Review Summary: Unsung.
Helmet could never be described as ‘normal’ in the music world. Many bands have adopted extreme images that reflect their egotism but Helmet were odd because their geeky image of white-collar try-hards just didn’t seem to fit in with their contemporaries in the noise rock and hardcore scenes. The same could be applied to their music, a turgid mix of NYHC grooves with the speed and heaviness of thrash metal and a slight industrial edge that all melded into one huge, fuzzed out wall of rage and noise. It was an odd but brilliant formula that reached its paramour on their sophomore effort Meantime
. This album was the effort that Helmet broke away from the heavily hardcore influenced, one-tone songwriting of their contemporaries.
While their debut Strap It On
had been inclining towards this direction Meantime
went further and blew open the palate for Helmet with a greater emphasis on varying tempos and more varied song structures. Standouts like “FBLA II” and particularly “Unsung” both demonstrate a far wider range of tones, tempos and influences while never losing focus on the repetition, sudden-breaks and monolithic riffing that make up their core sound. Consequently no groove is ever overused and no silence ever overstays its welcome, the songwriting stays almost constantly fresh, fluid and inventive because Helmet discover a near-perfect moderation between the newer influences and the core elements with only one slip up in “You Borrowed.” In finding this balance Helmet’s unmelodic sound surprisingly gains a degree of catchiness. Whether this was an unintended side-product or not is up for debate but the deceptively simplistic songs radiate an un-tuneful catchiness that is normally absent from this type of music and gives Meantime
something of a universal appeal, an appeal that they would struggle to recapture late on.
It was this struggle to find that same sweet spot they found on this album that ultimately wrecked the band. In four albums and eight years Helmet were dead and buried without a passing mention in the wind. Today the band is gaining a greater respect and love with each passing year despite Page’s repeated attempts to *** on his own legacy and Meantime
still stands as a both a cult classic and a blueprint of how hard rock could and should be done; with precision, catchiness and absolute rage.