It was almost 20 years ago that I had the chance to see Helmet for the first time. I still can remember the show in Nuremberg, Germany which was a part of the “Aftertaste”-tour. Having “Aftertaste” released a few months earlier and having with “Betty” and “Meantime” two great longplayers in their repertoire, Page Hamilton and his guys ignited a firework that was enormous. It also showed one thing to me – Helmet have great songs on their longplayers but seeing them live is a far more intense experience. That was in 1997 and in the meantime we are twenty years further in time.
After a six years period Helmet released their anticipated new longplayer “Dead to the World” and the band embarked on a tour through Europe, promoting the new album with quite some shows. One stop was in Haarlem one a grey Monday night and it was Local H from Chicago who acted as the opening act.
I haven’t heard from the guys before and therefor my level of curiosity was pretty high. It sounded like the guys are more rooted in grunge, at least that was what you could read beforehand. In the end I think that the description isn’t far away from reality. Considering that we are talking less about Soundgarden- or Pearl Jam-style grunge. These guys have more of the anarchic energy that Nirvana had as well.
It was quarter to nine when two guys entered the stage while the light in the room was still turned on. The duo was Local H, consisting out of Scott Lucas (all except drums) and Ryan Harding (d). Both aren’t rookies. Local H is existing already since 1998 which means that they can build on a more than solid foundation. What came next, after just stepping on stage, was a 40 minutes show that was a positive surprise. It was amazing to see, and to hear, the kind of power the guys released. This gig gave everybody a real boost on a Monday night. Local H are for the first time in Europe and obviously they enjoy it – at least when it comes to performance in Haarlem. Local H is definitely a band to keep in mind.
Curtain closed, 40 minutes passed by, curtain was drawn and Helmet entered the stage. Actually it was the second time that night since ¾ of the band (except Hamilton) joined already Local H for two songs. The quartet started furious into the evening. A Helmet show is an impressive experience. The first thing is the density of their sound. Hamilton and his three companions create a wall of sound that is standing out from most of the other bands. Each note and each riff is a well thought-through brick in this wall that hits the listener right into the face. Next to that it’s Hamilton’s passion and capabilities on the sixstring guitar that makes a show to a special moment. The kind of sounds he gets out of his guitar is jaw-dropping. He seems to become one with the instrument while being on stage and you wonder how the guy can do the vocal part in parallel.
The setlist featured many of the new songs. “Life or Death”, Bad News” and “Red Scare” are good tunes that even grow in a live setup. The aggressiveness that I missed a bit on the new album is back and makes Helmet to the expected power pack. However, I think that many fans were waiting for the earlier classics and they have been played – of course. The closing triple was the moment of this show when the venue turned into a real madhouse. “Wilma’s Rainbow”, “Just Another Victim” (from the great “Judgement Night soundtrack) and “In the Meantime” demanded and deserved the last drop of energy of fans before a satisfied crowd started their way home.
Helmet on stage is an experience that you shouldn’t miss. This is where it happens and whatever is ‘preserved’ on their records gives you just a glimpse of an idea. This was confirmed again in the Patronaat that night. Looking forward to the next 20 years with Helmet.
Location: Patronaat, Haarlem, The Netherlands
Date: March 6th, 2017