Helmet are a legacy band, who at over 30 years into their career– albeit with an early 2000’s hiatus– are still very much thought of as a specific, early mid-nineties era band when alternative rock was king. And for good reason, as they are a band who certainly had a huge influence with early Interscope Records such as Meantime (1992) and Betty (1994), providing a sludgy down-tuned version of the more commercial alternative styles of the time.
It is clear that Helmet still very much is as Helmet does with album number nine, Left (earMusic/Absolute). It transports the listener back to a bygone time with a collection of songs that stand true to their roots while drawing influence from other bands of the era.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist Page Hamilton lays down vocals with an uplifting melody over his trademark drop D riffing on album opener “Holiday” before he switches his sound into a Mike Patton of Faith No More style. It’s a pure slice of post-grunge with some nice guitar work throughout.
On “Gun Fluf”, a rolling percussive intro is joined by stabbing guitars with Hamilton channelling a Billy Corgan-esque aura with his voice. The Smashing Pumpkins vibes are absolutely prevalent on songs such as “Make Up” and the soulful acoustic strumming of “Tell Me Again”, with its lush string arrangement and blues influenced slide-guitar.
“NYC Tough Guy” and “Powder Puff” are both absolutely going to find favour with fans of Stone Temple Pilots, but Helmet still ventures into other styles. On “Big Shot”, Hamilton’s vocals are heavier, as they channel that sludgy side of their sound with a thoroughly infectious groove before they deliver something a whole lot quirkier on “Bombastic”.
“Dislocated” is another heavy one with crunching guitars dropping in and out of the verse before Helmet delivers a heavily distorted blues sound in the chorus, while “Reprise” visits the opposite of the spectrum to offer a short atmospheric interval with jangly guitars and a flavour of the far east. The record closes out with an instrumental of improvised fusion-jazz vibes on “Resolution”.
While there is absolutely no ripping up of the rulebook here from Helmet, Left is a solid addition to their catalogue and will absolutely appeal to anyone who fancies stepping back in a time machine for a nostalgic dip into that nineties sound.
Buy the album here:
7 / 10