Dead to the World by HelmetRelease date: October 28, 2016
Seminal New York alternative act Helmet have returned for their third album since their reformation in 2004. With Page Hamilton still leading the line as ever, this latest incarnation is almost the same as the last album (bar the addition of bassist Dave Case). With a ridiculously high quality output throughout their near near 30-year career, as always, a new album is highly anticipated event.
The first couple of tracks, ‘Life Or Death’ especially revisit some of the bands mellower moments. Similar to Life Of Agony in style (and even some Alice In Chains / early Smashing Pumpkins), the band manage to mix their melodic side with a deceptively heavy edge. Page spends most of these early tracks employing clean vocals, and it’s nearly a minute into ‘I ♥ My Guru’ before you hear Page’s signature snarl. A lot of frontmen shout, but Hamilton sounds like he is genuinely angry in his delivery. For me, this has always given the band that added authenticity about their music that is often missing in a lot of other acts.
Most of the album follows in a similar vein, with Hamilton and Dan Beeman short sharp riffs cutting through a lot of the more tuneful moments to remind that this band still have a lot of bite, and definitely aren’t relaxing in their later years. On ‘Green Shirt’ the album takes a detour, featuring a more upbeat flavour, and in amongst your regular Helmet fare, sounds more like a cover. This and the likes of ‘Drunk In The Afternoon’ with its backwards masking at the end, show a side you don’t often see with Helmet. It’s not long before the album returns full circle with a reprise of ‘Life Or Death’, which gives the opening track a new purpose by giving it a slower, more menacing attitude.
While the band haven’t strayed to far from the formula that has made them such an iconic name, they have nevertheless produced an album that still offers something different to a lot of the other current releases doing the rounds, and also something that shows that the band aren’t afraid to mess a round with there sound. While it isn’t very experimental, it’s not too heavy either, and strikes a balance that would interest people who may not appreciate a lot of their earlier material. It maybe loses some of its impact by being maybe a bit too chilled out at times, but it always had a great back catalogue to live up to. You do get the feeling that some tracks are building to something that never quite comes, but it still stands up as a fine album.