Fresh from a guitarist stint with Sonic Youth-style squallmeisters Band of Susans, Page Hamilton founded Helmet in 1988 to explore, as one BoS member described it, "half-speed Sabbath riffs." While a student in jazz, Hamilton became fascinated with producing music that employed odd post-punk tunings and jazz time-signatures while mining a churning aggression like Steve Albini's band Big Black. Helmet's compressed, thundering attack would help usher in a louder, cacophonous metal sound. Returning from a seven-year hiatus, Hamilton's resurrected Helmet sounds similar, though the glossier sound and new-found melodic choruses on the comeback album Size Matters undermine his still-great guitar work. Seems you can't go home again when a hundred other metal acts have taken your furniture.
More interesting are the Loeffler brothers, who comprise the Windy City trio Chevelle. The band's debut was recorded by Steve Albini and garnered a bit of underground buzz, though the Loefflers say they hated it, particularly Albini's refusal to thicken the broth with compression. Chevelle's follow-up, Wonder What's Next, was delayed by a dispute between Epic and the band's former label, but it didn't prevent the group from scoring an enormous hit, "Send the Pain Below." Taking many cues from Helmet, Chevelle features a similar churn, but its largest influence is clearly Tool's Maynard Keenan, whom singer/guitarist Pete Loeffler often recalls down to the growling scream. Like its antecedents, Chevelle stamps out a properly mechanistic crunch, perhaps expressing the way the world will grind you down. Then again, maybe it's just that the world keeps turning, and those that stay in one place are destined to be ground under. -- Chris Parker
Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. Tickets $25; call 314-726-6161 for more information.