Sound: Anybody remembers metal band Helmet that got the pick of popularity in mid-'90s (think their most successful record Meantime)? Well, anyway... Their new release is a good reason to remember what they used to be and compare to what they are now. Monochrome, being Helmet's second album after the reunion 2 years ago, was released July 2006 on Warcon records. It turned out to be harder than hard and the band claims they're returning to their root with the new record.
Forefathers of the post-hardcore/punk genre, as Helmet call themselves, start the album very rough -- with heavy-metal groove of Swallowing Everything. Working on the album, Page called Wharton Tiers (the band's first two records -- Strap It On and Meantime) for help -- to return to the organic sound the band is known for. Page Hamilton is in charge of all guitars on the album. Beefy guitar chords are the main subject here -- they are layered even upon vocals, showcasing the band's stronger side. Strangely a lot of times it seems like instruments' lines just don't come together, like some of them have been borrowed from one track and some -- from another. And then there're those guitar solos. Completely out of place... Guitars by Page Hamilton are for sure creative and are showcasing guitarist's great skills, but they were more likely recorded without a specific song and then stuck in different places on different tracks. Or at least he didn't hear the music he was laying his solos upon. Howl sounds pretty much like Hamilton is testing his guitar-effect machine and Unlisted -- like it suddenly died. These two just pollute the album as it's nothing but unpleasant guitar noise.
There are a few standouts on the disk (like the first single Gone, Goodbye), while everything else is pretty mediocre and at times even ridiculous. // 6
Lyrics: Sad to say, but a lot of times the singing is the worst part of music. Like Money Shot -- it's a wonderful ballad, but completely spoiled by vocals. Listening to Hamilton's voice you imagine a really old rocker with a huge gray beard, spitting in the mic. His voice, once strong and growling, is now creaky. The overtone of his vocals sounds right for a scary metal band, but the singing is just not powerful enough. What freaks me out is chorals on Bury Me -- very annoying and dull for a metal record. Lyrics at their most ridiculous are Now I need! Somebody! Just like you! Somebody! I can talk to! Yes, it's a lonely planet we live on... Everything else a little bit more tolerable. // 5
Overall Impression: Following the wave of '90s bands ten years have passed reunions, Helmet didn't miss their chance to compete with young modern bands as, according to Hamilton there's not a lot of rock out there that's inspiring. They are even spending the whole summer in Vans Warped Tour in support of Monochrome. With the new members -- drummer Mike Jost and bassist Jeremy Chatelain -- the founders vocalist/guitarist Page Hamilton and guitarist Chris Traynor are hoping for a new fresh burst of energy within their band.
It's a proven formula -- pop up after a long hiatus, make a new record sound just like the most successful one and count on old fans' nostalgia. The matter of point is -- do they have anything fresh to bring to the table? If not, the first album would turn out to be the last one and even getting back to the roots wouldn't help here.
With all that is said and this recent album Monochrome it's still a good question if the comeback was worth it. // 6
- Kosh (c) 2006