Helmet - Betty (Cover Artwork)


Betty (1994)


On Punknews, we always talk about the influences. How bands such as Operation Ivy, the Ramones, the Clash, Black Flag, so forth and so on have affected all the bands we listen to. You can also find many influences from the late eighties / early ninties such as Faith No More, Deftones, and Helmet.

Helmet was a little bit of a different breed. Based out of New York, the quartet, led by singer/guitarist Page Hamilton, fused metal, hardcore, and art rock together. Early in their carrer the band released Strap it On and Meantime to critcal praise, but not much commercial succes. As 1994 arrived, the band had the song "Milquetoast" appear on "The Crow" soundtrack along other hardrock heavyweights. This exposure helped usher in the masterpiece Betty.

Hamilton and company start the album off right with the song "Wilma's Rainbow." Although the vocals are melodic, I wouldn't dare call them soothing. The guitars swirl until finally setting into a crunch where the band just pounds through the rest of the song.

The album is so varied, that is what makes it worthwhile. "Biscuits for Smut's" vocals sound like they are coming through a filter while the drums drive songs like "Street Crab" and surely leave Page Hamilton's voice raw. Those songs, along with the aforementioned "Milquetoast" and "Speechless," are borrowed from left and right in today's music scene.

The all-stars of this album are easily the rhythm section, made up of Henry Bogdan and John Stainer. Bogdan's bass lines hold the song together and prove his instrument is more than just show. Bogdan, on the other hand, takes every song as his cue to beat on his kit. But through all the mayhem are tight fills that are a driving force throughout the song.

There are twists and turns thoughout this whole album. "Beautiful Love" is an instrumental that sounds like a musical intepratation of a car smashing along a guard rail. "The Silver Hawaiian" is a nice change of pace with its "by the ocean" vibe, and the album closer "Sam Hell" makes a song that sounds like it was recorded on a back porch rocker.

With all the new albums coming out this fall, do yourself a favor. Go to half.com, a used record store, or just use the net. Do this and experience one of the bands that has influenced most of what we listen to.