Saturday, 15 March 2008



The first Helmet album is a distinctly light affair in comparison to what was about to come with crossover and break out.  In execution it lacks the bulk and blunt ferocity of what was soon to follow but that’s not to say it is without merit.

Produced by New York veteran Wharton Tiers, Strap It On is a nine song affair that only just passes the thirty minute mark.  It is a compact exhibition full of focused economy and frustrated blast.  This was a great band making the most of its resources and opportunity.  Even if the production is flawed the relentless power is not.

Helmet was an intense band from the off.  Their music has always had city suffocation and New York written all over it (this album even has a track called “Sinatra” amongst its numbers).  They may never have gone full on blood, guts and gore like Unsane but there is a distinct urban horror in what they do even if Hamilton holds an attractive voice and the desire to be up-tempo.

It feels very appropriate that the first track is entitled “Repetition” as this is a big part of what Helmet have often been about.  Their motion is like that of a train, heavy and slow moving in the style of an unstoppable object.

Also noticeable is how aggressive Hamilton in his delivery.  He barks like a taskmaster but not necessarily one you would feel inclined to take notice of.

The playing is a mixed bag.  The power is in the guitar and the almost industrial sound he has always managed to derive.  Even the solos sound pleasingly unique as they cleanly cut through proceedings without deflating the power and suffocating the motion.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Stanier’s drumming on this occasion.  By Meantime his snare sound was quite trademark but here is doesn’t quite pack the same punch.  Happily this was eventually rectified.

To me this sounds like a band experiencing something holding/pulling them back.  Maybe this was a product of too much discipline.  Maybe it was born of recording limitation.  Regardless it all lends a frustrating sense of resistance to proceedings.

Of note is the aforementioned “Sinatra” that turned out to be the main song to carry through to their major label career and was later covered by the Deftones.  “Rude” is a very solid, exciting song sounding like a WWF ring entrance song while tracks such as “Make Room” and “Distracted” generally sound like demo versions of their next record.

The most incendiary is left to last with the pure destruction of “Murder” which really does sound like a step into Unsane territory and the cinematic devastation of the streets and dismantling of buildings that band so successfully attains.  Closure is high.

Blunt objects when handled correct can be just as dangerous.

Thesaurus moment: trenchant.

Amphetamine Reptile

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