Album Review: Helmet – Dead To The World (2016)

2 Nov

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7/10

Has it really been six years since their last album? (2010s Seeing Eye Dog). Helmet have been genre blenders since they emerged onto the scene in 1989, mixing Classic Rock, Punk Rock, Heavy Metal and Alternative. It’s because of this that they defy classification so easily. Why be pigeon-holed into one genre when you can blend so many so well?

Dead To the World is jam packed with sludgy, down-tuned riffs and the grooves keep on coming. Relentless. In fact we speed through the 11 songs in 36 minutes 58 seconds. In a World where bands are pushing their albums running times to eek out every last possible second, it’s positively refreshing when a band puts out an album that doesn’t conform to being 75 minutes long for the sake of it. So what Helmet have given us with Dead To The World is an album that doesn’t outstay its welcome and demands to be repeated. Helpful in an age where the collective attention span has reduced significantly.

From the opening seconds of “Life or Death” you know exactly who is playing and what to expect. No build up into the verse, just straight into a bludgeoning slab of 90s Post-Hardcore.  There is an energy and vibrancy to this record that the momentum of “Life or Death”, I Love My Guru” and “Bad News” as an opening trio carries through to the end.

As I said previously, this is a short, sharp record and the majority of the album follows in a similar vein with Hamilton and Dan Beeman trading sludgy, razor sharp riffs that cut through the more melodic moments and show that Helmet are not taking it easy almost 30 years into their career.

Page nasally croons over the backdrop of unhinged, unrelenting guitar riffs and lead guitar wails and delivers one of his best vocal performances for a while. He seems to have tuned into a formula for making his vocals accentuate the songs rather than hinder them. There is a snarl and there is a melody. Yes, he may not be biting but there is still plenty of bark.

There are some crushing doom rhythms (“Red Scare”), the utilisation of synths (“Dead To The World”, “Look Alive”)  and a cover (“Green Shirt”). An Elvis Costello cover to be exact and it sort of feels out place amongst the originals with it being a lot more upbeat and quirkier than everything else. They make it work, however.

“Expect The World” is an angsty slow burner whilst “Die Alone” just spits out vitriol. “Drunk In The Afternoon” contains backmasking at the end, showing a side that you don’t often get with Helmet and before long you get a reprise of “Life or Death” which gives the opening track a renewed purpose by making it slower and more menacing.

There is a lot of anger and frustration in the lyrics. Songs such as “Bad News”, “Life or Death” and the title cut “Dead To The World” seem to reflect the disappointed political attitude that Page Hamilton has towards society.

Dead To The World is another good album from Helmet. There is the melody that made 1994s Betty a hit along with the relentless jackhammer riffing of Meantime and whilst they haven’t strayed too far away from what made them successful, they have released an album that offers something different to what is currently being put out by others.

All in all I enjoyed and would recommend it and at just shy of 37 minutes it is definitely worth a listen.

David

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