happening as a solo artist, though a recent post did speak to a 3rd Not a Good Sign album.

Location: Tradate, Varese (northeast of Milan, near the Swiss border)

Overview: Like some modern groups, Ske seems to have compiled the best parts of what progressive rock has to offer, and reassembles them into a hodge podge of the entire genre.

UMR notes

Architectural Metaphor, USA

News: Architectural Metaphor have released their 5th official CD called Galactus Interruptum in late 2016, without any fanfare at all (not even on their Facebook page, which is really a memoir page). I see it's available from CD Baby and on Discogs.

Website Samples Facebook
Location : Boston, Massachusetts

Overview: Along with Djam Karet, Architectural Metapohor are one of the pioneers of the modern space rock movement in the United States, and have been continuously operating since 1984. They had long breaks between releases, and I've only heard their first two, though I hope to do something about that soon.

Reviews (click on album cover)

Kenso, Japan


No new updates from Kenso since 2015.

Kenso - s/t. 1980 Pam (LP); 1995 Arcangelo (CD)
Kenso - II. 1982 Pam (LP); 1993 King (CD); 2002 Pathograph (CD papersleeve)
Kenso - s/t (aka III). 1985 Nexus (LP; CD); 2011 King (CD papersleeve)
Kenso - Sparta. 1989 Crime (CD); 2009 Pathograph as Sparta Naked (CD)
Kenso - Yume No Oka. 1991 King; 2011 Pathograph (CD papersleeve)
Kenso - Esoptron. 1999 King (CD); 1999 Musea (France CD)
Kenso - Ken-Son-Gu-Su. 2000 Pathograph (CD)
Kenso - Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis. 2002 Nexus (CD); 2002 Vinyl Magic (Italy CD)
Kenso - Utsuroi Yuku Mono. 2006 King (CD)
Kenso - Uchi Naru Koe Ni Kaikiseyo. 2014 King (CD)

There are many other live and archival releases from the band, though I only own Ken-Son-Gu-Su. All the other entries above represent their studio albums. There's also a 14 CD box set on King that contains all their studio albums through 2012, as well as a handful of live recordings.

For a band with so many recordings, an…

Flowers Must Die, Sweden

News: Flowers Must Die's 4th album Kompost was released on vinyl in April earlier this year.

Facebook Website Samples
Location: Linköping

Overview: Flowers Must Die are good old fashioned space rock. Probably the closest comparison would be to My Brother the Wind on their debut, or some of the less edited Oresund Space Collective albums.

UMR notes

Arabs in Aspic, Norway


Arabs in Aspic - Progeria (EP). 2003 Borse Music
Arabs in Aspic - Far Out in Aradabia. 2004 Borse Music
Arabs in Aspic - Strange Frame of Mind. 2010 Pancromatic LP. 2011 Black Widow (Italy) CD
Arabs in Aspic - Pictures in a Dream. 2013 Black Widow (Italy) CD + LP

Robert Fripp has stated that "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" means: "Something precious which is stuck, but visible. Something precious which is encased in form."  So with that heady bit of insight, it's obvious to me that Arabs in Aspic means... yea, I have no idea either. [shrug]

But what is "in aspic" is the band's ability to recreate the sounds of the 1970s. Specifically the American FM sound of 1975 and '76. Despite being from Norway, Arabs in Aspic are yet another band that would fit well in my USA Midwest / Ontario Progressive Rock (1970's/early 80s) list. Sounds odd doesn't it? Well... it's not as strange as it may first appear.

In 1990, in my Euro…