The veteran, genre-juggling metal outfit's first collection of new music in six years, Dead to the World continues in the vein of 2010's Seeing Eye Dog, introducing elements of shoegaze and Foo Fighters-esque alt-rock into their already sizeable arsenal of sonic weaponry. Frontman and sole original member Page Hamilton, who also co-produces the album, brings his usual intensity and keen ear for melody to standout cuts like the caustic, power pop-propelled single "Bad News," the muscular opener "Life or Death," and the knotty and atmospheric title track. Again, fans looking for a direct line to the band's "Unsung" heyday will find that the alt-metal might that fueled their early recordings is no longer dialed in at 11, but Hamilton remains a compelling figure who is just as content engaging the listener's cerebrum as he is in landing a haymaker. Even his choice of covers is enigmatic, with the band taking on Elvis Costello's Armed Forces deep cut "Green Shirt." The occasional bursts of drop-D sludge and djent palm riffing offer reminders that Helmet is more than capable of busting loose -- the seismic "Die Alone" comes to mind -- but there's definitely an element of restraint that runs through Dead to the World's 11 offerings. At no point during the album do Hamilton and crew feel like they're phoning it in, but the visceral moments are fleeting, and often tempered by melodic detours that fail to swing back around to assess the damage. Still, Helmet's refusal to play by the rules has always been part of their charm, and Dead to the World does little to dampen that well-earned reputation for cultural insubordination.
Dead to the World Review
by James Christopher Monger