» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Size Matters
Interscope Records

Rating: 7/10 ?

October 1, 2004
The origins of NüMetal didn't start with Staind, Godsmack, or even Nickelback. No, the most unoriginal musical genre to be created to date was actually modeled after one of rock's most under-appreciated torch bearers: Helmet.

While the quartet has been off the radar for several years, music has drastically changed. And for the most part, it has not been for the better. Pretty boy wannabe metalheads filled the Top 20 charts at the dawn of the new millennium just like a plague of locusts that once blackened the sky - both conceived as signs that maybe the world really was coming to an end.

Although I don't knock these musicians' talent or drive, I do call out their lack of creativity and motivation for creating music. NüMetal bands are more about creating a pop image than about writing songs. This type of distortion was one that Helmet never filtered their guitars and basses through. From their start, the New York band was gritty and raw to the point of scaring away radio stations who sought to package the group alongside Nirvana and Soundgarden. Now, after seven years of inactivity, new members have been recruited to surround mainstay creator, Page Hamilton, and craft a new appreciation for the group.

Size Matters - Helmet's fifth studio release - is a reference to the gluttonous lifestyle encapsulated within Western culture. Not only can this way of living be seen through American eating (Supersizing and free refills) and clothing choices ($30 t-shirts and expensive jewelry), it is also evident in the way that bands with the bigger image are those that make it to the forefront, with greater sales and more money being their reward for creative infamy. Hamilton and crew are fighting to alter such forms of consumption and install a greater worth behind progressive thought and inspiration.

Since their beginning in the early 1990s, Helmet has never been about impressing the masses with a gaudy image. However, they have always been about blowing away those that are on their side with a uniquely intense sound.

As previously noted, Hamilton is the only member that remains from the original lineup. New on board are Chris Traynor, who also played guitar on Aftertaste and before that with Orange 9mm; John Tempesta, former drummer for White Zombie and Testament; and Frank Bello of Anthrax to play live bass. Despite the drastic changes, Hamilton still remains at the helm and the characteristic group sound has remained intact.

The experienced lead man continues to pump out growling drop-D tuned riffs as if they were daily bowel movements. With the complement of Traynor's more cutting aggro-punk side, dual guitar lines are thicker than ever and Hamilton is allowed to revert to his metallic, wailing cliché rock solos without the overall sound taking a hit. Tempesta flashes the type of chops on drum kit that made Helmet classics such as "I Know" (from Betty) and "FBLA II" (from Meantime) a mere double bass diddle removed from Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher."

Size Matters seems to come up a little short in certain areas though. The overall sound is a bit too polished and loses some of the raw power edge that previous albums rode to critical success. This slickness also makes the weaker songs forgettable and bland, and a few of the choruses are forced into overextensions. At times, elated melodies contradict the darker pounding force of previously established riffs and sound like unnatural ideas that never fully blossomed.

It is hard to tell if Helmet will ever be completely appreciated for their contribution to music. Regardless, Size Matters is another notch in their belt, and another credit to the legacy that the collective members have created. And evidently, size actually does matter to the band, as the entire album never ceases to turn down the intensity, but at times does not always come through with the quality and progressive thought that's hinted at. Still, the album has its exceptional moments, and for these it's worth checking out.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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