Five thoughts: Helmet at Backstage Bar & Billiards (April 30)

Helmet powers through its set at Backstage Bar & Billiards on April 30.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Chris Bitonti

1. On show day, anticipating Helmet’s performance of influential and beloved album Betty in its entirety, my head was filled with questions: How will it hold up? How will the intricately produced album translate to live performance? Will anyone else care?

2. Will anyone else care? It certainly seems like it, with Triple B packed with Gen Xers ready to see Helmet, which goes on with no opener. Frontman Paige Hamilton says nothing between songs until the quartet has barrelled through the entire album in the first hour of what turns out to be a two-hour marathon set.

3. How will it hold up? Helmet grinds and chugs, its riff-driven sound deeper but more complex than modern hardcore. Hamilton’s voice matches that tone with his cavernous baritone growl. A close listen reveals all the sounds that defined the next 10 years of hardcore and even begat nu metal. At times, the band does sound a bit dated, but it’s still enjoyable.

4. How will it translate to live performance? Two guitars, bass and drums. No tracks, no padding. It seems impossible to strip down such a multi-layered album for a simple quartet, but nothing feels missing. The highlight comes when Hamilton displays his jazz-guitar chops on the flawlessly performed “Beautiful Love.”

5. I’ve heard Helmet described as the hardcore Anthrax, another important and influential act that was largely passed over by a cultural progression that vaulted Metallica and Megadeth. One thing seems certain: The Betty tour is more than a cash-grab designed to sell tickets; it’s a statement of how we got here.

Tags: Music
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