It is fair to say that Road Roller Machine lives up to its name, the new album from Italian heavy rockers Helligators an unrelenting juggernaut of ravenous riff driven rock ‘n’ roll. Immersing strains of blues and stoner bred colour into a raw and uncompromising tempest of power and intensity, the release is a thumping treat of bruising and invigorating sound; not the most unique you are likely to come across this year but without doubt one of the most exhaustingly enjoyable.
Hailing from Rome, the 2009 formed Helligators self-released their debut album Against All Odds two years later, it and a video for the track Tattooed Killer, enticing keen attention the way of the band. The varied flavouring in their imposing sound sparked increasingly eager appetites from that point on, with the release of 2012 single Snake Oil Jesus only reinforcing their emerging presence and potent musical persuasion. The song was a strong teaser to things to come too, pleasures to be found and grown further in the 2014 recorded and recently released Road Roller Machine. Alongside all of this the band’s live presence has equally drawn acclaim, the sharing of stages with the likes of Orange Goblin, Nashville Pussy, Doomraiser, Strana Officina, Bad Bones and many more persistently impressing over time. Now it is with their second album released on Sliptrick Records, to whom the band signed this past spring, that Helligators are looking to stir up rock ‘n’ roll ‘trouble’, and such its rigorously persuasion it is hard to see them not becoming a loud household name.
Recorded with Luciano Chessa, Road Roller Machine bursts into rugged life with Nomad, a lone invigorating groove straight away gripping ears and appetite before rhythms and heavily robust riffs join the deliciously intensive early bait of the song. Thoughts of Motorhead quickly take hold, hints joining just as pungent ones of Danish band Grumpynators spicing up the deluge of spiky rhythms and ravenous riffery. It is a thrilling onslaught only accentuated by the growling tones of vocalist Hellvis, his bear like delivery a thick incitement within the increasingly tenacious enterprise surrounding him. Guitarists El Santo and Kamo bring stoner and blues lined hues to entwine with insatiable charge of riffs, both also providing good vocal backing to Hellvis, with everything involved adding up to the most hellacious and thrilling start to the album; maybe to any heavy rock album this year.
The Doomstroyer holds court next, its opening sonic coaxing over swiftly addictive enticing from drummer Alex, again an immediate grab of the listener. Heftily anthemic from the first instant, the track continues to incite imagination and body with the descriptive expression of Hellvis against slightly restrained rhythms and riffs but lures still pulling at the leash of intimidation. There is a Desert Storm like air to the track, a dirty and tempestuous climate which is as volatile as it is infectious, especially as guitar cast melodic tendrils wrap around rhythmic pistons and the song’s raw ferocity.
A ‘lighter’ air springs forth with Scream next; its blues rock breeding spicy veining to a landscape as rugged as that of its predecessor. The bass of Goblin stalks the song from its first second, a dark and predacious spine the guitars entwine with their constantly evolving and enthralling ideation. The individual craft and passion of each member is an equally roaring essence in each album track, and here uniting in a furnace of virulent adventure and instinctive tempting for a success more or less matched by both She Laughs and Snake Oil Jesus. The first of the two tempers its rabid aggressiveness with mellower melodic rock resourcefulness, both guitars and even the vocals infusing a relative calm to proceedings though the gripping snarl of the bass and the ever wickedly jabbing beats of Alex ensures there is no lack of the bands intimidating edge. Its successor is a groove machine all on its own, an incessant scorcher which spills adrenaline fuelled intensity and rebellious attitude with every caustic syllable and acidic chord. Once more the band twists in strong variety to the design and persuasion of the song; never going into the unknown but only leaving ears and appetite urgently wanting more.
More is what you get with Truckdriver, a track with little in the way of major surprises but a tank load of inventive enterprise in its southern honed rumble. There is no escape from the pure contagion of the song or that of the sultry and sinister dark majesty of Swamp Man Voodoo. Every groove and predatory hook oozes menace, backed by the rapacious nature of rhythms and the ever hungry riffs though each element also leaks rich seduction that never lets go. The outstanding song is pure theatre, a satanic dance and fiercely vociferous trespass for the soul.
No surprises for guessing the character of a song called Bad Ass from Helligators, its air instant belligerence and sound swift confrontation with of course plenty which just invites full involvement before Stone Crusher takes over with its Metallica meets AC/DC like blaze. There is no denying that the song did not find the same depth of appetite as those before it, or to be fairer as consistently as those as there are moments when the band again shows they can rival any one in unleashing a torrent of rock ‘n’ roll brilliance with thick rigorous invention.
Road Roller Machine is brought to an end by the acoustically crafted Black Sun and its blues kissed melodic smoulder. The song fuses stoner and southern rock hues with classic rock ingredients to sculpt another song which maybe does not quite match those earlier within the album but is impossible to tear one away from whilst providing a fine end to one mighty slab of heavy duty rock ‘n’ roll. Helligators have no interest in re-inventing rock music but certainly they want to give everyone a riotously good time and that they do big style with Road Roller Machine.
Road Roller Machine is out on Sliptrick Records now!