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Page Hamilton and his band Helmet will perform the classic Nineties album 'Betty' in its entirety on the group's upcoming U. New York City alt-metallers Helmet were one of the more unlikely success stories in early Nineties music.
Led by jazz-educated guitarist Page Hamilton, a preppy-looking, post veteran of the downtown Manhattan avant-garde underground — he had logged time with experimental composer Glenn Branca and the noise outfit Band of Susans — the group hewed to an aesthetic that was practically militaristic in focus: clipped block-chord riffs; vocals that were alternately barked or sung in a monotone, detached manner; and an unrelenting, machine-like rhythmic thrust, delivered by four serious-looking dudes in crew cuts and khakis.
And yet, their major label debut, Meantime , moved more than half a million copies, largely on the strength of the MTV hit, "Unsung. When it came time to record the follow-up, released in as Betty , Hamilton had a particular idea in mind: career sabotage. But none of them likely could have imagined the multifarious directions Helmet would take with Betty. Tracks like "Wilma's Rainbow," "I Know" and "Milquetoast" which had appeared earlier that year, as "Milktoast," on the soundtrack to the Brandon Lee film The Crow continued the band's riff-as-power-tool aesthetic, while also expanding upon it.
Hamilton leaned more heavily on his diverse musical background, putting noise elements, unusual meters and extended and augmented chords to greater use. The band also pulled further away from their minimalist hardcore roots by exploring jazz "Beautiful Love" , blues "Sam Hell" and oddball funk "The Silver Hawaiian". Then there was the fact that they named the album Betty "like slang for a good-looking chick," Hamilton says and opted to go with a decidedly un-heavy image of a fresh-faced and neatly dressed woman, smiling and picking flowers, for the cover art.
The whole thing might have seemed a recipe for disaster. And yet, Betty has since become one of Helmet's most beloved albums, as well as a landmark of mid-Nineties metal.