Within the past six months, I've had two separate conversations that resulted in the other parties being surprised when I've emphatically stated that Helmet has released four quite nice albums since Aftertaste in 1997. I'm not sure if these one-time fans were simply unaware, or had incorrectly assumed that the group's post-'90s lineups weren't up to snuff, but either way: wrong! So, I decided to throw together a list of my personal favorite post-Aftertaste Helmet songs—three per album—while trying not to get distracted by watching fascinating discussions with Page Hamilton on YouTube…
"Crashing Foreign Cars," from Size Matters (Interscope, 2004)
Come on, the start/stop of that main riff is a total throwback to the Meantime era—not to mention those badass drum grooves loaded with crackin' snare—balanced by a super catchy chorus over droningly melodic layers of guitar. What's to complain about!?
"Speak and Spell," from Size Matters (Interscope, 2004)
Some listeners might not hang with the more melodic vocal direction heard throughout much of the band's later material, but I absolutely love the chorus here, and that main riff is just a slightly more streamlined take on classic Helmet chug 'n' dissonance.
"Unwound," from Size Matters (Interscope, 2004)
Yep. Another freakin' crazy catchy singalong chorus; alongside a slightly looser, janglier vibe to the riffs (and expert-level ringing, melodic post-hardcore textures).
I must say, as a whole, Size Matters is a fantastic record—one of my personal favorite Helmet albums. Check out loads of other keepers such as "Smart," "See You Dead," "Drug Lord," "Enemies," "Surgery," etc.
Fun fact: the Size Matters lineup featured former Fountainhead and Orange 9mm guitarist Chris Traynor on guitar and bass (he also played bass on Monochrome), and John Tempesta (Exodus, Testament, White Zombie) on drums.
"Money Shot," from Monochrome (Warcon, 2006)
This one reminds me a bit of the Aftertaste era: just a good, solid, midpaced tune that's hard-hitting but uniquely melodic (though perhaps not as overtly so as some of the Size Matters tracks).
"Almost Out of Sight," from Monochrome (Warcon, 2006)
With quirky shifts and discordant flourishes aplenty, those stuttered rhythms certainly nod to the group's early years. And, yep, another killer chorus hook that makes use of somewhat monotone singing.
"Brand New," from Monochrome (Warcon, 2006)
A more modern and melodic approach, sure, but at its core "Brand New" is perhaps closer to Strap it On than anything else herein. It surely boasts some of the most chaotic and noisy soloing, if nothing else!
"In Person," from Seeing Eye Dog (+1, 2010)
I'm a total sucker for that arpeggiated style of riffing heard during the intro. Not without a memorable chorus, you'll find more superior post-hardcore dissonance, pulsing grooves, and abrasive leads here, too. Perfectly solid track.
"White City," from Seeing Eye Dog (+1, 2010)
Not unlike "In Person" above—just with a slightly slower tempo—"White City" offers a little old and a little new. A good, strong tune.
"Seeing Eye Dog," from Seeing Eye Dog (+1, 2010)
How 'bout that warped and mangled-ass take on classic, looping Helmet rhythms, eh? One of this era's more effectively gruff vocal performances, too.
Fun fact: Seeing Eye Dog saw the introduction of Kyle Stevenson on drums; who played on Big Collapse's extremely, incredibly, mind-blowingly recommended Prototype album.
"Life or Death," from Dead to the World (Ear Music, 2016)
A constant fusion of driving power chords and melodic sensibilities, it's just arguably cleaner and more layered than the old days. Nothing to complain about.
"Red Scare," from Dead to the World (Ear Music, 2016)
Do you see a pattern here? Thick, locked-in chunks of guitar and bass? Check. Textural nuances? Check. Infectious chorus? Check. You get the picture…
"Dead to the World," from Dead to the World (Ear Music, 2016)
But then, of course, "rules" are made to be broken. Most everything about this piece breaks the mold a bit, from its Police-esque basslines and roving percussion to the cello—all of which is eventually melded onto a more "Helmet-y" foundation.
I'm sure there are some skeptically stubborn motherfuckers out there reading this, but I'm telling you: if you stopped giving a shit about Helmet 20 years ago, I sincerely hope this encourages you to realize that the second half of the band's discography to date is well worth exploring. You have some catching up to do…