Earth Tone Suits You, So Give It a Smile: Another Thing About Helmet

The countdown has officially begun. In approximately 143 hours, Helmet will begin performing their 1994 masterpiece Betty live on stage, in front of me and my shit-eating grin, at The Vogue in Broad Ripple (Indianapolis), Indiana. Then, somewhere between 45-60 minutes after that, they’ll begin a second full set of songs from the rest of their catalog. I’m fucking giddy with anticipation, friends.  As mentioned previously in these pages, I saw Helmet live once before, at Emo’s in Austin, Texas, on the tour for Size Matters, their 2004 comeback album. Guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton was the only original member in the band at the time (he remains so today), John Tempesta was on drums (which isn’t so amazing on its own, as John Tempesta has played drums in every single metal band that has ever existed, but he’s really fucking good, so that was pretty sweet), Chris Traynor (who previously toured with Helmet on the tour for 1997’s underrated gem Aftertaste) was on second guitar, and the incomparable Frank Bello (who left Anthrax for the first time since joining that band in 1984, only to leave Helmet before the conclusion of the Size Matters tour to rejoin Anthrax) was on bass.

It was a pretty brilliant show, even though I was married to an asshole who didn’t much like to have fun, and who wouldn’t come with me to stand near the stage, but who also got mad at me for leaving her to stand near the stage. This time, though, I’m married to an awesome human being who enjoys having fun at least as much as I do, and I’m confident that she will either stand with me or, if she doesn’t feel like standing, let me stand wherever I want, so long as I promise to not leave without her. Also, as mentioned previously, Helmet will be performing two full sets, one of which will be my favorite Helmet album from beginning to end, with no opening act. Folks, I’ve seen some footage of shows on this tour, and the shows run somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours and 15 minutes. That’s 25-to-30 songs per show. If this doesn’t get you fucking amped up, I don’t know how you can be happy in this life.

She really is quite a Betty.

She really is quite a Betty.

And I am fully aware that at this point, what we call Helmet is merely Page Hamilton plus three hired guns. I am also fully aware that I do not give a fuck, because the songs rule. It would obviously be better and more exciting if original bassist Henry Bogdan and original drummer John Stanier were along for the tour, because they surely constituted one of the finest rhythm sections ever in heavy music, but since the odds of winning the lottery while getting struck by lightning while being eaten by a shark are better than the odds of Bogdan and Stanier ever rejoining Hamilton on stage, I’ll settle for the current package.  At least we’ll always have this footage of their 1994 performance on 120 Minutes

Here’s a full show from last year’s European run of this tour, filmed and uploaded by one of the greatest heroes in history. They played 35 songs at this show. I can’t stop watching it.

Also, while researching for this piece, I learned that the band played at least one show last year, in Glasgow, that consisted of the Betty set followed by 1992’s Meantime in its entirety. That’s literally the only way I could possibly be more excited about this show. Goddamn, y’all, I am STOKED!

Here’s one of my favorite songs from their noisy, angry bastard of a debut, 1990’s Strap It On.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from their noisy, angry bastard of a follow-up, 1992’s breakout Meantime. I can still remember sitting on my sister’s couch watching MTV when this video came on. My mouth was agape for days after that.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Betty, which I did not like very much upon its initial release, but which grew on me like fungi on a dead tree, eventually becoming one of my favorite albums of all time.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Aftertaste, which kicks so much more ass than that windbag over at AllMusic would have you believe.

“I get a ‘D’ for disappointment
Now there’s nothing to regret
Everybody’s good for something
At least you know what you won’t get”

Now those are some song lyrics, folks.

And finally, here’s one of my favorite songs from Size Matters (which was written after Hamilton’s breakup with Winona Ryder).

I have not really listened to either 2006’s Monochrome or 2010’s Seeing Eye Dog, so I cannot comment on them, but I’ll get around to it eventually, and I’ll be sure to report my findings here posthaste.

That’s all the time I have today. Daylight saving time is a motherfucker. I’ll definitely be reviewing the show here at some point in the near future, so be on the lookout for that, if you give a shit.

Until next time, please do stay heavy.





5 thoughts on “Earth Tone Suits You, So Give It a Smile: Another Thing About Helmet

  1. I am stoked that you get to do this! That is awesome!

    I know that I am biased, and for that matter you probably know that I am biased, but I am still convinced that Page is the riff-master. No one these days can write riffs like him. I don’t know if you ever heard the song he wrote for Norma Jean on their “Anti-Mother” record, but from the open riff, you just know that it is Hamilton. He sings on the song some and it is a majestic balance of Page’s tight riffing mixed of Norma Jean’s typical chaotic sound.

    I still love this band. I don’t know if you think this now, but those bands from the 90’s that were doing really interesting stuff like Helmet, Quicksand, and others, were truly special. I think about those two bands but also, not as heavy stuff like At The Drive In and Jets to Brazil and so on and there was some incredible stuff ongoing in the mid to late 90’s.

    Enjoy yourself my friend and pump your fist once when they bust out “Tic” in my stead!

    • I definitely still spin a lot of our late 90’s jams on a pretty regular basis, but that trifecta of Meantime, Betty, and Aftertaste gets it more regularly than anything else from that time period, other than maybe ALL.

      I have not heard much of anything Page did outside of Helmet, and I don’t think I’ve heard anything from Norma Jean at all, but I’ll be sure to look into that song.

      And when “Tic” begins (ha!), I will definitely let the whole place know that you’re with me in spirit.

      Thanks for reading, brother! I hope all is well!

    • Thanks!

      And for the record, I did google the term to make sure I was right, but it turns out I didn’t need to, and that, in fact, nearly everyone else is wrong.

  2. Pingback: Ball of Confusion: A Long, Complicated Thing About My Long, Complicated Relationship With Anthrax | Stay Heavy

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