Helmet: Strap It On

strapiton

Helmet’s debut album has always confounded me. It still does. I never want to listen to it. I only listen to it because I think I should, because it’s Helmet and because some weirdos think it’s their best album. And then I listen to it and I’m like, “Yeah, this is rough and not that good.” But if I keep listening to it I have moments of, “Wow, this is really inspired and well performed.”

This is Helmet’s most punky, least metal effort, which I think goes a long way towards explaining why some weirdos think it’s their best…when some people hear any metal elements they automatically turn off…some people do the same for country. Anyway, this is also, I think, a really clear look into Page Hamilton’s aesthetic before he cleaned things up sonically. The songs have a bit of a same-key, same-tempo thing going on, and, despite being quite good, almost feel like containers for their unconventional but wonderfully noisy, squawky guitar solos.

One aspect that makes it really tough to get into is the sound quality. Unless you’re listening to it extremely loudly, it’s hard to appreciate what’s going on, especially in Hamilton’s guitar playing. Some songs sound better (“Blacktop”) than others (“Repetition,” which they inexplicably chose as the album’s first track), so much so that I expected to see two different producers, engineers, and/or studios listed in the credits. That’s not the case, so I can only assume that the differences are from being recorded on different days during a period where engineer Wharton Tiers was working his way through the Arts Institute.

So the muffled sound obscures what is otherwise a very good album. And even after I’ve listened to it a bunch of times and have a positive sentiment going towards it, firing up that first track still requires some effort and bracing myself. So the album has that prominent flaw, but otherwise is fantastic. Helmet wouldn’t make another album like this, which is a good thing in that we got their follow-up output, but also makes this one a little special hardcore/punk/metal treasure for those who like odd time signatures and massive distortion in their guitar solos.

Rating:
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Mix: “FBLA,” “Blacktop,” “Make Room”
Really Like: “Rude,” “Sinatra,” “Distracted,” “Murder”
Like: 
“Repetition,” “Bad Mood”
Filed Between: I still haven’t unpacked my CDs and Helmet’s Meantime
Song Notes: After the jump

  1. Repetition
  2. Rude
  3. Bad Mood
  4. Sinatra – weird off key singing
  5. FBLA – awesome start, great squawky solo
  6. Blacktop – great start, reminiscent of “In The Meantime”
  7. Distracted – love this two note solo
  8. Make Room – another great start
  9. Murder – leads off with a guitar solo here, is noisy throughout; rhythm guitar is super chunky
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