Like many influential bands, Helmet were born out of an unusual set of influences. Oregon-born guitarist and founder Page Hamilton had actually moved to New York City to study jazz, but found inspiration in the late ’80s through post-punk acts Sonic Youth, Killing Joke, and Big Black, and envisioned a group that combined then-unusual tunings (particularly dropped D) with uneven and jazz-like time signatures and harmonies. The result was Helmet, the East Coast’s answer to Seattle’s then-underground sensation Soundgarden. Hamilton recruited bassist Henry Bogdan from Oregon, along with Australian guitarist Peter Mengede and Florida drummer John Stanier for the group’s first incarnation. Helmet’s independent label debut EP, Strap It On, showcased the group’s raw power — both instrumentally and in Hamilton’s growling vocals — through tracks like the mocking “Sinatra” and rocking “Bad Mood.”
Signed to the Interscope label soon thereafter, the same lineup released its breakthrough 1992 CD, Meantime. MTV aired three videos by Helmet, then the only band close to the Seattle grunge sound on the East Coast, in “Give It,” “In the Meantime,” and the distorted, stop-and-start showcase “Unsung.” Hamilton, Bogdan, and Stanier collaborated with Irish rap group House of Pain on “Just Another Victim” for the 1993 film Judgment Night, after Mengede left the band. The popular soundtrack (with its unorthodox mix of rappers and alternative bands like Ice-T and Slayer, Sir Mix-a-Lot and Mudhoney) created even more of a demand for Helmet’s next CD. Replacing Mengede with guitarist Rob Echeverria on 1994’s Betty, Hamilton crafted an album even more versatile — and at times even heavier — than Meantime. The song “Milquetoast” appeared on the soundtrack to the hit film The Crow; Stanier’s unrelenting drumming drove tracks like “I Know,” and Hamilton’s jazz background showed on the cover of Dizzy Gillespie‘s “Beautiful Love.” Yet Betty proved to be a critical success but a commercial failure, its versatility relegating it to the cutout bins.
Echeverria left Helmet in the mid-’90s to join Biohazard, and the band bought time to refocus by releasing the Born Annoying collection of B-sides in 1995. Hamilton played all the guitar parts for 1997’s Aftertaste — but his vocals sounded like his heart just wasn’t in a group in which he couldn’t keep a rhythm guitarist, and the album proved a disappointment. After touring with Orange 9mm‘s Chris Traynor on guitar and much deliberation, Helmet disbanded in 1999. But the Helmet influence was heard throughout rock, whether by Hamilton’s involvement with industrial groups (Nine Inch Nails) or indirectly through metal acts (System of a Down), and even the atonal distortion of rap-rock hybrids such as Korn and Limp Bizkit.
Helmet returned in 2004 when Hamilton recruited Traynor and a new rhythm section consisting of drummer John Tempesta (Rob Zombie, Testament) and bassist Frank Bello (Anthrax); signed to Interscope, the group released Size Matters in October of that year. The lineup would change with following albums as well. Drummer Mike Jost and bassist Jeremy Chatelain joined Hamilton and Traynor for 2006’s Monochrome, released on Warcon/Fontana, and guitarist Dan Beeman and drummer Kyle Stevenson rotated in for 2010’s Seeing Eye Dog.
After a six-year silence, Helmet reemerged in late 2016 with their eighth album, Dead to the World (earMusic). Produced by Hamilton, it was the first release to feature new bassist Dave Case.
As genre progenitors pushing beat-driven industrial, corrosive metal, and electronic body music in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Front Line Assembly helped formulate this hybrid style before acts like nine inch nails carried it into the mainstream. Initially, FLA dealt with the dark synth atmospherics heard on their official debut, 1987’s The Initial Command. The addition of EBM dance beats followed, heard on releases such as 1989’s Gashed Senses & Crossfire and 1992’s Tactical Neural Implant. As the genre incorporated more metal influences, so did the band, who injected jagged guitar riffs and aggressive sampling on 1994’s Millennium. After returning focus to electronic, techno-oriented beats, FLA entered the 21st century with a trio of releases that landed the group on the Billboard charts for the first time with 2006’s Artificial Soldier. They repeated the feat in 2010 with Improvised. Electronic. Device. before turning their attention to video game soundtracks on AirMech (2012) and WarMech (2018). FLA closed the decade with 2019’s Wake Up the Coma.
