THE CORPORATE LINE: Forefathers of the post-hardcore/punk genre, Helmet return with MONOCHROME, marking their first release on Warcon Records, one of the leading post-hardcore/punk labels in the industry today. The Helmet sound sparked a new brand of metal, crossing all traditional music boundaries, paving the way for bands like Chevelle, Deftones, Killswitch Engage, Norma Jean and Silverchair, among many others.
THE REVIEW: I’ll try to be as eloquent as possible, but it’s been such an annoying task to sit through this album that the very best I can say about the experience is that “It blows.” Pardon my sinking to a fairly trite colloquialism, but this album is so torturous that I’m actually being generous.
Helmet may have been a little different when the band first hit the scene during the early ’90s, when pop metal was still mainstream, but its tired and blasé, heavy-for-the-sake-of-heaviness approach hasn’t worn nearly as well over the years. In reality, Helmet was really just riding the new wave of grunge that was beginning to take hold, and was successful in co-opting the post-hardcore sounds that were rampant in the clubs of NYC. Having been in the right place at the right time, they fell right in with the new guard. But after a couple more releases, things began to go down hill, and that’s precisely where we are with this new release—at the very bottom of the now tired, nu-metal heap.
Opening with the absolutely horrendous “Swallowing Everything.” Founding member Page Hamilton’s shrieking vocals—which sound like a piss-poor Sabbath-era Ozzy imitation—are so utterly ridiculous and forced that it’s hard to take any of the subsequent numbers seriously. From there, the album is full of chunky guitar blasts (no really great riffs to speak of), and more of Hamilton’s angsty vocal tirades, which I guess are an attempt to sound current. The lengthy “Almost Out Of Sight” is another complete whiney downer, and goes on for way, way too long. And the ignominious, screaming lyrics of “Brand New” sound insane, but not in a cool, psychotic-metal kind of way…more like a desperate and tired attempt at being “tough,” I guess.
FRANKLY: If there’s a positive aspect to Monchrome, the guitar tones are thick and menacing, but that’s not nearly enough to sustain any semblance of quality. I’ll stick with my AC/DC records, where the riffs are potent but the songs still rule.
+ Jim Kaz