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This was my first experience with Helmet as I had heard interesting things from my friends and the internet community. I had very little information on the band and picked up the first album I saw, which as you may have guessed was “Size Matters”.
I believe I had picked it up around 2005 and from then to now I really only think I’ve listened to the album all the way through 5 times. It’s not because the music is terrible, it’s all quite tolerable, production great, yet the overall outcome is extremely lackluster. It’s just really boring, even when compared to modern rock bands like Seether, Three Days Grace etc. and is a lot less fun.
The vocals are probably the most enjoyable aspect of the album. I like his voice a lot it’s got this laid back feel to it even when a faster paced song comes on, and is undeniably catchy. This is the high point because the music just makes me want to fall asleep. The guitars play some interesting melodies and have a few good riffs but to be quite honest the rest are relatively boring and bare bones. Every song has at least one rewarding moments when it comes to the guitars, however many of these moments are short lived for some reason. The band may have been trying to vary their sound and make it more interesting or just had too many ideas that couldn’t come forth into individual tracks. “Drug Lord” for instance has a very Black Sabbath influenced riff, but then is cut short by some very rockish riff that, as I had mentioned above, is completely bare bones. They tend to do this with every song, except “Crashing Foreign Cars” which is the most vicious song on the album which shows what the band is capable of. However they didn’t take this route. The drums aren’t exactly memorable either. The drummer tends to play simplistic beats that focus mainly on the snare, cymbals (the cymbal sound can get annoying mind you), with no double bass. In each song the drums cannot be distinguished from one track to another as they just blend in and add minimal effects to the song. The bass is actually interesting. Now on a release that has some Black Sabbath influence you would expect some hefty bass lines, and they deliver on that. “Throwing Punches” has some great bass lines and on “Speak and Spell” there is even a tiny bass solo. However even the second best part of the album (the bass) has issues. The bass lines don’t differentiate from the guitar riffs that much. You can hear the bass every now and again as it surfaces yet it quickly dives back into the depths of the guitars.
Overall if you have a love for extreme metal and love speed and heaviness or some offshoot of that, don’t check this out because you will be bored out of your mind. However if you like some Hard Rock with some great bass lines, a great vocalist and don’t mind mellow guitar riffs that get repetitious and unforgettable (same goes with the drums) then check this out. “Crashing Foreign Cars” is a great song, but unlike most of the album, so check this one out and forget the album, because if you buy it you will forget it anyway.
In 2004, Helmet reformed after several years but things aren’t quite as good as they were before. Page Hamilton is the only original member still in the band. Chris Traynor, who played guitar on the tour for Aftertaste returns but drummer John Stanier and bassist Henry Bogdan are both absent. Their places are filled by ex-White Zombie/Testament drummer John Tempesta and Anthrax’s bassist Frank Bello (although he doesn’t play on this album).
The main problem here is that the songs lack the catchiness of their earlier work. Many of the songs just aren’t memorable at all. Another problem is Page’s voice which sounds pretty strained at times. Nothing like his old ‘singing’ style. The album’s not a total loss though. Smart is a decent enough opener but the vocals definitely have a negative impact on the song. Crashing Foreign Cars is better and is quite an enjoyable little tune. Throwing Punches has a nice solo and some decent riffs. Last Breath brings the album to a close and is the only song that comes close to quality albums like Betty or Meantime. It’s still not perfect but it’s my favourite song on this album by far.
While it’s nice to see the band back, the material seems much weaker than before. Much of this album was written for a band Page had formed a couple of years before he reformed Helmet called Gandhi. Last Breath shows promise but is not enough to save a very mediocre album. Better luck next time, guys.