by Paul Lee
After a three year wait, Helmet has released a new batch of goodies entitled Betty (Interscope) with a cover that even you mother could love. To be sure, you’ll identify Helmet’s distinctive sonic attack in mere milliseconds. Betty continues where Meantime left off and treads some new territory, but not much. It’s a safe progression from Meantime and doesn’t take much in the risk department.
There are some definite hot spots on betty that can crack the plaster on your walls and deafen the cat whilst keeping a good chug. Page Hamilton continues with his sometimes ragged sometimes smooth vocal style while hammering away at chords that may make you thud around violently. Tracks like “Milquetoast” (also on the Crow soundtrack) and “Tic Tac Rollo ” are powerful enough to energize a city block (or destroy it). Hamilton actually incorporates some non-distorted, progressive guitarwork and has a jazz intro. (He studied jazz guitar for a while before the dawn of Helmet.)
The problem with Betty is that while it’s good, it’s not an inspired work and certainly not a masterpiece of rage and power like fellow state-of-the-art bashers Prong and Pantera have put out recently. It just doesn’t seem as though Hamilton and co. are truly the enraged rockers that roared on Meantime. Helmet seems to have furthered some good formulas but taken away from the fire that burned in them before. Starting with “Wilma’s” doesn’t really inspire me to let loose and smash through my apartment wall.
Betty is a pretty good album, but in a world where there’s a saturation of hard music and other bands with great albums vying for your buck, Helmet’s latest doesn’t crack skulls or pavement the way Meantime did. It just seems as if they could’ve come up with a more intense release, but maybe their quick rise in popularity took some of the passion out of them.