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Gnarly guitar sounds are expected from a guy who makes his own amplifiers. But good songwriting, too? As it turns out, Ben Verellen, who owns Verellen Amps and fronts Seattle power trio Helms Alee, is not only a master of speaker cones and distortion tones. The ex-Harkonen guitarist also happens to be a font of musical ideas, proof of which can be found on Helms Alee’s second full-length, Weatherhead. The new album, a restless testament to the trio’s affection for moody folk rock and burly alt-metal, is brimming with stop-start changes. Just when you think you’ve got Weatherhead figured out, Helms Alee will hit you with a hip-hop satire (“8/16”), or make a quick sketch of Spain (“Anemone of the Wound”), or do something few hard rock acts would dare: sing a cappella (“Revel!”). All of this works because the trio is so effortlessly competent. Drummer Hozoji Matheson-Margulis is a polyrhythmic powerhouse, and both Verellen and bassist Dana James are strong and complementary singers. Verellen, in particular, has a hearty, pulse-quickening roar that could stand in for a broken amp. Of course, given his talents, lack of amplification is something Helms Alee doesn’t have to worry about.
Helms Alee performs at 10 p.m. with Big Business and Torche at the Rock & Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE. $13 in advance, $15 at door.