Photo Gallery: Skinny Hobos at Valhalla, Wellington

Gallery

Skinny Hobos

w/ Brendon Thomas & The Vibes, Nation

Friday 2 June 2017

Valhalla, Wellington

Last night was wild haze. I went to the show at Valhalla … which was awesome… and I woke up feeling quite lost and unwell in a van in Marton … which was not so awesome. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.

I spent the rest of today hitching and busing back to Wellington. Here are some snaps I took at the gig.

Brendon Thomas & The Vibes

Brendon Thomas & The Vibes Valhalla Wellington Brendon Thomas & The Vibes Valhalla Wellington

Skinny Hobos

Skinny Hobos Valhalla Wellington

Words and photos by Joseph James

Ten Years On: Discovering Biffy Clyro’s breakthrough album Puzzle

Biffy Clyro Puzzle Cover Art
Standard

Ten Years On: Biffy Clyro – Puzzle

Isolated on the other end of the planet

The internet existed ten years ago, but it was a completely different animal.  My family still had a dial-up connection, so good luck trying to load a video. Not that there were many music videos on YouTube anyway. A few of my slightly older mates tell me about how they left the computer running all night just trying to load a new four-minute Blink 182 video when it was released.

Can you remember the ghastly screeching sound that the computer made when making a connection on dial-up? I can certainly remember my dad shouting at me to disconnect when he wanted to make a phone call. And to think that today we use our phones to connect to the internet!

Biffy Clyro Luke Gilford

Biffy Clyro. Image: Luke Gilford

Youtube was a fledgling, Spotify and other such streaming sites were the speculative talk of some sci-fi future. Facebook existed, but didn’t become popular within my peer group until around 2009. We were all on Bebo [remember that???], with some of the more alty scene kids also having a Myspace account. Nobody really bothered with Facebook messenger anyway, because everyone used MSN.

Which gives you some rough context to why I was my best friend’s house trying to listen to a song called “Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies” using a program called Limewire. I’d read about this Scottish band called Biffy Clyro who had just released an album called Puzzle. They were on the front cover of Rock Sound magazine and they sounded interesting, so I was trying to find some of their music to listen to.

Like I said, my family had a dial-up connection, so no point trying to find anything online at home. Streaming sites didn’t exist and sites like Youtube offered little music content. The record stores in my small hometown of Nelson weren’t going to import music by an unheard of [ha!] band like Biffy Clyro unless I was willing to shell out at least $40 – almost as much as I earned in a week working part-time at a supermarket. So I decided to use Tom’s computer to try to listen to this band.

Limewire was notoriously bad for containing poor quality content. Viruses were abundant and most tracks were mislabeled and poorly spelled. So when I started listening to this song that I’d tried to download – “Living Is A Problem…” – it was of little surprise that the track sounded corrupted. I listened to the jarring, stabbing sounds at random intervals for about a minute before I stopped listening and gave up. There’s no way that this file was the single I had read about!

[This video clip cuts roughly 90 seconds off the album version of the song]

Hearing more material

It was a few months later that I bought a Kerrang! Magazine which featured a best of 2007 sampler. That CD featured a Biffy song called “A Whole Child Ago”.  It had a crazy riff that sounded like a polyphonic ringtone [yes, this was 2007 remember!], weird drumming that had a looping pattern [or did it?] and nonsensical lyrics. And I loved it!

This track – along with “Get Fucked Stud”, from the Rock Sound sampler that I’d got when I first read about Biffy – made me want to track down this elusive Puzzle album again.

Tom pulled through for me. A true best friend, he had heard me go on and on about wanting to listen to that album so somehow managed to buy a copy of Puzzle on CD for my birthday.

I remember being so excited. I finally had it! I put it into my crappy discman that was hooked up to criminally bad speakers [so tinny they should have come with a gram of bud!] and sat down to listen to the album. It had a bright orange sticker on the cover with a quote from NME: “This album will change your life!” Yeah… right… I doubted the claim, but still had high expectations.

The first track was “Living Is A Problem…”. Wait… What the hell? The same stabbing sounds for almost two minutes! So that file from Limewire wasn’t corrupted? And this was a single???

Upon closer listen, I figured that the song showcased some incredible musicianship. Certainly not easy to listen to, but bloody impressive that the three musicians could play something with such odd timing and play as a tight unit. The song got really aggressive, but oddly enough had choral sections and string arrangements juxtaposed again the heavy rocking.

Listening through the rest of the album was an interesting ride. It was weird, that’s for sure. Clearly they were on drugs when they came up with most of the lyrics. And there are so many quirky elements and odd time signatures, which were actually tame compared to their previous three albums – not that I knew it at the time.

I think it is impossible to listen to the infuriatingly catchy “Who’s Got A Match?” and stay still. The triplet groove compels the listener to nod their head, tap their foot… something!

In fact, Biffy may well lay claim to my first exposure to math elements in rock. It’s either them or Tool. They took my listening experiences beyond the standard 4/4 or 6/8 time signatures that most songs we listen to are written in. “Now I’m Everyone” contains a 5/4 passage that used to annoy me so much, but I now love it.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the lyrics for most of this album. Plenty are simply nonsense. However, there is a coherent theme of mourning throughout. Simon’s mother had passed away shortly before the album was written, and glimpses into his grieving can be found throughout. I couldn’t tell you why a man is on the corner selling dozens of bones, but when Simon cries “Eleanor, I would do anything for another minute with you” the message to his late mother is clear.

And, just like that, I became a Biffy Clyro fanatic. I started trying to push it on all my mates, spreading the good word of the Biff. It became a bit of a running joke among my mates – “yeah, yeah, Joseph. We know – another weird rock band. Stop going on about it would ya?” Took a photo of the Puzzle album cover with my phone to use as the phone wallpaper, but after a while switched it for something else after a few too many people had asked me why I had the photo of a naked man on my phone.

I did manage to convert a few mates. I was in a band with my best friend Tom [who had gifted me the CD] and another friend Harry, and we chose to add “A Whole Child Ago” to our repertoire, alongside other obligatory teenage covers band numbers: Nirvana, Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, System Of A Down, Incubus, Rage Against The Machine etc… I actually sat down to try to drum along to the track a few days ago and realised that I never did figure out how to play it properly, and just managed to come up with something similar that seemed to work. It’s a tricky linear beat that swaps between the hi-hat, snare and kick, and changes ever so slightly every few bars. I think I was more suited to playing something more simple and aggressive like Nirvana’s “Breed”.

It’s crazy that no-one had heard of Biffy in New Zealand. At the time, the band was busy headlining major festivals and touring with the biggest rock bands over in the UK. I guess that shows how important radio play was for entering the public consciousness, back in the days before music was so easy to find online.

I’ve since dug through the band’s catalogue, and own all of their albums and on CD or vinyl (I have most in both formats, because I’m a loser fanboy) as well as a few b-sides collections. I saw Biffy the one time they played in New Zealand and it was everything that I’d hoped for and more. I used that review to launch this music blog (and probably got a meagre 10 views – whoo!).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that NME was right. On that little orange sticker, stuck to the front on the album near the parent advisory box, they told me that the album would change my life.

It did.

Mon the Biff!

Joseph James

Head Like A Hole at Valhalla – 25th Anniversary Tour

Head Like A Hole Valhalla Wellington Poster 25th Anniversary Tour
Standard

Head Like A Hole playing the album 13

w/ Hiboux

Saturday 20 May 2017

Valhalla, Wellington

A friend of mine has a story from when his band opened for Head Like A Hole many years ago. During HLAH’s set a naked man run onstage and stage dived off. He got consumed by the mosh pit, only to emerge from the midst of it right and the end of the night when the crowd had dispersed.

Imagine being part of that mosh pit. It’s hot. You’re enjoying the music and bouncing between other sweaty bodies. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an undressed man with flailing penis appears out of nowhere, blocking out the light and landing square on top of you.

My friend is now a priest, and although it isn’t very priestly to condone tales of rock n roll like this, he loves sharing it. He grins from ear to ear as he tells his story, giggling about wild times.

Of course Head Like A Hole have been known to perform naked and caked with mud in the past as well. Tonight was my first time seeing the band, and they were performing their début album 13 (released in 1992 – the year I was born!). All bets were off, and I braced myself for some madness.

Hiboux opening for Head Like A Hole at ValhallaHiboux

I’ve been following the Instagram account of local post-rock lads Hiboux, and it is clear that they’ve worked hard recently. With a début album now under their belts, the band have filmed videos, written more music, and are planning an upcoming trans-Tasman tour. They sounded great when I saw them open for Alcest last month, and tonight was just as great.

