Canadian rockers HELIX formed in 1974, to initially compete in a “Battle of the Bands” contest held in Kitchener, Ontario. The band achieved some success in the eighties and toured extensively with some of the biggest names in the business, including Kiss, Aerosmith, Rush and many others. Helix guitarist Paul Wayne Hackman (1952—July 5, 1992) helped form the band in 1976 passed away in 1992 when the group's touring van veered off the road and rolled down a 40-foot embankment. Frontman Brian Vollmer has kept the band and the music alive for over three decades despite many line-up changes.
Helix – White Lace & Black Leather (H&S Records) 1981
1. Breaking Loose (4:13)
2. It's Too Late (3:57)
3. Long Distance Heartbreak (6:47)
4. Time For A Change (3:12)
5. Hangman's Tree (3:55)
6. It's What I Wanted (3:58)
7. Mainline (3:00)
8. Women, Whiskey & Sin (3:11)
9. Thoughts That Bleed (4:30)
This was Helix's second album and was a transition album between the more 70's based sound of their first album and the classic heavy metal of "No Rest of the Wicked" in 1983. Musically Helix have a sound that reminds me of early Riot
, early Y&T
and The Rods
. Songs like the title track, "It's Too Late" and Women, Whiskey & Sin" fall a little closer to the band's classic 80's sound while most of the rest of the tracks are a blend of bluesy hard rock and 70's style melodic hard rock. Brian Vollmer's vocals are a little more laid back than any album that would follow. Though this album isn't anywhere near as popular as albums that would follow, I personally love the late 70's/early 80's heavy metal sound captured here.
| Helix - No Rest for the Wicked (Rock Candy) 1983
1. Does a Fool Ever Learn" (3:29)
2. Let's All Do It Tonight" (2:52)
3. Heavy Metal Love" (3:03)
4. Check Out the Love" (3:03)
5. No Rest for the Wicked" (3:14)
6. Don't Get Mad Get Even" (3:23)
7. Ain't No High Like Rock 'N Roll" (3:34)
8. Dirty Dog" (3:35)
9. Never Wanna Lose You" (3:10)
10. "White Lace & Black Leather" (3:44)
Helix's "No Rest for the Wicked" is one of the all time classic heavy metal albums. It was the third album for Canada's Helix, but their first one a major label. The track "Heavy Metal Love" received some radio play back in the day, from what I remember. For sure it saw regular play on the specialty heavy metal shows, such as Metal Shop. MTV picked up the video for "Heavy Metal Love" and had it on regular rotation. Helix even toured in support of this album with Motorhead in the U.S. and Kiss in Europe on their successful "Lick It Up" tour. "No Rest" should have been just a huge album for Helix, and certainly a stepping stone to even bigger and better things.
1983 was the same year that Quiet Riot's "Metal Health" tore up the charts. Both albums were similar in style; big, heavy guitars, slightly screechy vocals, pounding drums, and those big sing-along anthemic choruses. Helix's "No Rest for the Wicked" is easily as good, if not better than "Metal Health". The title track, "Heavy Metal Love", "Don't Get Mad", "Ain't No High Like Rock 'N Roll", "Dirty Dog" are all fantastic 80's rockers. "Heavy Metal Love" and "Ain't No High Like Rock 'N Roll" are exactly what fist pumping, head banging, 80's heavy metal was all about. The title track was the band's "Highway to Hell", a tale of life on the road. "Workin' hard all day long, just singin' my crazy song, I get no rest. i get no rest, on the road for forty days, lordy lord my minds in a haze
I get no rest...But i'm sure havin' lots of fun...ain't no rest for the wicked, ain't no rest for a rock and roll band." "Never Want to Loose You" is a melodic, bluesy rocker that recalls classic Y&T. The whole package is brought to life by the charismatic grit and vocal prowess of lead singer Brian Vollmer. Why this album make them stadium headliners shall forever be a mystery. Regardless of their popularity, "No Rest for the Wicked" is stands up as a classic of traditional heavy metal. It's one of those albums that reminds me of warm summers, hanging with friends and just having a good time.
