Tuesday, 7 September 2010



What happened Helmet?  You used to be so great, so gnarly and heavy.  In contrast the sound on this record just reminds me of a household appliance.  The vocals of Page Hamilton now sound like the yells of an old man rocking within a wheelchair.  He’s trying, he really is.

Over the years something disheartening has happened to Helmet.  Initially they were a nasty, blunt alt rock band with noise leanings.  The manner with which they harnessed their sound was inspiring while still being able to run with acts such as Unsane etc despite their songs being so well defined and framed.

For a long time I have supported and often defended the band.  Being a band that is probably too innovative for a bog standard Kerrang/metal audience, for some reason they never quite snagged the indie audience they probably deserved.  Sure they signed to Interscope for big bucks cashing in on the house that Kurt built but that didn’t mean their music was without merit.  Indeed those records were immense and did slip into cliché.  Fuck, even Eric Bogosian appeared in one of their videos.

So it is with that in mind this record is received with such disappointment.  When I discovered out the blue that the band had a new record out I immediately emailed my friend with an excited thrust of capital letters and exclamation marks.  Unfortunately upon listening to ten tracks, I soon calmed down.

To be frank this is not Helmet.  When they split up in 1998 they should have been gone.  The band that returned in 2004 was not Helmet; it was Page Hamilton with a set of jobbers.  However in spite of that their comeback record Size Matters was a rocker but the live show wasn’t.  The band was no longer stoic, no longer intense, no longer heavy.  Instead now appeared players too keen to please.  They were playing the classic songs but they just did not sound.  And that has happened here.

Helmet were always a band that was just heavy.  They did not require volume to shake the speakers; the mere gestures of members were dense enough to furrow the sound.  And that is the key ingredient missing from the act these days.

Seeing Eye Dog is loud in the sense that it is not subtle.  The lyrics are more explicitly aggressive than in the past and the plundering, plodding manner in which the guitars rev in a straight line does feel somewhat blind.

Perhaps it’s a displaced record.  In the song titles are references to Algiers and Los Angeles while track seven is entitled “White City” although I can’t imagine it being a direct reference to the part of London that shares the name.

What I notice is that there are no hooks.  Another band might be compared to Gang Of Four for making such a gesture but not here.  It is still very nu metal even though the original Helmet sound pre-dated that movement and was slightly accused of providing the blueprints for it.  A song such as “LA Water” does sound a lot more like Deftones than Meantime-era Helmet.  And also can’t this drummer get the John Stanier snare sound?

Of the slim pickings of enjoyment “In Person” feels the track where it all most/best comes together even if the guitars still do not feel hard enough but it has flow, some kind of hook and ends with a gnarly insane scratchy solo.

Elsewhere Hamilton’s mind appears to wander as it meanders into the ambience of “Morphing” and a cover of the Beatles “And Your Bird Will Sing” which promptly proceeds to stick the original tune in your head.

It ends in weird fashion with the half decent “She’s Lost” which is another lumbering effort with motions of noodling that works for the first three minutes before deciding/choosing to become another song and running for six and a half minutes royally outstaying its welcome.

How green was their fucking valley?

Thesaurus moment: autopilot.

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