Call Helmet alternative metal. The New York band plays tightfisted speed-thrash, but without the overblown melodrama of the metal scene. (”To die young is far too boring these days,” sings Page Hamilton at one point.) Helmet is fascinating in theory and can crank up the decibels ably enough to have landed the once independent-label band a million-dollar contract with a major record company. But something is a little off with Meantime. Hamilton bellows with the best of them and the band brings a stripped-down punkiness to its riffing, but the record’s dry production sterilizes the music. As a result, die-hard headbangers may consider these guys wimps (even their lyrics are too opaque compared with, say, Iron Maiden), while alternative-rock fans will probably find it too monotonous. No one said changing a time-honored form like metal would be easy.

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