The 2005 Rock Candy re-issue is lovingly crafted by people who obviously love the music and this band. The 16-page insert includes photos and tons of liner notes. The sound is fantastic as well. My only complaint about the re-issue is that the cover is cropped, cutting off the hilarious tail on the half sleeping demon-dude. (See photo above)
Helix - Walkin' the Razor's Edge (Capitol) 1984
1. Rock You
2. Young and Wreckless
3. Animal House
4. Feel The Fire
5. When The Hammer Falls
6. Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'
7. My Kind Of Rock
8. (Make Me Do) Anything You Want
9. Six Strings, Nine Lives
10. You Keep Me Rockin'
"Walkin' the Razor's Edge" was the fourth album by the Canadian headbangers, and their second for a major label. Helix play 1980's, anthemic heavy metal! It's all so incredibly cheesy, but who doesn't like a big 'ol slab of cheese every once in a while? On the band's previous album, "No Rest for the Wicked", the band had a minor hit and were quickly gaining a big fan base. That album rocked! On "Walkin' the Razor's Edge" Helix cranked it up a notch and gained worldwide success. The songwriting is more memorable and the production was improved as well. Their sound is akin to Quiet Riot, or the more commercial side of Judas Priest. Hooky, sing-along, rock and roll anthems, crunchy guitars, competent solos, slightly raspy vocals. Helix actually beat Quiet Riot at their own game. "Rock You", "Animal House", "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" all should have been Top 40 hits right along side "Come On Feel the Noise" and "Metal Health". Though I'm not from Canada, I would imagine that "Rock You" is still cranked in hockey barns across the country. "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" is actually a Crazy Elephant cover, though I had always thought it was a Helix original until recently. The song fits the rest of the album like a glove. Other standout tracks are "Young and Wreckless" and "When the Hammer Falls". The power ballad "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want" was a hit single in Canada, though it didn't really register outside their homeland. It's probably the weakest song on the album though it's not as bad as some of the radio ballads that would clog up the airwaves in the 80's. "Walkin' the Razor's Edge" is one of those albums to crank while cruising with the top down on a warm summer day.
Helix - Long Way to Heaven (Capitol) 1985
1. The Kids Are All Shakin (3:48)
2. Deep Cuts The Knife (4:02)
3. Ride the Rocket (3:24)
4. Long Way to Heaven (3:34)
5. House on Fire (4:15)
6. Christine (3:34)
7. Without You (Jasmine's Song) (3:40)
8. School of Hard Knocks (4:06)
9. Don't Touch the Merchandise (2:47)
10. Bangin' Off-a-the Bricks (3:15)
Helix seemed to be gaining some momentum in the mid-1980's with "Walkin' on the Razor's Edge" and "No Rest for the Wicked". The band had a few singles chart in their homeland of Canada, including the cheesy-metal hit "Rock You". "Heavy Metal Love" from "No Rest..." even managed to hit the charts worldwide. So with their 1985 release, I am pretty sure that the record company was on the band's back to produce hit singles. As such, "Long Way to Heaven" is a bit more commercial than anything that proceeded it. That's not to say they completely abandoned their sound or formula. After all, Helix's brand of party metal was already in vogue in the 80's. However, the songs definitely seem more concerned about commercial accessibility and the production is slicker than ever before. The first single was the melodic semi-ballad (power ballad?) "Deep Cuts the Knife", a song co-write by guitarist Paul Hackman and Bob Halligan, Jr.. Halligan, who had recently written songs with Judas Priest, also co-penned Helix's big hit from the last album, "Rock You". It's actually a very good song with a big hook. The song received heavy airplay and helped push sales of the album. "Without You (Jasmine's Song) " is another melodic ballad-type song with a huge hooky chorus. As I recall, it was songs like these that sent the band's heavy metal core fan base running for the hills. I can remember hearing the "sellout" and "poser" tag placed on the band regularly. I didn't really see it then and I don't really see it now. "Long Way to Heaven" sounds like classic Helix to me. The title track is definitely classic Helix. It's a fairly heavy rocker with a nice guitar solo break and a big hook. This song and "Don't Touch the Merchandise" could easily have fit onto the band's last two platters. "Kids Are All Shakin" is another of the harder rocking cuts and is a rock and roll anthem type song. However, this song is obviously written to gain a hit in America. With a chorus that repeats, "have you heard the news today, yeah, the kids are all shakin' in the USA" the song was obviously meant to help push their popularity in the US. Still, it's no more cheesy than songs like "Rock You" and "Heavy Metal Love". Basically, "Long Way to Heaven" is another in a long line of solid Helix albums. It's not really the big commercial sell-out some fans make it out to be. Sure it's cheesy, but so was much of what came out of the 80's. It's also fun!
