The Hi-Fi Bar is still one of the best venues in town to watch live music from all different viewing angles and pleasures. On a crisp Saturday eve, seminal Brisbane metal/punk act Pangaea featuring Ben Ely (Regurgitator) on bass/vocals, Jimmy Sinclair on guitar and Dave Atkins (Resin Dogs) on drums are thrashing it out on stage. They are formidable; Ben slaps his bass with wild abandon, whilst Dave’s machine-gun drumming leaves many in the crowd speechless. “He could play drums like that since grade 3 and break dance” declares Ben, reaffirming what the punters have witnessed tonight. Not forgetting guitar virtuoso Jimmy whose nimble fingers churn out those gargantuan riffs. In their last ever show, Pangaea prime the audience for the onslaught of hardcore pioneers Helmet.
Forming in 1989 in New York City, Helmet have influenced a plethora of bands; Pantera, Tool, Deftones & Rise Against, and apart from a six year hiatus when the group disbanded, have been around for over 20 years. Back in town to showcase latest album “Seeing Eye Dog”, the Hi Fi is seething with black Helmet T-shirt clad fans; fans who remember their 2008 tour where Helmet played their best selling album Meantime circa 1992 in its entirety.
From the get-go the pace and volume is relentless. Helmet is definitely a band to see live. All live renditions of their songs in tonight’s set list have more potency when played at full volume and intensity. Tall founding member and accomplished musician Page Hamilton cuts an imposing figure, bending his torso and legs to play closer to the ground, while he produces some gob-smacking riffs. Opener “Milquetoast” begins en masse adulation with audience members pumping their fists up into the air, and head bobbing simultaneously to the beat of Kyle Stevenson’s drums, with Dave Case on bass and Dan Beeman on guitar creating some of the heaviest, loudest, dirtiest, grinding metal, fuck-off sound scapes in gig history. It’s bewildering to think a band of this calibre isn’t playing sold out stadium shows. Arguably this type of intimate gig is better- we can smell, hear, see and almost taste them.
Mid set Page asks for a volunteer bride so he can get permanent residency, proclaiming that “she mustn’t have an aversion to blow jobs”. Then apologising and stating outright “I’m not a role model. Sorry to any children in the audience.” Page’s repartee encourages punters to make requests, and Page is inundated with fans shouting out all manner of inaudible requests.
“So Long” off their latest release seems to capture the old Helmet sound, and is well received by the metal aficionados, lapping up Page screaming “Take all my money”. Also off Seeing Eye Dog “Welcome To Algiers” stands up to the older material, with unique Helmet time signatures, harmonies, and menacing guitar riffs. Oldie “You Borrowed” from Meantime is replete with riffage and a little later “Give It” with frenetic drumming, altering tempos, and that funk edge is a highlight, along with “Crisis King”, “Wilma’s Rainbow’ and “Blacktop”. For the encore Page asks us to pretend the band has walked off stage, so they can play right through and slowly walks off encouraging cheers, whilst the other members remain on stage.
First encore begins with that familiar drum beat, wailing guitar, then a cacophony of oscillating hardcore guitar, Page’s crisp vocals and we all know it’s signature tune “Unsung”, another searing highlight and then when we thought it couldn’t get any better things are turned up a notch with closer “Born Annoying’, starting with a formidable lead break, and various tempo and note changes, to a barrage of crazy guitar and then a crescendo of feedback ending one of the loudest, awe inspiring gigs of all time. With most of the crowd leaving with ears ringing, Helmet effectively raised the bar of what a live rock show should be.
– Anna Megalogenis