Close your eyes for a moment to remember 1992. That year, after reportedly receiving a mind-bending $1 million recording contract after a fierce bidding war, Helmet, with guitar wizard Page Hamilton the close-cropped frontman, released "Meantime," and alt-metal roared its head to join the already bubbling alt-rock movement to proclaim that you didn't need to have long hair to complain through your guitar.
Close you eyes again. Several years later, in 1995, an alt-rock band from Texas released the single "Possum Kingdom," and it became the most popular song ever about encasing your blushing bride in a block of ice with repeated entreaties of "Do you wanna die?" (Don't deny that you don't remember that song. We all sang it that summer.)
As fate would have it, both bands fell on harder times as the 1990s came to a close, but after long hiatuses, both bands have returned.
Toadies never matched the success they found on MTV, and disbanded in 2001 after founding bassist Lisa Umbarger left. The entire band was still upset their record company rejected the band's second album, "Feeler," forcing the band to record a lackluster album instead before calling it quits.
"I went eight months without doing any music," said Vadem Todd Lewis, Toadies frontman. "I was betrayed by a lot of of people I have in the business. I was in a bad place, personally."
But Lewis was born to be a musician. "I got the itch," he said. "It's who I am, and what makes me happy."
He began the Dallas-based Burden Brothers, and in 1996 Toadies got the chance to do a reunion show. The band reunited and released a 1998 album, "No Deliverance," and "Feeler," which had been leaked for years, finally got its official release on another label. "It felt good to hear it how we wanted it to sound," Lewis said.
The band's fifth album, "Play.Rock.Music," was released in July, and it sounds like 1995 all over again, with dark lyrics and catchy melodies, with much of the subject material coming from Lewis' broken relationship. "That's always fodder," he said.
For the record, Lewis doesn't just get inspiration when ominous clouds are overhead. "I don't consider myself to be a dark person, but I get it," he said. "I heard some reviews [of the song "Beside You"] that talked about sinister overtones, but I wrote it about my daughter."
The history of Helmet sounds similar to that of Toadies. In 1998, after five albums and 1,600 shows, Hamilton dissolved the band after Helmet never saw the success of its major-label debut replicated and interpersonal quibbles became amplified.
For more than a half decade after that, Hamilton's attention turned away from metal and towards jazz, which he studied in college. Even now, he plays jazz gigs about four of five nights a year. He also focused on film scoring, with hopes that one day a film he has worked on will get accepted at the Sundance Film Festival.
But, in 2004, Hamilton decided to revive Helmet, even though he has remained the only constant member. In less than two years, "Size Matters" and "Monochrome" were released, and for a time Salt Lake City's Jeremy Chatelain played bass in the band. "He's an amazing musician," Hamilton said of Chatelain, who is still active in the local scene, most notably with the band Cub Country and Spy Hop Productions. "He's an amazing person."
In 2010, the band released "Seeing Eye Dog," and earlier this year was convinced to do a 20th anniversary tour in which it played "Meantime" from front to back. "That's the album that put us on the map," said Hamilton. "I never though we'd do it in its entirety ... We've never cut any of those songs from our set."To Hamilton, evolution means that "Seeing Eye Dog" is not a carbon copy of "Meantime." "Your music becomes a reflection of your life's philosophy," he said. "That changes as you get older." As a result, the stream-of-consciousness, cryptic lyrical style of "Meantime" has become more narrative on Helmet's later releases, and Hamilton's initially thin voice has never sounded better. "I'm not hiding as much anymore."
Helmet and Toadies are no longer hiding, and it's safe to come out and play. Just leave the corduroy jacket at home.
Toadies & Helmet Alt-rock bands The Toadies and Helmet will bring their tour to The Depot with guests UME. When • Saturday, 7:45 p.m.Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City Tickets • $20 at SmithsTix