Helix - Wild in the Streets (EMI) 1987
1. Wild in the Streets (3:43)
2. Never Gonna Stop the Rock (4:36)
3. Dream On (3:43)
4. What Ya Bringin' to the Party (:02)
5. High Voltage Kicks (4:21)
6. Give 'em Hell (3:36)
7. Shot Full of Love (4:27)
8. Love Hungry Eyes (4:00)
9. She's Too Tough (3:28)
10. Kiss it Goodbye (3:28)
Helix, like Y&T, had an relentless infectious sound that unfortunately never quite gained the attention it deserved. They started out as a more traditional heavy metal band but by 1987 had transformed into a good time, party hearty, raisin' the roof, pop metal band. They had the tough, heavy groove of AC/DC, yet they had the hooks of American pop metal, as well as those "good times" lyrics. It's all brought home by Brian Vollmer's slightly raspy vocal delivery. His voice is certainly fitting on "Dream On", a Nazareth cover.
The production maintains a raw rock 'n' roll sound without being overly glossy or keyboard saturated, as much of the music coming out on major labels was by '87. Sure, this is the type of music that existed during the days of spandex and Aqua Net, but it is also the type of music that you cranked in your car, with the windows down while you cruised around with your best friends.
Helix - Over 60 Minutes With... (Capitol) 1989
1. "No Rest for the Wicked" (3:12)
2. "Check Out the Love" (3:08)
3. "Dirty Dog" (3:32)
4. "Give it to You" (3:58)
5. "Young & Wreckless" (3:22)
6. "Deep Cuts the Knife" (3:55)
7. "Animal House" (2:57)
8. "You Keep Me Rockin'" (3:38)
9. "Never Wanna Lose You" (3:09)
10. "Does a Fool Ever Learn" (3:28)
11. "Jaws of the Tiger" (3:48)
12. "White Lace & Black Leather" (3:30)
13. "Long Way to Heaven" (3:24)
14. "Without You (Jasmine's Song)" (3:39)
15. "Everybody Pays the Price" (3:21)
16. "Heavy Metal Love" (2:59)
17. "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" (3:25)
18. "When the Hammer Falls" (3:02)
19. "The Kids Are All Shakin'" (3:47)
20. "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want" (4:07)
21. "Rock You" (2:51)
"Over 60 Minutes with Helix" is an excellent compilation CD focusing mostly on Helix’s early 1980’s heavy metal material, with nothing from the band’s ‘79 release "Breaking Loose" or their ‘81 album "White Lace and Black Leather". There are a total of seven tracks each from "No Rest for the Wicked" and "Walkin' the Razor's Edge". "No Rest for the Wicked" and "Heavy Metal Love" are prime classic metal tracks and two that I remember hearing frequently on heavy metal radio back in the day. (Anyone remember Metal Shop?) "Check Out the Love" has a 1970’s flare and also has a slight Southern rock vibe, thanks in part of the slide guitar parts. "Dirty Dog" is a sleazy rocker that reminds me of Y&T. All four tracks are from the "No Rest for the Wicked" album. There are also four tracks from "Long Way to Heaven", including the ballad "Deep Cuts the Knife". I’m not generally a big fan of power ballads, but this one is quite good. Vocalist Brian Vollmer has a raspy, dirty voice that works so well with this sort of music and is most certainly a big part of what gave Helix their distinctive sound. The front cover image is taken from the "Wild in the Streets"-era, though no songs from that album are represented here. However, there are four unreleased tracks included, that sound like they are all from this same era of the band.
Helix - Back for Another Taste (Grudge) 1990
1. The Storm (4:31)
2. Running Wild in the 21st Century (3:52)
3. That's Life (3:41)
4. Breakdown (5:27)
5. Heavy Metal Cowboys (3:15)
6. Back for Another Taste (3:58)
7. Rockin' Rollercoaster (3:18)
8. Midnight Express (4:05)
9. Good to the Last Drop (4:28)
10. Give It to You (4:05)
11. Wheels of Thunder (4:22)
"Back for Another Taste" is a more commercial sounding album that most of what I am familiar with for Helix’s past. The songs have catchy pop choruses, and feature lots of sing-along gang vocals, but still manage to retain a crunchy rock and roll sound. Songs like "Midnight Express" and "Rockin’ Rollercoaster" could easily have been rock radio hits in 1990, but for whatever reason, Helix remained only an underground favorite. Likewise, "Good to the Last Drop" is a power ballad that could have been a hit, had it been recorded by Van Halen or Def Leppard. Album closer "Wheels of Thunder" is a straight forward, uptempo heavy metal romp that recalls "No Rest For the Wicked". As always, Brain Vollmer’s raspy vocals give the band their charm. Despite the more pop sheen of "Back for Another Taste", this album is not held down by an overly slick production or those incessive keyboards that killed more than one rock and roll record in the 80's and early 90's.
