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Helmet's swansong - 85%

TheStormIRide, April 6th, 2006

Aftertaste: the swansong of the Helmet story. Or so it was before Page Hamilton got the band back together. So anyways, those of you who know Helmet’s previous work won’t be surprised by anything on this album. Those of you who don’t know Helmet’s stuff, the music is hard to describe. So, I shall attempt to help you better understand Helmet’s sound on this album.

The production on this album is clear; everything seems to fit very well. The drums, as with all Helmet releases, are loud in the mix but they don’t detract from any other instruments. The guitar is actually quite clear, which is a big plus. Every other Helmet album has had a problem with the guitars being so down in the mix that it was hard to hear everything that was going on in the album. So in other words, the guitar isn’t as muddy as on “Meantime”, the production from “Betty” may give you an idea of what the production of where this album is at, production wise.

You may have heard that Helmet has a style of riffing many have called a “wall-of-sound”. This is definitely right on the mark. For this album, the majority of songs have a main riff that is more distinct and clear, while in the background you can make out a feedback ridden, overdriven riff pattern that just seems to float in the air. It’s definitely not a light sound. Take what people call it; a wall-of-sound. It basically feels like there is this brick wall set up behind the rest of the instruments that no other sound can get through. It’s actually quite amazing to listen to. Normally, a giant mash of riffs in the background wouldn’t sound very appealing, but the choice of riffs is stunning, and it all fits together quite nicely.

In addition to the wall-of-sound monster riffing, there are some really cool guitar lines that beg to be noticed. Check the crazy solo on “Driving Nowhere”. For the most part, the main riffs seem to be a mash between punk and grunge, albeit heavier. For an example of the more punk sound, check out the beginning to “Harmless”.

The first thing that always caught my attention with all Helmet albums has been the driving drums. This guy plays loud and he hits hard. These aren’t the most complicated drum patterns, but without such a driving drummer, the music would not have the same impact. The patterns used aren’t complex, but they fit the style. A lot of the lines he uses just get the head bobbing. Very nicely done on that part! The bass guitar shows up occasionally: yeah it’s on the whole album, but it’s not a main focus. There are some really cool lines and two cool bass intros (“Renovation” and “(High) Visibility”).

The vocals are definitely different than what many metal heads may be used to. There is a very 90’s grunge feel to Page’s voice. The heavy riffs help set apart the clean vocals. But, unlike the previous albums, there are no screaming parts. The heaviest the vocals get is probably on “Insatiable” where it’s more of a loud shout than a scream or a yell. So, the vocals aren’t heavy; it actually works here. Check out the vocals on “It’s Easy to Get Bored”. Page has one hell of a voice, and it’s good to see him using it to it’s fullest on this album.

So, yeah, this album isn’t for everyone. This is a great album for those looking for some relatively heavy, grunge styled metal. I urge everyone to check out any of Helmet’s releases, though; Aftertaste just happens to be one of their better ones. This album is great for driving, especially with the pounding drums, and you can sing along without making your throat sore. This album was pretty much Helmet's highest point (before reforming), so this album serves as Helmet's swansong. This album took the aggression of previous efforts, and added the experimentalism of "Betty"; the result is "Aftertaste". Very well done!