Helmet “Aftertaste”


(18 March 1997, Interscope)

Helmet are one of those deceptively brilliant bands. A cursory listen will leave one thinking this is a simple, caveman rock band with no depth and a modicum of talent. And the caveman description would be somewhat appropriate. They called their third album Betty and opened it with the track “Wilma’s Rainbow.” I can only assume these were references to the most well-known cave women in pre-history.

Most of the songs on Aftertaste are pretty formulaic. Simple, syncopated riff+angry vocals=Helmet. The strange thing is Page Hamilton’s ability to sing in a tone so close to yelling, but still so melodic. It’s the perfect balance of rage and tunefulness. I haven’t heard anyone else combine these elements and produce such a satisfying product.

Opener “Pure” relies on one chugged chord for the main riff and a strummed octave chorus, but it creates a beautiful wall of sound. This is a band that uses negative space better than any other band in existence. The brilliance is not just in the notes they play or don’t play, but in the spaces between those notes.

The most well known cavewomen in pre-history

It’s easy to let an album like this fade into the background. To be honest, most of the songs sound so similar it’s difficult to tell them apart. But every now and again you hear something like the guitar solo of “Driving Nowhere” or the superb noise of “Broadcast Emotion” and it’s like catching a glimpse some mythical beast rising from the murky depths. The bass heavy intro of “Renovation” is hard to ignore as it hearkens back to “Milktoast” from Betty.

After a few listens light finds its way through the cracks in the stone to illuminate cave drawings I missed on the first pass. I’ve been jamming to Betty in my car for the past few days thinking it’s a superior product to this one, but then I hear “Like I Care” for the second time and I’m amazed that I listened to it with anything other than… amazement.

 

I could go on and on about this album, but mostly I just want to- wait, what the hell? Did you catch that? There’s a string of like four songs that clock in at about 2.5 minutes and sound like they’re cut off in the middle. Is that a problem with my Spotify account? Or is is supposed to be like that?

I’m not even sure how to classify Helmet. Hard rock seems most appropriate. They’re a bit too heavy to call alternative, but not quite heavy enough for metal. And even though Hamilton is an accomplished Jazz player with chops to spare I don’t think prog or fusion fits. Wikipedia calls them post-metal, but I’m strongly opposed to defining any type of music by saying it came after some other type.

I imagine if Goldilocks were to find this in the three bears’ record collection she would describe Aftertaste as just right.

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The Best of 2016


Ahhh, it is finally time for my favorite blogging activity of the year: the “best of” list. I’ve come across a few already filled with death metal and/or indie rock that I have never heard, but I hope this list will have a little something for everyone. Then again, I didn’t see anything from my Amazon wishlist the last time I went to FYE so I’m pretty sure I’m out of touch with the times.

Bloody Hammers Lovely Sort of Death – This album popped up on my radar courtesy of Mr. 1537 and managed to beat out Al Jourgenson’s Surgical Meth Machine and Green Day’s Revolution Radio for the low spot on this list. I’m sure those artists will be pretty upset about that.

 

The Descendents  Hypercaffium Spazzium – This was a pretty good record, but it felt a little too of the moment. This album definitely sounds like it was made in 2016 and you can hear a lot of modern influence. For my money, I’d recommend Cool to be You.

Otep Generation Doom I got a little grief for enjoying this one, but I’m a sucker for militant, butch lesbians with anger problems.

Helmet Dead to the World – I managed to catch these guys live twice this year, which is unheard of for me at the ripe old age of 33. But they managed to impress both times (even with their singer being at the ripe old age of 56).

 

David Bowie Blackstar I would have loved to have listened to this one more, but I stayed away from it because of recent problems with depression. Hopefully next year I’ll get to spend a little more time with it.

 

Garbage Strange Little Birds

 

Weezer – The White Album After several lackluster albums Weezer have somehow managed to redeem themselves with the awesome Everything Will Be Alright In The End and now this one.

 

Rachel Bloom – My new favorite Jewess. Is that a racist term?

Local H Hey Killer (2015) This is one I picked up after reading a best of list for last year and it’s remained in constant rotation. This is my favorite track off the album. I was more disappointed that they didn’t play this when I saw them open for Helmet than I was by the omission of “Bound for the Floor.”

 

Leonard Cohen You Want it Darker – I’m not going to lie, when I listened to Popular Problems in 2014 I wasn’t thrilled. I’m not sure why, but something about it didn’t resonate with me. That’s definitely not the case with this album. This would still be in the top spot even if he hadn’t died this year. But it’s as great a swan song as anyone can imagine.

 

The A.N.C. @ The Cleveland Agora


ANC in Cleveland 17/7/201617 July 2016

Agora Theater & Ballroom; Cleveland, OH

Sunless Sky, Two Dead Roses, Garblejunk, Otep, Suicide Machines, Helmet, Green Jelly, Ministry, Next to None

When I heard the Republican National Convention was going to be held in Cleveland, my first thought was that there was going to be an awesome punk rock show going on somewhere in town at the same time.

