Helmet

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:: Helmet ::

:: Summit Music Hall ::

:: March 29, 2011 ::

Words and photos by Johnny Concert

The Metal Alliance tour stormed Denver, CO on Tuesday, March 29, 2011.
The extensive line-up featured some of the most celebrated names in Stoner Metal or Sludge or Doom Metal or whatever else you might want to call it.  (Those who know these bands know the style regardless of the descriptor).  The headliner was New York’s Helmet,  with strong support from:  Saint VitusCrowbar,  KylesaRed Fang,  Howl and Atlas Moth

I arrived at the show a song or two in on Saint Vitus’ set.  The band was named after a song by Black Sabbath called ‘St. Vitus’ Dance’ from the Vol. 4 album (1972).  The guitar player, Dave Chandler, looks like a member of the band Hawkwind – like an aged, weathered wizard.  The singer, Wino Weinrich, is very metal — long hair, leather vest, tatts, tight jeans, bracelets.  The music is sludgy with slow, grinding riffs.  Sometimes they play so slowly it is painful.  That is until the guitar solo. Then the band kicks into a higher gear and the crowd goes wild.

But Helmet is the band I came to see.

Page Hamilton IS Helmet.  He writes the songs, he sings the songs, he plays the guitar leads and the solos, he produces the records . . . hell, he probably drives the damn tour bus.  You can tell he’s fussy, too.  For the first few songs , Hamilton kept adjusting equipment, turning knobs, gesturing to the sound man to tweak the mix, etc. He seems like he’s having fun up there — I mean he’s totally into it — but I kinda get the feeling if the other musicians messed up that he might issue beatings.  You can tell from his demeanor (and from his lyrics) that the man is intense.  The result, however, cannot be disputed.  The current Helmet line-up is as tight as the drummer’s snare drum.  Like scary tight.  Like they didn’t miss one note tight.  This is doubly impressive when you consider Hamilton’s penchant for sudden pauses and syncopated guitar riffs, as well as Hamilton’s use of dissonant sounds and off-tempo time signatures. 

Helmet performed their platinum album, Meantime.  Meantime is my favorite Helmet album and the album that served as my introduction to the band in the early 1990s.  For some reason, the band played the second side, first.  The drums (held down for years by the amazing John Stanier, now played by Kyle Stevenson) is definitely a lead instrument in the music of Helmet.  Of course, the song ‘Unsung’ won the night.

Page Hamilton is underrated and underappreciated.  He boasts his own signature guitar – made by ESP.  I would describe his riffs as staccato style but his solos as more legato (smooth and connected).  He keeps time during the song by stamping his left foot in an exaggerated motion – his whole leg moves forcefully.

Helmet turned in a top notch performance — high caliber musicianship and precise execution.

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