Oklahoma’s psych mantle bearers Helen Kelter Skelter have always kept their heads down and let their music speak for itself. Abundant tours and albums have laid out their dedication to certain strains of staggering rock experimentation, allowing them room to collect and disseminate countless sub-genres and vague aesthetics in their ongoing search for unrestricted musical design. Complicated, reflective, and curiously openhearted, their songs have always been spoken to the colossal organs beating in our chests, aiming to pierce those muscles in an effort to offer something pure and genuinely affecting.
Recorded in a church In Oklahoma City in December of 2019, their forthcoming EP, Chroma Crawl, was to be a victory lap of sorts, a short snapshot of the band’s musical adaptations and evolution. Following on from their 2014 self-titled debut EP – as well as 2015’s self-titled LP and 2018’s Melter – this new collection was the band’s way of giving fans a glimpse into their current mindset, of highlighting influences and inspirations which have directed their trajectory over the last decade.
Having spent many of those years sharing stages with bands like And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Pallbearer, Polyphonic Spree, and Dead Meadow, they certainly possessed the experiences necessary to fully work through current and past influences in a way that felt authentic and allowed for transparency in their musical creation. But the COVID pandemic put all that on hold, shunting the release of Chroma Crawl to the middle of next month. Despite the wait, these five tracks still maintain their bluster and potential for emotional catharsis. Whether channeling Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, or All Them Witches, they strive to incinerate their listener’s expectations and offer something rarely heard and always necessary: honest sentiment cloaked in dizzying rhythmic constructs.
On their new single, “Sceptre”, the band churns and lurches through a series of muddied psychedelic explosions, each one deeply foreboding and filled with sludgy shrapnel and the possibility of further carnage. The guitars kick up a cloud of dense smog, obscuring everything within a 10-mile radius, while the drums command their own dynamic obliteration. Waves of distortion emanate outward from the song’s center, wrapping it all in layers of persistent fuzz and dissonance. It’s a grand statement on rock and roll’s scorched relevance, a tremendous roar drawn from the deepest parts of the genre’s history.
The accompanying video, directed by Chase Spivey, is a wild ride through the world of televangelists, snake handlers, soporific tv viewers, and random stock footage, and we watch as the band guides it all along through their blistering performance. Eventually, they start to bleed into the images behind them, becoming active participants in this merging of realities and psychedelic chicanery. The visuals are a fascinating and perfectly attuned partner to this series of volatile musical detonations.
Watch the video below.
Helen Kelter Skelter’s new EP, Chroma Crawl, is due out June 16 via Horton Records. Follow the band on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.