I was half right. The A.N.C. wan’t a punk show, but it was fucking awesome.

Me with Vermin Supreme

Me with Vermin Supreme

I made it to the Mistake on the Lake a few hours before the show to join a march to shut down Trump and the RNC. It’s both good and bad that this was a peaceful protest. Good because I didn’t get hurt and bad because it doesn’t make for a very good story. The most exciting part was that I got a selfie with presidential candidate Vermin Supreme.

Then we hoofed it from 18th street all the way back to 50th in time to catch the first notes of the evening. I wished we would have stayed a little longer. Sunless Sky were a good band, but not really my thing. They had a sound like an updated Judas Priest.* It was good enough to get my head bobbing and their singer had an awesome set of pipes, but I was hoping for some incendiary political commentary.

Things didn’t really start to heat up until Garblejunk took the stage. Unlike when I saw them at Scio Showcase a few years ago they didn’t sound Garble-y or Junky. I was somewhat disappointed, but their acoustic metal came through the PA crisp and clear. A good sound coupled with good energy made for an enjoyable set. The best part was looking at the crowd and seeing the looks of confusion… followed quickly by smiles.

The Suicide Machines

The Suicide Machines

One of the main reasons I bought the ticket was to see Otep. I saw her perform at Ozzfest in 2004 and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Sadly, her performance Sunday was about the same length as at Ozzfest. They rocked their asses off for the half-hour they had and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I would have loved to have heard more than five songs from them.

While it was an awesome show with a great eclectic mix of artists it would have been nice to have had more time with a few of them. I also didn’t care much for having to bounce back and forth between the theater and the ballroom, but I suppose having both stages going was the only way to fit all the bands into 6 hours. Still, it was a little much.

After Otep I stepped into the smaller room and found myself immediately bored by the Suicide Machines. It was such awful noise that I took a minute to check my Facebook. Then they broke into the catchy “War Profiteering Is Killing Us All” and I realized they were a hardcore band and supposed to be awful noise. From that moment I was hooked. I’m not a big fan of the clean guitars of ska, but in a live setting it is pretty enjoyable. And I think I was the only person in the room to cheer when the singer asked if there were any factory or steelworkers in the audience. It was the kind of political rabble rousing I paid my hard earned money to see.

Helmet

Helmet

Unfortunately, I missed the end of their set in order to get a good spot for Helmet. Helmet are dinosaurs. They started in the 90s and Page Hamilton is only two years younger than Al Jourgenson, which means he was born in the neolithic era when bands had to carve their instruments out of rocks. They’re also dinosaurs in the sense that they produce fucking monstrous sounds. You can say “It’s a shame I didn’t get to see them back in the day,” but I’m not sure how they could have been any better in 1996 than they are in 2016.** Then after they were done I felt like I’d been trampled by a herd of brontosauruses. (This concludes the prehistoric-comparison paragraph of this post.)

I wasn’t very impressed with Green Jelly, but I suppose that is somewhat to be expected. When you spend 30 years touring as a joke band and you only have one hit you’re bound to disappoint a lot of people. I was outside smoking when they did “Three Little Pigs” so I only caught the end. I did catch “Anarchy in Bedrock” but it wasn’t the same. By the time their singer climbed onto a ladder to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” I was bored. I managed to find a chair and waited for Ministry to hit the stage.

Ministry

Ministry

MC Jello Biafra wasn’t quite as cool as I’d hoped for. I liked his political rants; though I don’t agree with everything he said. There wasn’t enough time for him to get his point across and he mainly just introduced the bands. I would have paid just as much money to go to an even that was just him, Al Jourgenson and Otep giving speeches, but I think a few other fans just wanted the music. Surprisingly, there were a few Trump fans in the building too. I wonder if they know they paid money to watch a refugee and a lesbian perform.

Ministry is a perennially awesome band. This was the third time I’ve seen them and though I haven’t cared too much for their last few albums it may have been my favorite performance. I loved their opener “Hail To His Majesty.” It seemed like a new song written just to mock Trump, but it turns out it’s on their most recent album From Beer To Eternity. They played a few songs from Rio Grande Blood, which is my favorite of their recent albums, but things didn’t get totally awesome until they hit the one-two punch of “N.W.O.” and “Just One Fix.” The best thing was that they’ve updated them up a little so it wasn’t the same performance I’ve already seen twice before.

Ministry

Ministry

I was shocked to hear them break into “Thieves” and “Stigmata.” I’ve never heard those songs live. I had to hand my buddy the Otep CD I’d bought so I could hop into the pit for the latter. When they left the stage and the lights didn’t come on I wondered how they could top that, but they did “Psalm 69,” “So What” and “Khyber Pass” as an encore. They wrapped up with DEVO’s “Gates of Steel.”

