There is something contrived & pre-calculated in a lot of modern rock music today, & it makes many of us wonder where the “feel good” has gone & why some bands choose to give it up. Lucky for us, we can always turn back the clock with great classic rock forefathers like Kick Axe & Helix…who performed in Regina a couple of weeks ago, & still raise the guitar-driven bar for many acts to follow. Having gotten to know both bands on a more personal level…hearing stories of hardship, brotherhood, & touring thrills during the prime of their careers…they still reflect the one unabashed quality that puts music on a palpable level – & that is writing & performing from the heart.
HELIX, who are currently promoting their new independent EP “Skin In The Game”, still ignite as much resilient support as they did at their peak – a successful tour through Sweden only a few months back, & a number of ongoing excursions across their Canadian homeland…it keeps the proverbial “Road Dogs” minding their turf. KICK AXE, on the other hand, don’t muster near as much activity anymore (to the chagrin of many worldwide fans) – but when they do pull the “VICES” together…it’s still one of the tightest, most consistent deliveries that make a show truly spectacular! Through various changes over the course of their careers, both groups have seen the inclusion of some “younger blood” – Kaleb Duck (new guitarist for Helix) & vocal powerhouse Danny Nargang of Kick Axe. It’s an intricate meshing to have rising musicians fill the slots of mega-originals like Paul Hackman & George Criston, not to mention the mountain of influences that can separate their musical eras, but according to the stage presence & band vitality – the two new unions are working out rather well.
Helix pounced into action, beginning with a career-highlighting slideshow…various moments from the early beginnings of the band, to their rise in North American rock, their 30th Anniversary Tour, & all the people they have worked with along the way – a history of contributions to TWENTY-FIVE albums…at least, the ones we know of. Breaking into highly-recognizable hits like the infamous “ROCK YOU” plus Wild in the Streets, Heavy Metal Love, Make ‘Em Dance, & Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’ – it didn’t take long for the old school fists to hit the air. The well-oiled machine, performing with original drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz, blasted through epic percussion & indispensible riffs that put the glory back in GLAM ROCK. Brian Vollmer still hits the higher end of the scale…a staggering accomplishment for a man that almost permanently lost his singing talent in the early days of his profession. As he whips his microphone cord around like Zorro, & youthfully kicks the air, it leads me to believe that…you can take the boy outta’ the rockstar, but you can never truly take the rockstar outta’ the boy! Backed by six-string aggression from Brent Doerner, & unified rhythm at the opposite end of the stage between Kaleb Duck & bassist Daryl Gray, the hits streamed across one another in a set that was too short to cover all the gems…but still brazenly pleasing to any Helix follower. “Gentleman, start your engines!” Gray yells, as the triple-guitar threat bounds into a new version of the “William Tell Overture” – parading technical abilities that are just as strong as their showmanship & a diversity that centers on MORE than just radio-flavor momentum.
KICK AXE deliver a heightened set of energized guitar stand-offs & howling metal leads, but a predominant factor for which the group should be highly commended is the tsunamic, multi-level harmonies that resonate between the five members. Plowing through songs like Alive & Kickin’, Heavy Metal Shuffle, Dreamin’ About You, Hunger, On the Road to Rock, & Welcome to the Club – there is an age-old sensation that keep these pieces relevant in today’s standards…& I can see why many musicians say they were subconsciously influenced by this little band originating from mid-Canada. Daniel Nargang (frontman) & Larry Gillstrom (guitarist) have a way of tempering the crowd without becoming over-zealous, & paired with Raymond Harvey serving up passion-infused solos alongside the gargantuan axe-shaped bass of Victor Langen – it’s hard to summon another act that would be somewhat comparable. What they do is unique, & exponentially fun, on many levels. Even for their time, Kick Axe was a band that achieved much of their commercial success by appealing to the needs of a deep rhythm-line & vocals that bordered on power-metal without losing progressive choral charm. Underneath this hardened rhythmic core is “thunder-weight” drummer Brian Gillstrom – who exhausted all patrons during a scintillating solo that (I’m sure) claimed the life of his sticks.
Anyone who knows the history of music can attest to how much these two brother bands have enabled the Canadian hardrock culture…& they continue to do so. They are the living proof that life & careers do move beyond the scope of youth & the downfalls many acts encounter, but if the songs are based upon originality & a fever to create something unalloyed…then they become as “timeless” as the artists themselves. As Kick Axe discuss the likelihood of another album surfacing, & Helix rampage into new material & hitting every stage within their reach, the fans continue to dissect the formula that made it all possible in the first place…a formula that puts a capital “C” on Canadian Classic Rock.
BPatoine – January, 2012
*** For more information, please visit the bands on their official websites.