Helmet, Monochrome

Helmet, Monochrome

Helmet’s sound was distinctive when they released their first record, which was both good and bad. Good because their sound was original, but bad because they sowed the seeds for nĂ¼-metal, progressive metal, and the metal revival in general. Thanks, guys! The band’s sixth album, Monochrome, is a return to its roots — the overall sound is similar to their first couple of records. They also enlisted the producer that worked on those records, as well. Of course, if you’ve heard Helmet, you know what to expect. If you haven’t, they mix metal with dissonant chords, instrumental lines, and different time signatures.

There’s a lot of interesting guitar playing on the record. Band leader Page Hamilton has a dissonant, chromatic quality to his riffs and solos that’s distinctive, and he plays a bunch of them here. “Brand New” has some cool thrashy, odd-metered guitar riffs and a solo that sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughan getting beat up by Steve Vai. “Howl” is a one-minute Derek Bailey-esque guitar instrumental. His solo on “Almost Out of Sight” is almost psychedelic, although the solo itself is Hamilton’s usual cutting style.

A lot of the magic is gone from their first records, however. The original rhythm section was almost dance-y despite its precision and ferocity, and while the new rhythm section is good, it still doesn’t compare. Hamilton’s voice has also deteriorated — it used to be much more flexible and precise. In other types of music, his voice wouldn’t be a problem (if he sang blues, folk or country, it would even be an improvement). But Page Hamilton is playing a young man’s game, and it’s starting to show. And the songs are more straightforward than they were on the old records, which is another disappointment.

If you’ve never heard Helmet before, Monochrome isn’t a bad place to start — there are some decent songs and interesting guitar playing. But if you’re familiar with the band, it just doesn’t match up to their best stuff. Diehard fans (if there are still any out there) will undoubtedly enjoy it. The disc is much better than their previous record, and it may be a sign that Helmet is on an upswing. But that doesn’t make Monochrome any more worthwhile on its own.

(Warcon Records -- 121 W. 27th St., Suite 1001, New York, NY. 10001; http://www.warconrecords.com/; Helmet -- http://helmetmusic.com/)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Thursday, December 14th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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