The lighting guy was having fun trying to destroy my photos, employing far too much red light and working the for machine overtime – two ingredients that serve to foil my camera’s ability. I had fun though, climbing up on the side of a speaker rig to find interesting angles.

If you haven’t heard Hiboux yet, I recommend checking them out. Their hypnotic instrumental tunes cast a spell over Valhalla. It was perhaps a bit sedate at first considering that they were opening for legendary wild men, but later on the set the distortion pedals came to the foray and the headbanging material unleashed. Although their music is well-crafted and exact, fantastic energy brims beneath, making the explosive sections of the songs all the more dynamic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Head Like A Hole Valhalla WellingtonHead Like A Hole

Head Like A Hole disbanded when I was eight, meaning that although I’m know of them, they have never been at the forefront of music I listen to. They’ve had their share of play on The Rock radio station, and one of Dad’s friends used to bring HLAH CDs to our family BBQs [related story], so I am familiar with a few hits, but couldn’t say I know any of their albums well. Knowing that they had planned on playing début album 13 on this tour, I’ve listened to it leading up to the show.

13 is snotty punk music: fast, aggressive and fun. It captures the band at the start of their career – slightly naïve, yet with obvious potential. The recordings sound dated –  funky alt-rock Faith No More worship with bright popping drums and wiry guitars – but despite this the album remains a fan favourite.

By comparison, tonight when the band played the 25 year-old songs they sounded full and punchy. Not only did they sound great, but they had brilliant presence. We didn’t see the naked mud men of yesteryear, but the wildness was still evident.

Head Like A Hole Valhalla Wellington

Like their contemporaries Shihad, they’ve taken rock music, added an alternative edge, and perfected the delivery. Frontman Booga Beezley – dressed in black leather and hair dripping with sweat – swung his mic stand around and told self-deprecating stories.

“This song [Penut] was written after a night of dangerous drinking.” He revealed, half proud of himself, half cautioning us. “I woke up at Nigel’s mum’s house, having shit myself. Shit was everywhere: on the walls, on the toilet. There was shit on me. Nights like that define who you are as a person, which is how we manage to write such great songs.”

Crowd Surfing at Head Like A Hole

Crowd Surfing at Head Like A Hole

Valhalla was as full as I’ve seen it in a year or two, sold out and filled with aging rock fans wanting that taste of their teenage years. The pit up the front was in full swing and a handful of punters tried their hands at stage diving throughout the night – with varying degrees of success.

“We’ve come to that point in the night where we are going to play some radio friendly pop hits”Head Like A Hole Wellington Set List Beezly laughed when the band approached the second half of the set, “who wants to hear some Ed Sheeran?”

Despite never having listened to Head Like A Hole much, I was pleased to learn that I actually knew many of the songs from the second half of the set. “A Crying Shame” was great fun, with a signature trumpet hook played by the woman who had given me my wristband at the start of the night. “Hootenanny” earned cries of excitement, with everyone chanting along to the chorus. A cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” brought the mood down, before the band switched it up a gear to turn it into a rowdy frenzy.

The band members live distributed throughout the North Island these days, but a Wellington show will always be a homecoming gig. I’m glad that I finally managed to see Head Like A Hole live, but I bet that the old fans were even happier than me.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review and Gallery: Living Colour at the Auckland Powerstation

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland
Standard

Living Colour 30th Anniversary Tour

w/ Heavy Metal Ninjas

Powerstation, Auckland

Thursday 11 May 2017

 Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

Money or music?

I faced a difficult decision a few years ago

I was a year into my university studies and hadn’t been able to find much work over the Summer break. I was in the process of opening up a student account at the bank for when I’d need the interest-free overdraft for the upcoming year. I had to take 11 weeks off work that year to do the teacher placements as part of my studies and I couldn’t see any way that I could afford to do that.

So of course AJ Maddah announced the lineup for that years Soundwave festival.

It wasn’t the big names that drew me in. Sure, I’d like to see them, but I didn’t see them as major drawcards. It was some of the lesser known bands that I reeeallly wanted to see. You know, the bands written in tiny writing at the bottom of the poster that you have to squint to read. Like my favourite band: Scottish trio Biffy Clyro. Or Arizona act Jimmy Eat World. Or funk rock titans Living Colour.

