Helmet - Strap It On (Music CD)

Release Date: 17 September 2012
Artist: Helmet
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Little noticed upon its initial release, Helmet's debut full-length, Strap It On, left a sledgehammer-like indention upon those few who did hear it at the time and served as the template for the band's successive major-label breakthrough, Meantime -- albeit a very raw and abrasive template that may jolt fans of the band's later work. The nine-song album is a brief one, clocking in around a half-hour, but even such brevity proves wonderfully exhausting by the time you near the last couple songs. In fact, by the time you make it past "Sinatra," one of the album's highlights and also the halfway point, slow fatigue threatens as the riffs continue to hammer away unrelentingly and vocalist Page Hamilton's sometimes-tuneful, oftentimes-bellowing shouting grows seemingly further agonized. The overall relentlessness should be a sheer pleasure to those who enjoy the intensity of metal without the clownish clichés yet, at the same time, enjoy the originality of alt-rock without the pansy passivity. Much like Black Flag and the Jesus Lizard, Helmet plays rabid alt-rock -- teeth-grinding, sweat-inducing, ear-bleeding, head-smashing music that transcends trend and is downright physical for the hell of it. Of course, this shouldn't be news to anyone familiar with Helmet's other albums, yet Strap It On is a less labored, more grating album than any of its successors. Its production is borderline lo-fi, sounding as if the album was recorded to eight-track in a Lower East Side basement, and the tone is consistent throughout, sounding as if the band recorded the songs one after another with little, if any, post-production. As such, the album plays best as a whole, with few tracks standing out except the aforementioned "Sinatra" and the stop-and-go "Bad Mood," which in some ways foreshadows the neck-snapping rapture that would be "Unsung." On the other hand, these very qualities that make Strap It On such a compelling listen also limit its appeal. It's simply too harsh and confrontational for anyone but metal/alt-rock fringe-dwellers, and the utter lack of hooks certainly don't make it any more accessible. Though definitely not the place to begin investigating Helmet's legacy, Strap It On is an album that fans will want to seek out at some point down the line. [Originally release independently by Amphetamine Reptile in 1990, Strap It On was re-released by Interscope in 1991 shortly before the label unleashed Meantime.] ~ Jason Birchmeier
Release Date: 17 September 2012
Artist: Helmet

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Catalogue No: EW0082CD