Helmet are one of the most underrated bands from the nineties alternative metal era who first formed in New York in 1989. They have had numerous line-up changes over the course of their career with vocalist and guitarist Paige Hamilton being the only constant member. Helmet were formed after Hamilton left his previous band called Band of Susans. A year after their formation they released their debut record Strap It On. More commercial success came after they signed to Interscope Records and released their second album Meantime in 1992. After releasing two more albums-1994’s Betty and 1997’s Aftertaste, they split up in 1998.
During the band’s time apart, Hamilton worked on some very big mainstream projects such as playing guitar for David Bowie and composing several scores for major Hollywood films. Helmet reformed in 2004 and have since released four more studio albums and are currently still active. They have been a big influence on a wide variety of bands over the years, so here is a rundown of their ten greatest tracks.
# 10 – Dead to the World
This is the title track from Helmet’s most recent record released in 2016. Like most tracks on the record, it is reflective of the evolution of their sound over the course of their career. The record is like a mix of everything that the band have done before which makes for some interesting experimentation. It was released six years after the band’s previous album Seeing Eye Dog and was their first to be released on a new label earMUSIC and marked the debut of bassist Dave Case.
# 9 – So Long
At number nine is another track taken from the later part of Helmet’s career from See Eye Dog released in 2010 of which it is the opening number. It is a very catchy song with a great opening riff. Hamilton puts in a particularly good vocal performance as well. Joining Hamilton on the album were guitarist Dan Beeman, bassist Chris Traynor and drummer Kyle Stevenson.
# 8 – See You Dead
This next track was the lead single from the band’s comeback album released in 2004 titled Size Matters, thus making it their comeback single. The songs see’s the band show that they were still capable of producing interesting music after having been gone for six years. Although classed as a reformation, Hamilton was the only member returning, which led to some fans objecting to it being called Helmet.
# 7 – Crashing Foreign Cars
Here is another track from Size Matters. This track is a fast and short number, clocking in at just two and a half minutes and recalling the band’s hardcore roots. The band recorded this album as a three piece with Hamilton on vocals and guitar, Traynor on bass and John Tempesta on drums. It was met with a mixed critical reception and charted at number 121 on the Billboard 200.
# 6 – Pure
Continuing with our top 10 Helmet songs we turn to the Aftertaste album. This album was also recorded as a three-piece after guitarist Ron Echeveria left to join Biohazard. This album was also the last to feature original members John Stanier on drums and Henry Bogdan on bass. The record was something of a return to the band’s earlier sound, although it received a mixed critical reaction and performed rather moderately commercially, peaking at number forty-seven on the Billboard 200.
# 5 – In the Meantime
Here we enter the classic period with the partial title track from Meantime which was nominated for the Grammy Award for best Metal Performance in 1992. The song was recorded with Steve Albini as producer and mixed by Andy Wallace. It is a very and intense piece of music, recalling the earlier underground grunge sound of Mudhoney and Albini’s own band Big Black. It has since been covered by bands such as Soulfly and Lamb of God.
# 4 – Tic
Next is a track from the band’s third album Betty released in 1994. After the success of Meantime, this album was highly anticipated by both fans and critics. The album was the debut of Echeverria who replaced previous guitarist Peter Mengede. The album is regarded as Helmet’s most experimental, featuring a particularly prominent influence of jazz and blues, which is most probably due to the fact that Hamilton is a trained jazz guitarist.
# 3 – Wilmas Rainbow
Here is another track from Betty which is the album’s opener with a title that, along with that of the album’s would possibly suggest that the band had been watching a lot of The Flintstones at the time( with Betty and Wilma being Fred and Barney’s respective spouses), although this was apparently not the case as the title was in fact taken from a diner in New Orleans. This makes sense as children’s cartoons are the last thing that spring to mind with this record. As the opening track, it sets in motion the oddball weirdness that is to come.
# 2 – Unsung
Just off the top spot we have the track that is the band’s most well-known song taken from Meantime. Although Meantime was not their debut album, this was their debut single as none were released from Strap It On. It was the track that helped Helmet breakthrough into mainstream success, and they have never had any subsequent releases that have been as commercially successful. Its highest chart position was at number twenty-nine on the US Alternative Songs chart.
# 1 – Blacktop
At the top of this Helmet songs list we go all the way back to the first album. Here, we see the band at a much rawer and less technically accomplished point in their career, with this track sounding like a cross between crossover thrash and industrial. The album has been very influential in the years since its release on many post-hardcore and post-metal bands. The album was released through the Amphetamine Reptile label which was known for its specialization in underground noise rock. It was met very well critically upon its release, being considered innovative for its down tuned riffing style.