There was no way I could afford to attend Soundwave, but there were a few sideshows that could have been viable options.I had friends I could stay with in Melbourne. Biffy Clyro played at The Corner Hotel, where I’d seen hardcore legends Terror play a few years beforehand. Living Colour were to open for Alter Bridge at The Forum. Dipping into the $1000 course related costs I was entitled to became veeeeery tempting.

Financial reason won in the end. Sad face emoji. No trip to Melbourne, no seeing awesome bands.

Buuuuut, I have been fortunate enough to see those three bands since. All at the Auckland Powerstation. And tonight, Living Colour proved that they were worth the wait.


Heavy Metal Ninjas opening for Living Colour

Heavy Metal Ninjas

Local quartet Heavy Metal Ninjas came onstage dressed very much like Kora, which isn’t too surprising seeing as the two bands share members. As well as rocking the samurai garb, the two guitarists and bass player all had half face masks that gave off a Kylo Ren vibe. Maybe the drummer didn’t get the memo regarding dress code, choosing to opt for a bogan Jesus look instead.

Their music was sharp technical metal, full of double kick drums, guitar noodling and djenty riffs. They took Steve Vai worship to the next level. I counted 22 strings between the three masked men. As for the drums… well you can never really have enough cymbals can you?

The hard-hitting sci-fi take on instrumental metal delivered blow after pummeling blow, strengthened by the regular inclusion of strong sub bass that made me want to vomit. I’ll give them points for making an impact, and the crowd lapped it up.

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

Living Colour

Living Colour last visited our shores in 1993. A few people in the audience were rocking t shirts from that tour tonight. I, however, was merely an infant at the time, being born in 1992.

Not that this made a difference. Being one of the younger people in attendance made me feel as if I was in on a special secret.

The band weren’t scared to add a handful of covers to their set; they both opened and closed with a cover, as well as interspersing them throughout the night. Their influences range far and wide: Robert Johnson, Notorious BIG, Junior Murvin, Elvis, The Clash. Both familiar yet new, the songs all worked seamlessly into the set.

Living Colour are well seasoned pros. Their abilities are phenomenal. I don’t say this lightly. They. Can. Play.

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

The way Corey Glover sung, you wouldn’t know that he has worked those vocal cords hard for over 30 years. Not only is his singing great, but he has such range. He can bark during the thrash numbers. He can scream – you know, rock star style – like in “Hey Jude”. He has speed. I swear that even though I was watching his lips move, my brain couldn’t keep up with how fast he was spitting out words in some songs. And of course, he can do sexy soulful. He wore a paint splattered denim suit with gingham shirt, tie and a feathered hat.

Doug Wimbish was the centre of attention, playing up for the cameras. He may be the newbie in the band, but you’d never pick it. His bass solo was one of the highlights of the night. He played a tune – great in its own right. Then using a looping pedal, he added upon the tune, jamming with himself. His joy was openly visible as he expanded the sound during his solo. He employed various pedals to change his tone – deep, rich bass, higher guitar tones, alien sounds. And if the music wasn’t enough, he started playing with his mouth too. It was a wonder to listen to as he masterfully played his instrument.

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

Drummer Will Calhoun was just as mesmerising. His two kick drums sported Australian art. The first with a picture of Ayers Rock and a kangaroo, and the second depicting the Aboriginal flag (which looked like a pokéball when cropped into a circle). Situated around him were his many signature drums, cymbals, electronic pads and a large corrugated Hammerax sheet cymbal.

The way he approaches his playing is so outside-the-square that I doubt I’ll ever see another drum solo quite like his. First of all, he’s lightning fast. Living Colour have their thrash metal moments, but I didn’t realise how frenetic a lot of the rest of their works are. And then there’s his experimental side. He discussed it with me when I interviewed him a few weeks back. He takes electric drums and messes with the sound just as a guitarist uses pedals and effects to affect their tone. And on top of all this talent and creativity, he is highly educated in the ways of drumming from cultures worldwide. For me, his drum solo was worth the price of admission alone.

Living Colour Powerstation AucklandWhich leaves Vernon on guitar. The unsung hero. He played the joker, cracking funnies to wind up Corey. He bore the blame when the band made a few mistakes. He referred to himself as the nerd in a band of sexy people. But he is the man responsible for forming Living Colour. And his guitar work is damn amazing. Humbleness is a virtue, but Vernon Reid is more than deserving of an ego.

