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Helmet's third album Betty is usually considered to be their most experimental album. Listening to it, it is not hard to see why. In addition to Helmet's typical heavy-as-bricks alternative metal sound, we see forays into jazz and blues territory on songs such as Beautiful Love (which in fact is an old jazz song from the 1930's), and Sam Hell. If you loved Helmet's previous album Meantime, and I sure know I did, you will still find plenty to love here. With songs such as opener Wilma's Rainbow, the popular MTV hit Milquetoast, as well as songs like Speechless (which features an insanely memorable and catchy chorus that will be stuck in your head for days) that's right, the heavy stuff is still here, and is pretty much still the main focus of the band.
I have always found Page Hamilton's riffing style to be very interesting and simultaneously awesome. He has a knack for writing incredibly simple, as well as incredibly heavy, in your face tunes. This album is no exception. Listen to that driving riff during the verse of I Know, or the last minute or so of Vaccination, these songs are truly heavy, and simple in a unique way. Helmet were masters at making really great grooves.
Another highpoint on any of the early Helmet albums (to be honest, I haven't heard the ones post-Aftertaste) is, of course, John Stanier's drumming. The man bashes the hell out of his kit, which has a distinct sound, I don't believe there is a snare, but unlike St. Anger it fits with the music, never taking away from it. Air drumming to those early helmet albums is really fun, He definitely provides the backbone for all of those aforementioned grooves.
The production is great. The guitar tone is chunky and massive, the bass is as well. The drums are driving the songs forward in the background. Not a single complaint could be leveled at the production of this album.
This is probably tied with Meantime as the bands magnum opus. They both demonstrate heavy as hell songs played simply, with a whole lot of in your face attitude. I welcome you to Helmet, one of the best bands of the 1990's so, get this ASAP.
It is difficult to put into words how wonderful this music is. It can be very entertaining while sober but listen to it once sober and you’ll realize it’s probably just as entertaining or more so when you’re too drunk and stoned to know what’s what. But like I said it’s great music sober but the lyrics can at times be extremely silly or make absolutely no sense, that’s what’s so refreshing about it. You don’t really have to put a great deal of thought into it, which is why more often than not I listen to it while I’m trying to clear my mind of an entire day’s worth of thinking or when I want to relax and sit down with a good book. “Helmet” is however an acquired taste, I don’t suppose a lot of people would be drawn in by the total lack of harmony in both music and especially the often at times monotonous vocals. The music itself is comprised mostly of the rhythm section and is very basic and simplistic(as if the artists just decided one day to pick up their instruments and teach themselves), relying mostly on bass and drums, and on top of everything it seems to have it's own sense of humor. It’s not quite grunge it’s not quite metal or rock but an oddly unique mixture of the three with a slight tinge of blues influence. I don’t think this particular type of music has been done before or since which makes Helmet in a league of their own.
I’d have to say my two selected favorite tracks are “Milquetoast” and “Street Crab” the most listenable and catchiest of the songs, I could do without “Beautiful Love” which is probably one of the weirdest instrumentals I have ever heard “Sam Hill” a sort of folk song(sounds like there’s banjo in there somewhere and “The Silver Hawaiian” other than that it’s a perfect album, each song as delightful and charming as the last.
On their third album, Helmet come of age, as they dish some awesome modern hard rock/metal.
One the most influential bands for the mainstream metal scene, Helmet can honestly state that they were highly original. All through out ‘Betty’ you can hear riffs that would be templates for Korn’s style of riffing and unmelodic vocals that Deftone’s Chino Moreno would owe a lot to as far as inspiration for his vocal style goes. But this by no means makes them a nu-metal band. Ahead of their time and talented musicians (all jazz students, no less) Helmet is one of the bands to push the envelope in the modern sound of metal.
The drumming on ‘Betty’ is intricate and technical, the riffs are catchy and still sound ultra modern, the vocals vary from a melodic singing voice to whispering and even at times screaming and the bass really adds volume to the music without being a slave to the guitars. All these elements come together to form Helmet’s unique style of hard hitting modern music. ‘Betty’ has absolutely pummelling songs like the bass and riff heavy ‘Wilma’s Rainbow’ and the beautiful starting ‘I Know’ which then climaxes and morphs into an unbelievable heavy song with a powerful, menacing riff and a whining, chaotic solo. Then we have the fast and catchy ‘Milquetoast’ (which appeared on the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘The Crow’). Staring with a fast rhythm and a drums and bass first verse full with distant vocals, it then climaxes in the second verse with the additional guitars layered over what was original a melodic verse structure. It’s hard to explain how catchy this album really is at times.
‘Betty’ then continues with the drum heavy ‘Tic’ and the groovy ‘Rollo”, which has great bass playing and distorted vocals which sound as if they are underwater. Helmet further stun with more heavy, intricate songs full of melodic passages and catchy choruses. A perfect example of this is the memorable ‘Speechless’. Starting with a heavy verse laden with punishing bass drum and crushing bass, it then goes into an unforgettable chorus that’s sure to get stuck in the listener’s head (to tell the truth, it brought a tear to my eye). They even surprise with tracks like the soft instrumental ‘Beautiful Love’, the funky ‘The Silver Hawaiian’ and the hilarious (if ultimately boring) ‘Sam Hell’.
Many bands will strive to achieve what Helmet have done here, and many bands will utterly fail to come up with something so hard, yet soft; so heavy, yet melodic; so messy, yet catchy. Modern as modern should be, this should not be missing from anybody’s collection.