Having teased us with two different videos over the past year, Cleveland’s Helicase finally grace us with what people who cannot get enough djent have been waiting for: an actual EP, one we are proud to premiere on It Djents. It’s entitled The Roots of Empty Space. All of the songs on the EP are new; neither of the videos linked to above are on this EP.
The Roots of Empty Space
Opener “Bonsai” clocks in at under five minutes, so it is not as ‘long-lived’ as its title might imply. It shows Helicase’s penchent for contrasts. The vocals stay in the deep and guttural for the most part, occasionally veering into soaring choruses. A full spectrum of guitarwork is at play here as well: chugs, solos, arpeggios, and more. The song is as horizontally structured as it is multi-textured in the vertical sense.
“Mental Roots” alternates between less djenty fast passages and more ambient areas. Oddly, the latter are instrumental. Screamed vocals predominate the fast and heavy moments. Perhaps Helicase felt listeners needed a break to breathe? Either way, it works.
“Realms…” was clearly meant to be an interlude. It displays a more jazzy side of the band, with some imaginative drum ideas. Things stay interesting with some backwards guitar loops that segue into “Of Discourse”. That song uses a quirky arrangement with distorted bass under clean guitars and distant-sounding vocals, before the heaviness drops in. Helicase’s similarity to ERRA has been mentioned before, and while the previous three songs did not indicate as much, “Of Discourse” clearly shows that influence.
The EP closes with “The Current.” It has a dreamy start, before surging ahead with double-bass speed-chugging that almost recalls 80s thrash metal. However, ambient passages and overt djenting kick in after about a minute. “The Current” lacks any epic pretense or sentimentality. Helicase chose to end The Roots of Empty Space with a bang instead.
The biggest cliché about djent lies not in the chugging, the ‘tenor and gravel’ vocals, nor in the down-tuned guitars. Rather, it lies in music critics saying that djent is a cliché and that all bands in this subgenre sound the same.
While Helicase are not breaking new ground on The Roots of Empty Space, they show clear mastery of djent’s various idioms; an ability to use them as writing tools to make imaginative music that is never boring. Djent fans who want to see what talented musicians can accomplish with established music tools will love what Helicase made here.
FFO: ERRA, BTBAM, The Contortionist, Vildhjarta