When you consider the talent, the showmanship, the vibrancy of each of these four men, and realise that Living Colour is more than the sum of its parts, you come to understand that this show is one of those truly amazing nights that surpassed even the wildest expectations. After 30 years, you’d expect them to know how to own a stage. Which they did. The jokes and banter was funny. The music was immersive and compelling. The musicians were genuine. And just to prove it, they all came and met with the fans to take photos and sign merch after the show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Living Colour links:

Website: http://www.livingcolour.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LivingColour/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LivingColour

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBp5wftf7WswgIko42GUfWQ

 

All words and photos by Joseph James

The Family of Strangers Tour gallery – His Master’s Voice & Armed In Advance

The Family Of Strangers Tour
Standard

The Family of Strangers Tour

These Four Walls, Armed In Advance, His Master’s Voice Blue Ruin 

Valhalla, Wellington
Saturday 29 April 2017

His Master’s Voice – The Devil’s Blues

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, WellingtonHis Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

Armed In Advance

Armed In Advance. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington Armed In Advance. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington Armed In Advance. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington Armed In Advance. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington Armed In Advance. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington Armed In Advance. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington Armed In Advance. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

All photos by Joseph James

 

Album Review: Blueneck – The Outpost

Blueneck The Outpost Album Cover
Standard

I fell in love with Blueneck as soon as I heard them. I heard their song “Man Of Lies” when I was listening through the mammoth Post Engineering compilation that came out last year. That was it – I was hooked. I looked up Blueneck’s Bandcamp page and purchased their catalogue.

The Outpost (Denovali Records) is Blueneck’s sixth studio album, and latest since 2014’s King Nine. It is also well worth a listen.

The Outpost was first planned as a side-project from singer-songwriter Duncan Attwood and guitarist
Rich Sadler, before it became truely realised as a full Blueneck release. How did the two of them come up with such an expansive sound? Herein lies some of the wonders of digital instruments. And although I usually prefer “real” instruments above their electronic counterparts, I must admit that Blueneck do a stellar job. Everything works together in cohesion to complement each part that makes up the ambient soundscape.

I’d appreciate slightly less autotuning, but Duncan Attwood’s vocals are standout and enhance the tender ballads dramatically.  He borders on whispering at times, just loud enough for you to hear the hurt. His melancholy is almost tangible in “Hypnos”.

Image: Stewart Black Photography

Image: Stewart Black Photography

Opening track “From Beyond” features a drum track that reminds me of Phil Collins’ signature hit “In The Air Tonight”. Like in Collins’ song, the drum track helps to build suspense as we escalate into a climax. The song slowly transforms into a synthetic, industrial feeling track, with autotuned vocals, heavy reverb and a tortured screaming crescendo. This well-crafted masterpiece sets the tone for the album beautifully.

Next up is lead single “Ghosts”. It takes me back to when I first heard “Man Of Lies” and reminds me of why I first fell in love with Blueneck. Like “From Beyond”, this track just gets better as it progresses. The catchy chanted bridge leads into a gorgeous high-pitched guitar riff, before dynamically reverting back to the sparse piano mantra that first tied the song together.

An underlying tension boils beneath many of these tracks, coated with an ethereal glossy veneer. I love how Blueneck walk the line so well – balancing the calm solemnity with the awesome distorted moments. One great example is the during the spacious bridge in “The White Ship” that leaves us hanging. It’s so empty, but full of promise, because you know that this ambient segment is going to end with something huge.

We hear everything you’d expect to hear from most major post-rock releases: swirling riffs, big swells, crashing crescendos. There’s great guitar playing and brilliant drumming, as well as the haunting vocals which are rare to find within this genre. But somehow this album seems to pack more than the sum of its parts. Something is immediately enticing and accessible, despite the depressing nature of the lyrics, and the longer playtimes of half the tracks.

The Outpost is an incredibly moody album. There is such stunning beauty in the music, topped with Attwood’s mournful vocals. If you like eerie post-rock drawing on electronica and saturated in feeling then I suggest you give Blueneck a listen.


