Review Summary: Helmet create an influential album of the early 1990s that still holds up today
Helmet's first album was produced by famous producer Wharton Tiers(Unsane,Sonic Youth,Cop Shoot Cop). His production style makes this album rawer than Helmet's later efforts. Strap It On is heavy, violent and packed full of glorious noise. It came out in 1990 and heres a review for this excellent album.
Page Hamilton proves himself an excellent riff writer with his ability to create catchy, incredibly heavy, stop-start staccato riffs. His thick chords create a wall of sound that takes shape in the form of hardcore punk-meets-metal style guitar playing. The riffs are heavy and rhythmic and keep the listener entertained throughout. His guitar soloing isn’t bad either. Songs like Sinatra
have noisy, thick solos wh9ilst other songs like Blacktop
have distorted solos of jazzy, John Coltrane-esque, shredding but on the guitar. (Fun fact: Page Hamilton has a masters degree in jazz guitar). He shreds up most of the songs on here without too much guitar wankery.
The vocals for the most part are aggressive, hardcore yells mixed in with small bits of clean singing. The shouts come off as if Mr. Hamilton tried a little too hard with his screaming. His clean vocals, while sparse, work the best here and he sounds similar to a cleaner Ozzy Osbourne. The bass playing is a bit too quiet and it’s heavy and pretty much follows the guitar riffs. John Stanier is an absolutely insane drummer and he plays a hip hop-meets heavy metal style of drumming with a nice staccato drum sound and rhythmic playing. His fills aren’t too bad either.
The songs on Strap It on are mostly simplisitic, but they’re just so well written that you can’t help but appreciate them for what they are. Everything is executed perfectly, whether it be loud, noisy guitar playing or small drum fills that accentuate the songs, the musicians featured on this record perform really well.
I have nothing bad to say about the album other than that it’s a bit too repetitive and some of the songs blend together. A masterful debut album from the pioneers of the 90’s alternative metal scene.