Helmet: Reissues

TIhe rise and fall of New York’s groove lords

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In the early 90s, the New York metal scene was in crisis. Type O and Life Of Agony were mixing rich, riffage with apocalyptic self-hatred and despair, while Unsane, Prong and Helmet’s urban paranoia took the form of a groove-laden, survivalist sound stripped down to its bare chassis.

Re-released on gatefold, variously coloured, weighty vinyl and CD, Helmet’s first four albums capture a clear trajectory of a seminal band honing their sound before reaching into more commercial realms.

1990’s STRAP IT ON [8] set out their stall of stop-start riffage, controlled, clattering percussion, pulsing bass, careering guitar and, in frontman Paige Hamilton, a Rollins-like sense of a man whose head is about to explode. Its abrasive, earthy production was sharpened for 1992’s MEANTIME [8], its fuel-injected riffs flowing then locking themselves to the rhythm, most memorably in the stroboscopic Unsung.

1994’s BETTY [9], however, is a classic, calibrated to exhilarating, ultra-catchy perfection as heavy-weighted, spring-loaded grooves gave rise to the unforgettable Wilma’s Rainbow and explosive Biscuits For Smut. 1997’s AFTERTASTE [6] was a far more disconsolate affair, smoothing out the elasticated dynamics of its predecessor for a relatively featureless terrain, whose former peaks they haven’t returned to since.

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.