1990, Music

Strap It On (1990) by Helmet

This is some aggressive and and aggressively loud but knotty post hardcore/alternative metal that should be sought out by anyone who is a fan of either genre, or who wishes hardcore bands were more accomplished musically or metal was weirder.

Imagine a much more “metal” Jesus Lizard with less looseness and a less arty singer and you get some vague idea of what Helmet sounds like on their debut. The riffs feel almost mathy at times – thought it could just be Stanier’s drumming making everything feel that way – but the volume is loud enough that you don’t really think about it as math rock. And whoever is playing the solos is way more into the noise rock spectrum than any metal guitarist of the era (which is really refreshing).  Of course, Hamilton’s voice is so much closer to a hardcore or alternative singer than a metal singer that it would dispel any thoughts of this being conventional metal without those solos.

Much like Jesus Lizard this really exists in its own space – I can’t think of another band from the era that sounds precisely like Helmet. (I guess maybe Big Black, if they were less glib and had an actual drummer and did a better job of recording the guitar.) And they’re so much knottier and more musical than most crossover thrash bands while also being so much more “metal” than a lot of the bands labeled alternative metal at this time. (Compare this album to any alternative metal album from 1990 or a couple years before or after – this is heavier than most, I’d wager.)

It’s really great stuff and I imagine it’s been pretty influential on metalcore and maybe even some metal musicians. Like I can totally imagine the early metalcore guys hearing Helmet and deciding to do their own version of that.


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