Helix - It's A Business Doing Pleasure (Aquarius) 1992
1. That Day Is Gonna Come (5:15)
2. Tug o' War (3:40)
3. Wrong Side of Bed (4:14)
4. Can't Even Afford to Die (4:05)
5. Misery Loves Company (3:52)
6. Look Me Straight in the Hear (4:05)
7. Trust the Feeling (5:08)
8. Love Is a Crazy Game (4:18)
9. Sleepin' in the Dog House Again (3:29)
10. Mad Mad World (3:26)
"It's A Business Doing Pleasure" was the 8th Helix studio album and would be the first album without founding member and guitarist Paul Hackman. It's release under the Helix name was controversial. At the time of writing and recording this album, vocalist Brian Vollmer was working on what would be his first solo album. The songs for the new Helix record were to be written by guitarist Paul Hackman, but his untimely death left Helix with no new material. Vollmer had nearly finished recording his solo album, and decided to release the recordings under the Helix banner even though no other Helix band members. Vollmer's co-writer and co-producer Marc Ribler played all the guitar parts on the album and Saga drummer Brian Doerner performed all drum parts. Of course most of this information wasn't release when the album was originally released on Aquarius Records in 1993. The liner notes to the album only listed the then current members of Helix with no mention of Ribler.
The music on "It's A Business Doing Pleasure" is a bit outside of what Helix had been know for up to this point in their existence. Many had assumed that the band were trying to reinvent themselves in light of the times. There are no feel-good, party-hearty anthems heard here, nor does the album ever cross over into heavy metal territory. The album has a more somber mood, with many song being acoustic guitar driven and bluesy. in light of Paul's death, I suppose the mood is
A few songs, such as "Wrong Side of Bed" would have sounded more like Helix with a grittier guitar sound and a bit more aggression in the delivery. However, that's not to say that "It's a Business..." is a bad album. It's just very different compared to classic albums like "No Rest for the Wicked" and "Wild in the Streets".
It's worth mentioning that "Look Me Straight in the Heart" features guest vocals from Lee Aaron and "Sleepin' In The Dog House Again" features guest guitarist Kim Mitchell.
Helix - Half Alive (DeRock Records) 1998
1. Shock City Psycho Rock (3:48)
2. Wrecking Ball (4:18)
3. The Pusher (4:47)
4. Big Bang Boom (3:02)
5. The Same Room (4:38)
6. No Rest For the Wicked [live] (5:23)
7. Dirty Dog [live] (3:31)
8. Running Wild in the 21st Century [live] (3:55)
9. Animal House [live] (4:15)
10. When the Hammer Falls [live] (2:55)
11. Deep Cuts the Knife [live] (4:16)
12. Smile [live] (:48)
13. Good To the Last Drop [live] (4:01)
14. Heavy Metal Love [live] (5:34)
15. Wild in the Streets [live] (6:22)
16. Rock You [live] (4:44)
"half-ALIVE" was the first new album from Helix following the death of original guitarist Paul Hackman and the tour for "It's a Business Doing Pleasure." The album features five new tracks and eleven live tracks, which were recorded between 1992 and 1997. It become the first official live album from Helix, though they did have a promotional live CD released before it. The band consists of original member Brian Vollmer (vocals) and longtime bassist Daryl Gray, Greg "Fritz" Hinz (drums) and a revolving line-up of guitarists. It's great to hear those old classic Helix songs in a live setting. The live tracks sound like they are actually live without being overly doctored and the club crowd sounds rowdy and not pasted in. Nothing worse that canned crowd noise.
The five studio tracks sound like what you would expect from Helix, rowdy, raunchy and hard rockin'. "Big Bang Boom" has a big, classic 1980's feel, whereas "Shock City Psycho Rock" is a more straight forward hard rock song. This particular song was written by bassist Mike Uzelac, who had ben with Helix from 1980 - 1983. "The Pusher" is a cover of the classic Steppenwolf song. Vocalist Brian Vollmer sounds as good as he ever has.