Through various lineup shifts over the decades, the act’s core duo is comprised of Bill Leeb (vocals, synthesizers) and Rhys Fulber (synthesizers, samplers). After working in the mid-’80s under the pseudonym Wilhelm Schroeder with Skinny Puppy, the Austrian-born Leeb formed the industrial/techno-based Front Line Assembly in 1986 with Fulber — who initially joined on as a studio assistant — and synth player Michael Balch. After a handful of compilation appearances and cassette-only releases, Front Line Assembly issued its first three full-length efforts — The Initial Command, State of Mind, and Corrosion — on a monthly basis between December 1987 and February 1988. Later in 1988, Corrosion, a subsequent mini-album titled Disorder, and a number of exclusive bonus tracks were compiled and released as Convergence.
In 1989, the group returned with the album Gashed Senses & Crossfire, which contained the dance-flavored singles “Digital Tension Dementia” and “No Limit.” A European tour in support of the record yielded a live album — simply titled Live — that was released and deleted on the same day in a limited edition of 4,000 pressings. After Balch departed Front Line Assembly in 1990, Fulber stepped in as a full partner; the streamlined duo soon released the electro-styled album Caustic Grip, while 1992’s Tactical Neural Implant found the group’s music moving in a harder-edged disco direction.
By 1994, their sound had evolved yet again, with the album Millennium displaying a newfound reliance on guitars; both the title track and “This Faith” scored as club hits. Fulber departed the lineup by 1997, while his replacement Chris Peterson debuted with 1998’s Monument. Implode appeared one year later. Sticking with a heavy dose of synth pop trance and throbbing melodies, Leeb and Peterson issued Epitaph in fall 2001. Rhys Fulber returned for the 2001 album Civilization and remained for the 2006 release Artificial Soldier, which found guitarist/keyboardist Jeremy Inkel joining the band. The remix album Fallout followed in 2007.
The group returned in 2010 with Improvised. Electronic. Device. (Metropolis), featuring new members Jeremy Inkel and Jared Slingerland, as well as “Stupidity,” with Al Jourgensen. After years of contributing previously released tracks to video game-related soundtracks, Front Line Assembly gave full focus to an entire album with AirMech, the electronic instrumental soundtrack for the video game of the same name, which was released in 2012. The next year, they returned with the dubstep-influenced Echogenetic — the remix album Echoes a year later — which they promoted on tour with Skinny Puppy. Echogenetic marked their highest chart success to date, topping the German Alternative Albums list and entering the top 20 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic and Heatseekers Albums charts.
In early 2018, keyboardist Inkel passed away due to asthma complications at the age of 34. The band carried on, joining Die Krupps on a spring European tour before the release of AirMech sequel WarMech. Closing out the 2010s, they issued Wake Up the Coma, which featured a cover of Falco‘s “Rock Me Amadeus” with Jimmy Urine, as well as appearances by Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) and Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks). A new decade in the band’s catalog was inaugurated with 2020’s Mechanical Soul, which recruited guests Jean-Luc De Meyer (Front 242) and Dino Cazares (Fear Factory).
About Ministry with Helmet and Front Line Assembly
All tickets for 7/17/20, 4/16/21, and 10/16/21 will be honored for the rescheduled date of March 12, 2022.
The Industrial Strength Tour
Celebrating 30 years of Ministry’s iconic record “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste.”
Born in 1981 in Chicago, Ministry has been the lifetime passion project of founder Al Jourgensen, considered to be the pioneer of industrial music. In its early days, Ministry was identifiable by its heavy synth-pop material in line with the new sounds and technology that were being developed in the ‘80s. Ministry’s output began with four 12” singles on Wax Trax! Records in 1981 before the first LP With Sympathy in 1983 via Arista Records. As time progressed however, so did Ministry, quickly developing a harsher, and more stylized sound that the band soon became infamous for on seminal albums Twitch (1986), The Land of Rape and Honey (1988), and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste (1989). With the release of Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and The Way to Suck Eggs (1992), Ministry hit an all time high in the mainstream musical realm and received its first Grammy nomination. In total, Ministry has been nominated for a Grammy award six times. After an indefinite hiatus in 2013, Ministry’s 2018 album, AmeriKKKant, continues to reflect Jourgensen’s views on the frightening state of society and politics. The latest lineup features Sin Quirin and Cesar Soto on guitars, John Bechdel (Killing Joke) on keys and Paul D’Amour (Tool) on bass,