It is high time I finally write about this largely unsung band.
Aggressive sounds and bruising lyrics. Helmet the East Coast answer to grunge. Ironically enough the leader of the group, Page Hamilton, and the bassist, Henry Bogdan, were originally both from Oregon. Of the original four, only the drummer was from the east coast. John Stainer was from Florida. The original guitarist, Peter Mengede, was from Australia.
"Your contribution left unnoticed some"
Helmet never saw the commercial success of their West Coast counterpart. But they didn't go unnoticed either. Their gritty anger was too loud not to be heard. From the beginning they appealed to the young angry crowds that filled dark dive concert halls in New York City. They have influenced many of the bands heard on the radio the 2000s. You can just hear it in bands like System of a Down and Korn.
"Association with an image"
They didn't look like your typical hard rock
band. No tattoos. No piercings. No long-hair. Just some hard working guys pouring out some of the loudest hardest music of the era. They didn't need to put up any false pretenses. No need for an "image". They spoke not with their looks but with what should be most important for a band, their music. Nowhere was this better stated than on an episode of Beavis and Butthead
when they were watching the video for "Unsung
", something like "These guys look like normal guys you'd see on the street...You wouldn't even know they were cool."
(I would like the exact quote, thanks to VerlandT for that much.
After their initial EP Born Annoying / Rumble and album Strap It On the band was quickly signed to Interscope Records and released Meantime a year later. Meantime was a hit. Well as big as Helmet would get anyway. MTV played videos for "In The Meantime", "Give It", and "Unsung". But wait it doesn't stop there! You also get "Ironhead", "He Feels Bad", "Role Model", and more. An outstanding album and what brought my attention to the band. I've enjoyed their music often ever since.
Two years after Meantime, and a change of guitarist to Rob Echeverria, Helmet releases what many consider their best album, Betty. Betty is a wondrous experiment in sound. A little more melodic, but still keeping the heavy drums and bass. This album shows off Hamilton's Jazz past to create a brilliantly dark and moving album. Videos were made for "Wilma's Rainbow", "Biscuits for smut", and "milquetoast", but there are many other treasures on this album also. This album screams to me to be Meat Puppets influenced, that may just be mainly from "Sam Hell". I've never seen it explicitly stated, but this band often makes me think "darker heavier Meat Puppets". That includes the ability to do their own unique things and not be limited by their influences, but to cultivate new ideas and new sounds.
1995 brings the compilation Born Annoying that is mostly a re-release of their earlier songs from their Amphetamine Reptile Records days and was released on that label. It also includes a new version of "Born Annoying". During this time they also recorded songs for several soundtracks.
In keeping with the trend, Helmet loses their guitarist again. Rob Echeverria leaves to join the metal band Biohazard. The band decides to move forward without a new guitarist and Page Hamilton takes over all the guitars. After pulling the album shortly before release and re-everything-ing it (recording, mixing, producing, etc) the band finally releases Aftertaste. Let me state for the record I like this album. But many critics say that you can tell the inability to keep a guitarist and Hamilton's handling of all guitars plus singing takes its toll and the album lacks some of the intensity of the early songs (from Strap It On) that the band is trying to recapture.
Helmet disbands in 1999.
- Aftertaste -- Epitaph Records (1997)
- Born Annoying -- Amphetamine Reptile Records (1995)
- Betty -- Interscope Records (1994)
- Meantime -- Interscope Records (1992)
- Strap It On -- Amphetamine Reptile Records/Interscope Records (1991)
- Born Annoying / Rumble -- Amphetamine Reptile Records (1990)
"to die unsung would really bring me down"