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Helmet: Reissues

TIhe rise and fall of New York’s groove lords

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.