The Outpost is out via Denovali Records on 25 November

Links:

Bandcamp

Facebook

Twitter

Denovali Records

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Helmet – Dead To The World

Helmet Dead to the world review album cover
Standard

 

Starting point: Life or Death or Bad News
Personal Highlight: Look Alive

 

Like any Australian who watched Rage after coming home from a night out or waking up early on a weekend – I’m aware of Helmet.

They are the band with a pink guitar, the shorts wearing guys with a video that kept popping up every time a heavier act got to program the songs for the show.

Armed with lots of stock footage of industrial machines, their classic 1990’s video for the track Unsung has become etched into my mind as a 3am Saturday or Sunday morning nostalgia trip.
The fact that this song aired so regularly obviously meant that they were an influential band to many, yet I never really had exposure to them beyond the Unsung video.

The years pass from my late teens, the 3am Rage viewing sessions become less frequent. Adulthood sneaks in and so do responsibilities.

Playing in bands comes and goes and every now and then you jam with a musician who plays two bars of a Helmet song and is clearly distraught that you hadn’t picked it up.
“Maybe he didn’t hear properly” they think to themselves, I’ll play it again and maybe sing a few words”.
My blank stare continues.
The cycle repeats, they play it again and this time throw in a bit of chorus.
“Surely he must know the chorus”
Nothing. I am clearly an idiot, clearly the four year age gap between myself and those who seem to be the Helmet crowd is enough.
“Dude, it’s Helmet!” they exclaim.
“Oh, yeah pink guitar, Unsung…. From Rage!”
“How can you not know Helmet” they say with a thinly veiled look of disgust like I’ve kicked their cat.
Clearly I am not true metal. Funnily enough the other bands where this situation happens to me all the time are Nirvana and the Deftones.

If I were to play them a Black Sabbath riff that isn’t Iron Man, Paranoid or War Pigs I’d probably get the same blank stares and pull my best cat kicker face right back at them. It’s part of an attitude that I hope I’m weaning myself off, the close minded aspects that come with playing to a genre of music rather than making music that you like, no matter the genre.
Back on track. . .ear

Last year, mid Reuben binge I found myself drawn to the line in Return of the Jedi (The Reuben song, not Star Wars movie), a brutally honest narrative on the prospect of being an independent musician in the Internet age.

‘Guitarist and Songwriter’,
That’s what I thought I was,
I never had no dreams of being a waiter,
But these here Helmet rip-offs,
They don’t but my lunch,
So I will get a real job in the office.

OK, so there they are again. Helmet keep popping up.

Another band who I respect and adore mentioning Helmet, this time immortalised in their lyrics, not just in an interview.

I shall have to investigate Helmet and see what all the fuss is about. Thankfully for me, Helmet have a new album coming out, so here goes.

It turns out the reason I’ve not heard much from Helmet lately is that they’ve not released an album in six years. Dead to the World is the 8th full length release from Helmet and their second in the last 10 years.

From the first 30 seconds of Dead to the World all of the elements are there. There is no extended instrumental opening or theatrics, the first verse has started in the first five seconds.

The vocals are double tracked and dirty, the bass and drums are driving the song forward relentlessly. From the get go the attitude is there, this is rock music full of the counter-culture staples that think of when you think of the genre. The rebellious, angry at everything and everyone rock music.

“Catch phrases, punchlines, guns, bluster, ammo, incivility, impatience, murder. You, me, us, them, life, liberty and the pursuit of property.” – Page Hamilton, Helmet front man.

It reads like a George Carlin monologue. The intent is clearly there, the attitude is there. Do the songs match up to the intent?

Bad News features some harmonies that I can’t help but subconsciously link to the Beatles. There is songwriting talent on display here.

Does it sound like a new album? Not necessarily, it could have easily been released in the 1990’s aside from the mastering differences.

For me it becomes a great what if game, I think that I would like this album more if it had more of a modern production sound, but would doing that make it not sound like Helmet?

The songs are near as makes no difference four minutes or shorter, so nothing overstays the welcome. Look Alive near the end of the album provides a beautiful slow contrast compared to the rest of the album, its inclusion makes the album feel more whole.

People new to Helmet might find some songs on the album that please, particularly fans of  90’s rock (think Jon Bush era-Anthrax). Using the people I know who love the band, Helmet fans will buy this album either way.


This review was originally posted by Murray Stace at his site Relative Silence