While bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden experienced lots of popularity during the early '90s as part of the grunge movement, Helmet found their own niche with their sharp metallic guitar riffs and odd time signatures. After a seven year hiatus, Page Hamilton reconstituted Helmet releasing Size Matters in 2004, Monochrome in 2006, and their latest release, Seeing Eye Dog, in 2010.
Flashing back to 1992, the opening storm of noise during "Role Model" didn't sound dated with its crushing detuned riffs and thunderous drums. Hamilton was armed with his trademark pink ESP Horizon guitar methodically dispensing bursts of noise that were doubled by rhythm guitarist Dan Beeman. A new song "So Long" provided the perfect transition as it doesn't stray far from the signature Helmet sound.
Helmet strategically mixed old and new songs to keep a consistent flow to their set while keeping the audience engaged. The open ringing chords of "Welcome To Algiers" reverberated throughout the Galaxy theater before hitting the chugging chorus as Kyle Stevenson feverishly pounded away on the drums. "Ironhead" was definitely a crowd favorite as a few people started a pit behind me.
"In Person" was another new tune that sounded just as vicious as any of their older material finding Hamilton alternating between singing and growling. Hamilton went berserk for the ending of "Tic" by scraping the metallic springs inside his guitar creating some ear piercing feedback. The video cameras came out in masses to record their arguably biggest tune "Unsung."
Hamilton warned that even though "Seeing Eye Dog" was written in a 7/4 time signature, it still "grooves." A furious rendition of "Wilma's Rainbow" and the sliding riff of "Milquetoast" closed their main set. Helmet returned for an encore with "Driving Nowhere Fast" and "In The Meantime" which instigated another pit. After thanking the crowd, the dissonant shrieks of "Pure" still has my ears ringing. Hamilton and the band graciously stayed on the stage to sign autographs and meet the fans, which is something you don't see often.
Cheva opened the evening with their melodic thrash metal. Killing California reminded me of a metallic tinged Black Flag. Bison B.C. definitely had heads banging with their sludgy riffs and huge sounding drums.
Personal Bias: One of my photos of Page Hamilton was used in the ESP Guitar catalog.
Crowd: A metal crowd mixed with the usual Galaxy theater patrons.
Overheard in the Crowd: Tons of song requests from enthusiastic fans that were ultimately denied since there was a printed setlist on stage. Nice try folks.
Random Notebook Dump: I have seen almost every incarnation of Helmet and this version is extremely tight.
"Exactly What You Wanted"
"Welcome to Algiers"
"See You Dead"
"It's Easy To Get Bored"
"Seeing Eye Dog"
"Driving Nowhere Fast"
"In The Meantime"