Oh, Helmet! Now, I’m not talking about anything sexual. Just the legendary NY band. If I were a real journalist I’d go into the influence Helmet have had on the hard music scene, naming specific bands or scenes or whatever but Helmet’s reputation speaks for itself. Well, to a point. Strap It On, Meantime, Betty and Aftertaste are all aces. Things started to drop off after that. And the newest one, Dead to the World is well, let’s not talk about that. No, let’s talk about one of their most revered albums, Meantime.
Now, you don’t often hear many Helmet covers (*avoids sexual joke*), likely because it’s tough to mess with songs that don’t need messing with. (Soulfly does a nice cover of “In the Meantime” however.) But that hasn’t stopped Magnetic Eye Records from putting together Meantime [Redux], a song-for-song tribute to Helmet’s classic, Meantime (plus a few bonus covers on the deluxe edition). Some bands take a pretty straightforward approach while others make the tunes so much their own they’re hard to recognize. It’s also a nice mix of well known bands (KEN mode, Fuck the Facts, Meek is Murder), lesser known bands (Earthship, Kings Destroy, The Glorious Rebellion) and bands I’ve never heard of.
I’m not going to go through each track, and the best thing you can do is just listen to it, but there are a few highlights to uh, highlight. Earthship’s take on “Iron Head” is pretty aggressive vocally, and musically I suppose, while staying true to the original. It’s recognizable as a Helmet song that is. Then put that against “Turned Out” by KEN mode. If you didn’t know better (and weren’t familiar with the lyrics) you could easily mistake it for an original KEN mode song. Same goes for fellow Canadians Fuck the Facts and their take on “Role Model”. Two minutes on blast, scathing and screaming its way into a ball of grind. Such a unique interpretation!
Sunflo’er give “Unsung” an even more hardcore treatment, twisting the track to their own needs. Kings Destroy southern fry “He Feels Bad” and Ironweed give the closest rendition of the Helmet sound on “Give It”. But they throw a BIG curveball on ‘You Borrowed”.
The extra tracks take three from Strap It On, two from Betty and one from Aftertaste. Rosetta take “Like I Care” in a dreamier direction and Brief Lives do a killer job on one of my favourite Helmet tracks, “Milquetoast”. But to be fair, every track on [Redux] is worth it.
All in all you couldn’t ask for a cooler tribute album these days. The only other Helmet related thing that satisfies the urge only John Stanier’s punctuating percussion and Page Hamilton’s bentcore riffs and outstanding solos can would be the Wrong record. In the meantime…