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Helmet performs own music style +Aftertaste+ imposes self boundaries, not just ordinary rock album

March 27, 1997

Helmet performs own music style

'Aftertaste' imposes self boundaries, not just ordinary rock album

Album after album, so many bands to keep up with. It's refreshing to find out another band of underground proportions has been keeping true to themselves and refusing to go with the mainstream for the purpose of not feeling like changing their music instead of refusing to change because that's what everybody else is doing.

New York's Helmet has born another long awaited album, Aftertaste, a trip back to where they started and away from the experimenting they experienced on the 1994 album Betty.

Always pegged as heavy metal and recently lumped into categories with Tool and the Rollins Band, Helmet is nothing but heavy. It took three Blockbuster employees to carry the CD to the car.

Guitarist and lead singer Page Hamilton bangs away again with the leaden chords the band's first two albums were filled with. Betty took a twist of blues and extra harmony into its digital code but left some Helmet fans in the cold. Hamilton realized this and tried to get back to stripped-down basics with Aftertaste.

Forces of nature only rival the power of chord progressions found on Aftertaste's 13 tracks but there is a restraint and withholding to the guitar thrashing. So much potential for all out explosions of sound exist but the songs are tied down and tightly bound like so much bondage fetishes of late.

Minimizing this last album, Hamilton stripped down the songs (and even the band after guitarist Peter Mengede left to join Biohazard) and dropped most audio effects from the production of Aftertaste. Although new producer Dave Sardy was demanding more and more from the players (forcing drummer John Stanier to set up in a public bathroom to achieve desired acoustics) most of the end result was pretty much raw product from the trio of Hamilton, Stanier and bassist Henry Bogdan.

The simplicity of tracks such as 'Pure,' a droning on about going with what you know, 'Renovation' and 'Broadcast Emotion' drop a fattening texture of riffs and power chords you secretly have been longing to be hit in the head with.

Imagination shines through in the way most of the songs seem to have been created in the same mindset but never get boring or repetitive. New maturity, however is refreshingly found in melody development in the cellos of 'Like I Care' and also in 'Driving Nowhere.'

True to life and true to Helmet, some of the lyrics on Aftertaste seem a bit rushed and unimaginative, but this is what Helmet is all about. Not trying to make a beautiful polished product, but raw songwriting hammered into someone else's brain for the pleasure of the players. Being tight and stripped down is confining and forces Helmet to be more creative and introduce more of the same, but in different ways. Following strict self imposed boundaries, Helmet produced another Helmet album, not just another rock album.

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