I was just going through some of my old radio playlists from the early-to-mid ’90s, and I was startled how much I played a band that I have barely thought of since: Helmet.
Talk about rocking the rectum! The very respectable and preppy-looking band led by Glenn Branca-alumnus Page Hamilton, laid down massive slabs of sound in a precision-tooled aural assault of shouted/barked vocals, massively powerful guitar ripped from the very bowels of Hamilton’s amplifier, and stop/start rhythms meant to dislocate and disturb.
The band broke periodically from the abrupt stops, and through repetition of sledgehammer riffs, built momentum to a fever pitch before breaking down again.
All of this required exceptional musicianship and is perversely addicting. Strap It On from ’90 established the parameters of the band’s attack, but the gold Meantime from ’92 took them to another quantum level of precision, sonic clarity and power – it ranks with Nirvana’s Nevermind among the greatest HARD rock albums of the decade. “Unsung,” which cautions against the easy way out of suicide, builds to such an unbearable level of intensity that I threw up the first time I heard it. This is a good thing.
The band’s followup, Betty, went in a much more complex and varied direction, but lost its power in the process. Then they just went away. Come back Page Hamilton and bring your HEAVY guitar with you.