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Griding The Axe


After taking a three-year break between albums, Helmet is back to their old self on their release entitled Aftertaste. The album didn't exactly make it to the shelves in the easiest way, either. After recieving some harsh criticism for their experimental 1994 release Betty, the group started putting together new material. Originally scheduled for an October 1996 release, the group was forced to push back release dates twice. During this time, guitarist Rob Echeverria left the band and Chris Traynor of Orange 9MM hopped on board. Lead singer / guitarist Paige Hamilton went back into the studio with producer Dave Sardy and put the finishing touches on the album.

What remains from all this is 13 new songs from the group that showcase some new sounds, as well as go back to what the group is known for. The album starts in a wash of distortion, but is soon thrown into a strict order with a staccato guitar riff. The drums soon slam in and "Pure" is underway. Hamilton again spits out lyrics with his usual bite. The themes on the album remain the same as on past album. Their usual brand of cynicism pops up on the song "Birth Defect" with vocals like 'I'd rather be insulted by you / than someone I respect.' They rip on pretentious-ness, arrogance, and greed of both individuals and the nation.

Overall, the album is a very solid new effort from the group. Unlike Betty, where there are a few songs that lag, Aftertaste is cut straight through. Whether it is the slower "Like I Care" or the thrash-style "Harmless," the guitars are turned up all the way from start to finish on the album. A lot of it is fairly simple, but coupled with a harsh drum beat and Hamilton's vocals, it makes it very effective. This barrage of sound may make it hard for some to listen to, but for fans of Helmet, it's a must.

Final Grade: 7