Dirty Dog Bar (505 E 6th St)
About: Seeing Eye Dog, HELMET's seventh album, is one of the band's most uncompromising and ambitious releases, embodying the classic and utterly unique Helmet sound and pushing it into regions the band has never before explored. One big reason for that spirit of musical adventure is the record is essentially self-released (through the Work Song label). "I just felt completely free to do whatever I wanted to do," says frontman Page Hamilton. "It was really fun to make this record because I just felt this…freedom." Freedom can also arise from limitation, something Hamilton knows well--as ever, he insisted on having few overdubs and edits on Seeing Eye Dog. "This album is human and honest," he declares. "People have always commented that we sound like our albums live, and our recording approach has a lot to do with that. Humans playing music will always be better than chop-shop rock." Besides Hamilton, the humans on Seeing Eye Dog include drummer Kyle Stevenson, who joined Helmet in 2006, guitarist Dan Beeman, who's been on board since 2008, and long-time Helmet bassist Chris Traynor. (Dave Case is the band's touring bassist.) The album was produced by Hamilton, with additional production by Toshi Kasai (Melvins) and vocal production by Mark Renk. Some history: In 1989, Page Hamilton co-founded the New York-based Helmet, fusing Zeppelinesque riffing with a vehement post-hardcore precision, augmented by dense chords and offbeat time signatures based in Hamilton's formal jazz training. The combination was that rarest of visionary creations--it was successful in its own time. After their 1990 debut album Strap It On (on revered indie label Amphetamine Reptile), Helmet unleashed the major label Meantime (1992), a widely acclaimed album that earned a Grammy nomination, went gold, and launched a thousand other bands. Betty followed in 1994, successfully branching out from the band's ferocious attack and into more varied musical waters. (In 2010, Helmet issued via their website helmetmusic.com a digital-only deluxe version of Betty that includes 14 original album tracks plus five bonus tracks.) Another acclaimed album Aftertaste followed in 1997 and after nine years and thousands of shows, Helmet called it a day in 1998. Hamilton went on to do soundtrack work for major Hollywood movies like Catwoman, S.W.A.T., Titus, and Saw, among others, formed the band Gandhi, and, following in the footsteps of greats like Adrian Belew and Stevie Ray Vaughan, played lead guitar in David Bowie's band in 1999. In 2004 Hamilton restarted Helmet, releasing two acclaimed albums--Size Matters in 2004, Monochrome in 2006--and co-headlining the Warped Tour that year. Helmet did extensive US and European touring in 2009 in preparation for the new album.