One band that never received all of the notoriety that they truly deserved, is Kick Axe – a metal group originating on the flat Saskatchewan prairies…whose full-bodied, five-piece sound is driven by guitar melody & arena style chants. They released three albums (& videos) during the eighties, sharing the stage with such hardcore giants as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, The Scorpions, Metallica, Rush, Quiet Riot, & Whitesnake. In 1985, the group strayed away from their heavier style of songwriting to release “Welcome to the Club”. But by the end of that decade, the metal wave was slowly declining, & their third album “Rock the World” did not have near the impact that the band had anticipated. THEN…like a proverbial “kick to the teeth”, extreme mismanagement of the group’s finances (unbeknownst to the members at the time) left them “literally” without a career…even though there was STILL a record deal on the table.
Despite the extensive break-up which was forced upon them, Kick Axe have prevailed, & continue to MASTER the stage with as much charisma as they had “back in the day”. I wouldn’t describe them as a mere band, but more of a “brotherhood” when the spotlights begin to shine. They revel in what they do, & share a distinct passion to combine their various musical influences (& personalities) to initiate one of the most bona fide performances you’ll ever see.
Kick Axe is aspiring to get back to their roots of hard, metal rock…which was a determinant in holding three recent shows in Winnipeg, Regina, & Calgary. With talks of new material being released, it was a chance for the musicians to reconnect with their fans, harnessing the extensive power that can only be produced during a LIVE act. According to the group, this is the key element that they thrive upon to keep their creative embers burning.
The metal memories came flooding back with the onset of growling riffs, long hair, clanging cymbals, & studded leather. The energy on the stage was astounding for a group of musicians who are well into their middle ages. By playing a full tone down, with even beefier strings, Kick Axe’s sound is deeper & richer than ever before. Influenced by artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, The Who, Deep Purple, & Led Zeppelin…the group believes in capturing a style of music that carries a mass build of intensity. Larry Gillstrom is a wizard on the guitar, as is Raymond Harvey, & their massive licks blend perfectly with Victor Langen’s throaty, axe-shaped bass. Brian Gillstrom’s brash drumming rests nicely against Daniel Nargang’s classical strums on acoustic guitar, & there’s a wealth of productivity that flows generously between ALL members of the band.
The quintet pelted through the twelve song set list without reservation, & although some spectators felt that one of their OWN singles would’ve been a better choice as an encore, I believe that Daniel Nargang did justice when covering Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta’ Love. George Criston is the most notable frontman for the group, but Daniel succeeded in filling those lofty shoes. One of the things that I love most about Kick Axe is the use of a wide array of vocal harmony, & the bandmates tell me that Raymond’s backing vocals are second to none. The crescendo of the evening came with not only one, but TWO, standing ovations – which proved that they have not lost their skills to enrapture the fans. Favorite songs included Alive & Kickin’, On The Road To Rock, Heavy Metal Shuffle, The Chain, Hunger, & Welcome To The Club.
“It seems like a natural thing…you’re drawn to an instrument. I was drawn to the guitar.” — Raymond Harvey (Guitarist)
While some of the members stayed in the music industry, during the band’s long hiatus, others had to come up with “creative methods” just to keep off of the streets. It was a devastating waste of musical genius, because there was still so much ingenuity left in the group on which they could never collaborate. “It really hurts, & it hurt the fans.” – reflects Brian Gillstrom on a tainted past that they learned so painfully from. After an eighteen year separation, the group finally released Kick Axe IV, which was inspired by the band’s demise. Rockin’ Daze is one track you’ll need to hear to truly appreciate the group’s perspective on an unfortunate set of circumstances & is one of my personal favorites.
“YOU CAN TURN OFF THE TAP, OR IT CAN BE TURNED OFF FOR YOU.” — Daniel Nargang (Vocalist)
Jokingly stating that their inspiration came from “girls” & “being under the influence”, I asked the members of Kick Axe what they think will be the next frontier in the music industry. It was agreed that the scene will stay more independently focused. Artists are tired of critics & record companies dictating what they will write, so a sense of “rebellion” may be just what’s around the corner. “The BIG SHOW is coming back!” they tell me, so we could see a re-emergence of the vigorous musical palette that we experienced back in the eighties. Kick Axe is hoping to contribute to this renaissance by recording a heavier & quicker form classic rock, with an abundance of new innovation & fresh unpredictability. Whatever they do end up releasing, the band wants it to speak of “faith & truth” to their listeners.
From a small Canadian back alley with some longhaired pre-teens & a Hofner Beatle bass, through the climax of metal’s most triumphant years, then to no career at all, & back to reuniting with a new front man…Kick Axe are alive & kickin’, & ready to test the grounds of a new musical fate. “You never want to preconceive what you’re going to sound like.” – says Raymond Harvey, speaking of the music that is yet to come. But, one thing is for certain…it will be GREAT, because they have a genuine commitment to make it up to the fans for all the music that was lost along the way.
Kick Axe was formed in Regina, Saskatchewan during 1976. They’ve released FOUR albums in a twenty year period, the highest selling album continuing to be “Vices” – their first release on Pasha Records. The band’s songs have been featured on the movie soundtracks for “Up The Creek” & “Transformers: The Movie”. Current members are:
Larry Gillstrom (Guitar)
Brian Gillstrom (Drums)
Victor Langen (Bass)
Daniel Nargang (Vocals)
Former members include Gary Langen & George Criston.
For more information on the band, or to purchase music, please visit: