Helmet's Oregon-born guitarist and founder Page Hamilton had moved to New York City to study jazz, but found inspiration in the late '80s through post-punk acts Sonic Youth, Killing Joke, and Big Black, and envisioned a group that combined then
-unusual tunings (particularly dropped-D) with uneven and jazz-like time signatures and harmonies. Hamilton recruited bassist Henry Bogdan from Oregon, along with Australian guitarist Peter Mengede and Florida drummer John Stanier for the group's first incarnation. Helmet's independent-label debut EP, Strap It On, showcased the group's raw power -- both instrumentally and in Hamilton's growling vocals -- through tracks like the mocking "Sinatra" and rocking "Bad Mood."
In The Meantime: 5/5
Basically the title track for the album. After the first ascending riff they go into a sometimes off-tempo pulsing open string riff broken up by hammer-ons and pull-offs here and there. The drumming and bass keeps things flowing nicely thumping and pounding along a good head banging rhythm. Hamilton barks like a maniac throughout the song. Overall, a high energy track great album opener.
Helmet's style is defined by steady/off tempo (at times) pounding rhythms and Hamilton's screaming and growling. This song is a good example of it. Nice weird rhythm here, also just a little slower and less energy than the first track. Hamilton displays one of his first solos on the album which at times have a tendency to morph into a wall of sound and feedback which to fits their music. There is a great solo in there you just might have to listen more closely. A great song.
Give It: 4.5/5
Bogdan starts off with a cool bouncing bass line before slowing down into a kind of start/stop riff. This is one of the slowest songs on the album but still a great song. You'll still be bobbing your head to this one. Another one of Hamilton's wall of sound solos in here; which is pretty good. Starts to speed up at the end of the song before finishing.
One of my and everyone else's favorite tracks and the only song I ever remember ever hearing on the radio from Helmet. You may recognize it after hearing it. Starts of with a simple ascending bass line and drums then guitar imitating the bass line and lots of feedback from the second guitar. True start/stop alternating riffs that are supported pefectly by Stainer. I really enjoy the chorus and breakdown just grinding along. The end is basically a wall of sound although there is no real solo, just the same chord on the first four strings up and down the neck of the guitar. A classic.
Turned Out: 5/5
Starts out nicely then goes into an off-tempo riff which upon first listen may be hard to latch onto for some. Start/stop rhythms are again supported well by Stainer who sounds off-tempo himself. A cool chorus that has a soaring sound. Goes into a breakdown before letting the drums and bass take over for awhile then Hamilton goes into a solo that starts drenched in feedback but cleans up a bit at the end. Ends with the verse riff, an excellent song.
He Feels Bad: 4/5
One of the other slower songs on the cd but still not really that slow. The riff is sort of jazzy and laid back it's really the only song Hamilton tries to sing on which really isn't his forte, but not terrible like some singers I've heard. Not one of my favorite songs but not bad. The solo ends the song and has lots of feedback after he gets into it.
After a cool bass line the song goes into a pulsing riff and Hamilton goes back to his screaming and growling. Nice chorus and a breakdown carry the song well. Just a good rhythm makes this cool. Helmet does things differently and it just works. In the background you can slightly hear solos in multiple parts of the song.
You Borrowed: 5/5
Nice groove, another one of the more laid back tracks. Bogdan's bass kinda stands out over the guitars on this one. An interesting choice of timing on the chorus; different buts works well. The solo is great and fits the song perfectly. Hamilton knows right when to quit. An awesome song.
FBLA II: 5/5
It's called FBLA II because there was an FBLA on their first record Strap It On
. Not much to say other than I enjoy this song love and the palm-muting riffing the middle. Also I love the way it pauses right before Hamilton goes into his solo, it just sounds tight. The solo is crazy but doesn't go on for too long before they get back into the song with feedback going in the background.
Role Model: 6/5
Starts with a heavy pounding riff before going into a bass only verse. Bogdan sounds great with Stainer as they mesh well together to create a solid sound. The guitars come back in the next verse mainly as background noise. I would say this is their most minimalistic guitar song. The solo here is incredible. Hamilton is very creative the way he makes his solos sound; the timing, feedback and bends are perfect in this song. The best track hands down.
This should be an album that you should get no matter what type of rock you like. Strong musicianship make the songs work and most of the riffs get in your head. Hamiliton and Mendege are actually very technical, although at times it just sounds like they're making noise. You'll start to pick up the intricacies in their playing after listening to the songs. Hamilton is hands down the master of guitar feedback. I've had this cd for awhile still one of my favorites. You could describe it as Chevelle with more skill and creativity but not quite as radio friendly.
That's a generalization to give you somewhat of an idea of how they sound. System of a Down, Neurosis, and Godsmack are some other bands that have a similar style
. One of the best and most influential bands of the 90's even though not a majority of the public has heard of them. Even though Helmet are usually blamed for starting the Nu-Metal trend they are definately not Nu-Metal. The solos and spastic bouts into noise fury added with timing other than 4/4 used in songs confirms this. Hamilton often has amusing and very sarcastic lyrics unlike his Nu-Metal followers he doesn't whine. They have many copycats who did a half assed job. Start with this album to check them out.