Helmet is well-known for incorporating brutal precision into its hardcore rants: No matter how blistering the riffs or intense the vocal delivery, there's always a compactness and militaristic rigidity to the band's songs. That's both an advantage and a flaw, because while tracks like 1992's "In The Meantime" convey a surging, barely controlled force, others fall prey to coldness and sterility. Lamentably, the latter effect dominates most of the long-delayed Aftertaste: While the guitars are played with almost surgical precision, they've been bled of character throughout these samey songs. (The blistering "Insatiable" is a rare exception.) It doesn't help that singer/guitarist Page Hamilton remains a relatively flat, emotionless, humorless singer, and that his emotional detachment isn't tempered with varying vocal approaches the way it usually is. On Betty, Helmet mixed its hardcore with strange interludes and genre fusion; on Strap It On and the mighty Meantime, the band fed listeners a jarring barrage of subtly diverse, fist-pumping noise. Here, the band doesn't make that crucial, emotionally visceral connection until the album is almost over.

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