Alt-metal veterans Helmet have unveiled their cover of Gang of Four’s “In the Ditch” from the upcoming tribute album The Problem of Leisure: A Celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four, due June 4th. The song marks Helmet’s first new track in nearly five years.
As previously reported, The Problem of Leisure: A Celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four is a tribute to the pioneering post-punk band and their late singer-guitarist, who passed away last year. Among the other artists contributing tracks are Tom Morello & Serj Tankian, Flea & John Frusciante, Gary Numan, IDLES, and more.
Helmet, like so many other bands, owe a great musical debt to Gang of Four, and frontman Page Hamilton makes no secret of his love for the innovative UK group.
“My old pal Henry Rollins reissued [the Gang of Four albums] Entertainment! and Solid Gold back in the ’90s and asked me to do liner notes for Solid Gold. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I know it was glowing, corny and fanboy,” stated Hamilton. “Their songs, feel, energy, inventiveness made an indelible imprint on my musical soul. All of our peers that formed bands in the late ’80s were influenced by Gang of Four.”
He added, “I chose ‘In the Ditch’ for this tribute ’cause it’s a great song even though it was challenging (thank you to my band!). It feels improvised and random at times but holds together as a composition. The guitar part feels like spontaneous scratchy funk, the angular bass and drum groove grooves hard but sounds like there’s a spoke missing. The vocal is somehow beautiful but scary, urgent and dangerous.”
Hamilton continued, “There’s no room for limp dick, mail-it-in, non-musical moments in any of these songs. How the hell did they put this together? We could only try to capture the intensity of the original.”
Helmet’s last release was their eighth studio album, 2016’s Dead to the World. The band is scheduled to support Ministry on a North American tour this fall.
Stream Helmet’s take on Gang of Four’s “In the Ditch” below, and pre-order The Problem of Leisure: A Celebration of Andy Gill and Gang of Four here.