From there the show deteriorated to the point where it was just a commercial for Surgical Meth Machine, Al Jourgenson’s new project. The giant projector continued to play videos with some dancier music in the background. I was about to head out when I saw Uncle Al and guitarist Sin Quirin pop around the side of the stage. I managed to make my way over and get a handshake from both of them. I’m pretty sure that was the highlight of my night.

For some reason there was another band playing after Ministry, but I didn’t stay to check them out. I had been on my feet for 8 hours and still had a long drive home. I was ready to leave and I even called in sick the next day to get a little extra rest.

It was all worth it.

 

*Before you take this as an insult let me point out that I am a fan of Judas Priest. If I wished to insult you I would have compared you to Iron Maiden, who for some reason I’ve never gotten into.

**I ran into the drummer later on and made a comment about his Local H t-shirt. He told me they’ll be on tour with that band in the fall so they may be featured in another post this year.

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack ‘The Crow’


Platinum Anniversary Album Series

Here’s my latest entry in a series on albums that still rock me 20 years after their release.

The biggest influence on my musical preference after ‘Black Hole Sun’ came from a mix up with a BMG order.

BMG AdYou see children, back in the 90’s magazines would occasionally come with advertisements for music clubs like BMG or Columbia House. The way these clubs worked was that they would send you a bunch of CD’s for a penny (plus Shipping and Handling) in exchange for a commitment from you to buy a few more CD’s at the regular club price over the next few years. I always liked the deal. Plus they would always throw in bonus deals like ‘buy this months featured selection and get 2 more free.’ The only trouble was the way they would automatically send the featured selection and you would have to send it back if you didn’t want it.

Anyway… I digress.

After receiving Mom’s permission I ordered a batch and joined the BMG music club. Because I was such a good boy I ordered mainly ‘Mother Approved’ discs. Stuff that wouldn’t ruffle too many feathers in our mobile home with paper thin walls. I remember ordering The Tractors CD for my brother (He loved their hit “Baby Likes To Rock It Like A Boogie Woogie Choo-Choo Train“) and the self titled Blues Traveler album. Somehow, whether from my sloppy handwriting or a mistake at the shipping department, I received two albums I didn’t order: Megadeth’s Youthanasia and the soundtrack to The Crow. I was going to send them back with a letter asking for the ones I originally ordered, but no one wanted to give me a ride to the post office and Vic Rattlehead clothes pinning those babes up just looked so damn cool.

The-Crow-SoundtrackOriginal Motion Picture Soundtrack The Crow (29 March 1994)

Much like the film and graphic novel it’s based upon, the soundtrack to The Crow is really fucking dark. It begins, appropriately enough, with the sounds of birds (I believe they’re seagulls) In The Cure’s “Burn.” They provide a stellar opening with their echoey guitars and single note leads.

I’ve never heard Machines of Loving Grace anywhere but on this album, but “Golgotha Temple Blues” is one of my favorites. The slinky, sliding bass line propels this song down some strange back alleys better left untrod. But I feel like a better person for exploring them.

Stone Temple Pilot’s “Big Empty” seems a bit out of place here. It’s the only song that was a hit and the only one to have appeared on another album. As such, I think it would be more appropriate to review this track along with the album Purple. which I’m not going to do here.

The cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” by Nine Inch Nails is another favorite. This album really created my interest in industrial music, but it created a skewed view of the genre by giving me songs with great bass lines and screeching guitar riffs instead of computer blips and bloops.

Rage Against the Machine provide their trademarked rap-metal with some great riffs, socially conscious lyrics and… a traditional solo from Tom Morello? It’s weird to think of it, but that dude can really shred.

“Color Me Once” is by far my favorite song on this album. From the quiet single note intro to the wah drenched outro I love every second. My favorite part is the lyrics, which make absolutely no sense to me, and the way they’re sung.

From there the album goes on a downhill slide of B-sides. The only the remaining standout tracks are the dance rock “Slip Slide Melting” by For Love Not Lisa and the alterna-pop “Time Baby III” by Medicine. Other than that the songs are pretty much stock tunes that didn’t fit onto the other bands’ albums.

I’m not even really a big fan of Jane Siberry’s “It Can’t Rain All The Time” which was incorporated into the film as a song Eric Draven’s band plays. Still, the first half is so great that even if side two slouches a bit it’s still a killer album.

the-crow-soundtrack-backFor more Platinum Anniversary Albums:

Part 6: Korn-Korn

Part 5: Marilyn Manson- Portrait of an American Family

Part 4: The Summer Nationals Tour 2014 

Part 3: Hole – Live Through This

Part 2: Soundgarden – Superunknown

Part 1: Weezer – The Blue Album