Size Isn’t Everything
As the 80’s hair metal craze withered and died under the wheels of grunge in the early 90’s, true headbangers went underground and metal became a dirty word. Helmet was a band that helped pull that heavy guitar and drum sound out of metal’s grave and fuse it with alternative rock elements to give it staying power on the radio. After several authoritative alt-metal releases, Page Hamilton and the boys hung up their Helmets after 1997’s Aftertaste. But now Hamilton’s back with some old and new faces on Size Matters.Joining Hamilton and guitarist Chris Traynor (an Aftertaste veteran) are the familiar faces of John Tempesta (White Zombie, Exodus) on drums and Frank Bello (Anthrax) on bass. Musically this new rhythm section is able to pick up where Aftertaste left off. Likewise, Hamilton and Traynor bring much of the traditional Helmet guitar sound to this new offering. However, anyone who remembers Hamilton’s voice as being listenable is in for an unpleasant surprise. The distinctive tradeoff of Hamilton’s melodic and harsh vocal ranges has been replaced with a new tradeoff of layered, nasally nu-metallish wails and a gruff voice that sounds about as mean as a sick raccoon. It may be that Hamilton has burned out his vocal chords, but his style has gone from sounding definitive to derivative.
Tracks like “Crashing Foreign Cars” and “Throwing Punches” travel through tested and true Helmet riffs and chord structures. Helmet adds bits of more contemporary styles, notably with the Queens of the Stone Age flavored single “See You Dead.” Ultimately, this disc isn’t trying anything new, instead opting to play it safe. Size Matters, but so does substance.