A dry and uncompromising release

Six years after Seeing Eye Dog, Helmet’s previous slab of songs, sole original member Page Hamilton and cohorts have released a typically granite hard LP in Dead to the World.
One may jump as they put on the album to find it immediately launch into the scuzzy thud of ‘Life or Death’; Page singing after the first second. We’re reminded however, of Helmet’s typical uncompromising volume and sonic punch and we can hear that they’re still firing on all cylinders.

Compression has been liberally applied to these eleven tracks, maintaining this trademark loudness we grew to love with Betty and Meantime more than two decades ago. In reference to Helmet’s heyday, most critics have agreed that ‘Red Scare’, fourth track on the album, is the most reminiscent of the glory days of ‘Wilma’s Rainbow’ and ‘Milquetoast’, from a time when Helmet first became popular heroes amongst the avant-metal wave and contemporaries like The Jesus Lizard, Melvins, and Quicksand.

Dead to the World’s title track is another notable composition, with its lurching stomp climaxing to an exciting guitar break and then into a tribal loop in the first 30 seconds. After which, Hamilton’s spiky croon sings morbidly above a climaxing pulse of tribal drums until the two minute mark really breaks things back into the ploughing stomp of the first two tracks. This pummelling, rolling, 4/4 rhythm actually gets a bit dull in terms of musical variation so, fortunately, Helmet have carefully employed this relentless groove only when necessary.

The band refreshingly shows innovation and surprising variety on these eleven tracks; even reprising the first song, ‘Life or Death’, as a slower version at the very end of the album’s conservative 37 minutes. Another standout track on this LP is ‘Green Shirt’, which somehow reminded me of Aussie indie-rockers The Drones, due to a softer, semi-pop sound, and a smart quirky chorus, that breaks to an expansive guitar interlude – an example of this album’s variety.

As Hamilton’s strong songwriting and the band’s definite flair for the dramatic meet multiple times on this LP in tracks such as ‘Expect the World’, ‘Die Alone’ and ‘Bad News’, Helmet prove their that age has definitely not mellowed them. Hamilton’s vocals are a strong feature through this album, ranging from strident snarl on ‘Die Alone’ to mild half-crooning on tracks such as ‘Green Shirt’. While not an especially sonically experimental, funky, or accessible listen for newcomers to the band, Dead to the World provides a satisfying new record for true Helmet fans with its stark, post-apocalyptic rock ’n’ roll. Choice to either appreciate the songwriting or simply just get your head banging fix through this LP is up to you.

1.    Life or Death
2.    I ♥ My Guru
3.    Bad News
4.    Red Scare
5.    Dead to the World
6.    Green Shirt
7.    Expect the World
8.    Die Alone
9.    Drunk in the Afternoon
10.    Look Alive
11.    Life Or Death (Slow)