Meantime (lnterscope)

By Allen Howie

There lurks within anyone who grew up in the Sixties or later an instinctive, visceral response to the bone-jarring thud of a bass drum and the sound of a few feedback-drenched power chords. From Cream to Deep Purple to AC/DC to Metallica, metal bands have been striking that same nerve in wave after wave of rock fans. It's a proud (if not noble) tradition and one that Helmet carries on with Meantime.

Falling somewhere between the primal buzz of vintage Black Sabbath and the Nineties crunch of Nirvana, Helmet serves up a dense metallic grunge for their tales of alienation and disorientation, their lyrics framed in that telegraphic language peculiar to metal bands.

At least half the credit for the band's engaging sound goes to its rhythm section of Henry Bogdan on bass and John Stanier on drums. Owing far more to the bedrock rhythms of the Stones than to their metal forbears, they lay down a formidable foundation for the scraping, slashing guitar work of Peter Mengede and Page Hamilton.

Hamilton, who also serves as the quartet's vocalist, alternates between an unabashed Ozzy Ozbourne drone on half the material and a throat-scraping scream on the rest.

The album kicks off with a chaotic assault that ultimately stumbles into the tight groove of "In the Meantime," an approach used to similar effect on Deep Purple's "Speed King" and countless other metal classics. Throughout the record, Helmet stalks back and forth between a polished metallic sheen and a jagged, rusty grind, calling forth their vision of a grim and hopeless future with a frantic howl and a killer beat.

The subject matter is standard issue for the genre: down with everything conventional or proper (even suicide, once a staple of some metal bands' agendas, here considered "boring") and full-speed ahead mayhem and chaos. It's an everyman-for-himself world and Helmet has the amplifiers. The only departure from the usual subject matter is a passing shot at departed MTV video mistress Downtown Julie Brown that may or may not be serious.

In any event, if you're in a somber mood or looking for your next metal fix, or just want a record to annoy all the gentle souls in your life, you could do worse than the melodic thrashing that takes place on Meantime.