Helix – The Power Of Rock And Roll (Perris Records) 2007
1. Fill Your Head With Rock (2:25)
2. Get Up! (2:43)
3. Nickels And Dimes (3:19)
4. The Past Is Back (To Kick Your Ass!) (2:31)
5. Eat My Dust (2:29)
6. Baby Likes To Ride (3:33)
7. Boomerang Lover (2:56)
8. Cyberspace Girl (3:13)
9. Living Life Large (3:05)
10. The Power Of Rock ’N Roll (3:49)
11. Heavy Metal Love 2006 (3:01)
Canada's sons of thunder, Helix have been around a long long time. Many bands with a history as long as Helix's tend to sway musically from one trend to the next. "The Power of Rock and Roll" is typical Helix. Chugging riffs, guitar heavy rock, catchy songs, and Vollmer's signature snarl. Nothing trendy about it. Unfortunately the band's only original member on this particular album is vocalist Brian Vollmer. Of course Helix's classic years revolved around "No Rest For The Wicked", "Walkin' The Razor's Edge", "Long Way To Heaven" and "Wild In The Streets", but "The Power of Rock and Roll" is no slacker or an album to fill a hole in a collection. The album features eleven tracks, six of which appeared on the band's "Get Up!" EP. Heavy rockers like "Get Up!", "Baby Likes To Ride", "The Power Of Rock And Roll", "Nickels And Dimes" and "Living Life Large" all prove Vollmer hasn't lost his edge. "The Past Is Back (To Kick Your Ass!)" and "Get Up!" in particular remind me of those classic Helix albums. The album closes with a re-recording of the band's classic track "Heavy Metal Love". The production has a very raw "classic" vibe to it rather than the shiny, polished finish that a lot of bands opt for. Frankly, this adds to the overall heavy feel of the album.
Helix - Vagabond Bones (Helix Records / Perris) 2009
1. The Animal Inside (Won't Be Denied) (4:08)
2. Go Hard or Go Home (3:49)
3. Vagabond Bones (2:53)
4. Monday Morning Meltdown (4:17)
5. When The Bitter's Got The Better Of You (3:27)
6. Hung Over But Still Hanging In (3:19)
7. Best Mistake I Never Made (3:40)
8. Make 'Em Dance (3:11)
9. Jack It Up (3:02)
Helix 2009 isn't really all that different from Helix 1983. "Vagabond Bones" is nine tracks of hooky Canadian hard rock and heavy metal. The first four songs alone could have been recorded during the classic era of the band, cheesy lyrics and all. The opening riff of the "The Animal Inside (Won't Be Denied)" is pure 80's heavy metal. I wonder had this song been released back then if it wouldn't have been a hit for the band. It sort of has a vibe similar to "Rock You Like A Hurricane". "Go Hard or Go Home" is pure attitude, and is another catchy song with a sing-along chorus and hooky guitar riff. "Go hard, or go home, take your little whiny candy ass and go." "Vagabond Bones" continues the trilogy of hooky, straight forward hard rockers. "Monday Morning Meltdown" is has a bit more of a pop vibe, with a big Cheap Trick influence. "When The Bitter's Get The Better Of You" is a hard rock shuffle with a bit of a Van Halen flavor. Overall, this is a collection of nine prime Helix tracks. Brian Vollmer sounds as good as he ever has.
"Vagabond Bones" is suppose to be somewhat of a reunion album. The band is listed as Brian Vollmer, Brent "The Doctor" Doerner, Daryl Gray, and Greg "Fritz" Hinz. However, from what I have read, guitarist and songwriter Sean Kelly had a lot to do with the recording and songwriting on this one. Though he is listed as a guest musician, drummer MacEachern (who was part of Helix during their early years) performed most, if not all of the drums. Either way, "Vagabond Bones" is easily better than 2007's "The Power of Rock and Roll", which I also thought was a good album. I'd even go so far to say it's as good as the band's classic releases like "No Rest for the Wicked", "Walkin' the Razor's Edge" and "Wild in the Streets".
The Perris Records release comes with a 45 song bonus Perris Records sampler CD. It's sort of worthless as none of the songs are complete song but just clips.