Metal On Ice Memories… Classic HELIX, LEE AARON, CONEY HATCH, HEADPINS, KICK AXE, KILLER DWARFS Reworked On New EP; Review

October 29, 2013, 6 years ago

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By "Metal" Tim Henderson

When you've got a pro like former CRASH KELLY mainman Sean Kelly - who has also worked with former GUNS N' ROSES guitarist GILBY CLARKE and more recently with Canuck legends HELIX and the more mainstream pop of NELLY FURTADO - behind such a project, there's no reason to doubt the outcome to these classic tracks as he pays homage to our heavy rock royalty, namely Helix, LEE AARON, KICK AXE, CONEY HATCH, HEADPINS and the KILLER DWARFS. Although I will provide a little commentary about the "updated" version, I must share more about these particular tracks/bands and truly what they mean to the landscape of Canadian hard rock and heavy metal!

'Heavy Metal Love' - Brian Vollmer (Helix)

Following two under-the-radar releases (1979's debut Breaking Loose and '81s White Lace & Black Leather), Helix went for the throat with their third full-length No Rest For The Wicked and 'Heavy Metal Love' led the charge with amorous attitude and more importantly at the time radio/video play, which opened the doors for the band in the US. The track is not as rough around the edges this time around, but Vollmer's appeal behind the mic shines, whereas the bombastic rhythm section (including Helix bassist Daryl Gray) pounds the message deeper in this ultimate heavy metal anthem!

'Metal Queen' - Lee Aaron

Canada's reigning Metal Queen, Lee Aaron (real name Karen Greening), burst into the scene in the early '80s and fans/press took immediate notice of this stunning beauty with a voice and looks that kill! And of course nobody will forget the video, which kinda painted Lee Aaron in a corner at the time. This reworking of arguably her most recognizable song around the world chugs and wails like the original, although during the chorus we see added acoustic flair and reinforced backing vocals. Aaron's presence remains at the fore-front where it should be, a mix of flowing power and razor sharp vocal swath as the Queen still reigns supreme.

'On The Road To Rock' - Nicholas Walsh (FAMOUS UNDERGROUND, SLIK TOXIK) with Victor Langen (Kick Axe)

Under-rated band, killer track (which Sean has graciously allowed us to stream below and here)! Real happy to see this chosen as a flag-bearer for the classic Canadian hard rock memories. But picture this, I'm 17, taking the Barrie bus down to the SCORPIONS' Heavy Metal Hurricane at Toronto's CNE Grandstand Stadium in 1984. I give my general admission ticket to the taker and run, run, run like a mutha towards the stage until I can't go any further! Lo and behold I end up at the barrier, holding onto the bar next to the photo pit with 25,000 screaming metalheads behind me! And Kick Axe kick off the festivities in support of the newly-released Vices album which 'On The Road To Rock' is pulled from. Martin Popoff has called Regina's heroes "the smartest, most complex 'LA metal' band Canada ever produced!" Walsh is a perfect fit for this driving tune, full of energy and hardened harmonies! Not sure if he had his shoes off like original singer George Criston, but his vocals fit this classic track to a "t".

Kickin' Ass With Kick Axe!

'Hey Operator' - Carl Dixon (Coney Hatch)

Aside from perhaps MAX WEBSTER, Coney Hatch may be the most overlooked hard rock band in Canadian history, although it was a satisfying moment when Frontiers decided to pick up their reunion album Four recently. Containing easily one of the catchiest chorus lines this country has ever harmonized to the world, 'Hey Operator' 2013 retains that melodic tone, attitude and wailing guitar duels. Singer/guitarist Carl Dixon - who told me he's playing/ singing better than ever following a near-fatal car accident in Australia in 2008 - still shines with passion and precision. He's a true gem in this scene and we're happy he's still on fire. And do yourself a favour, grab Coney Hatch (1982), Outta Hand (1983) and Friction (1985) for some heavy doses of fine melodic metal!

'Don't It Make You Feel' - Darby Mills (Headpins)

Most women in rock would die to have this Headpins singer's voice! Sultry, smokey and powerful, this remake does justice to the original with that toe-tapping, swinging backbeat that catapulted the band to the top of the charts in 1982. Not the heaviest of metals, 'Don't It Make You Feel' takes a page out of the KISS handbook ('I Was Made For Loving You') with a punchy, yet danceable vibe. Yes, Darby still rocks!

'Keep The Spirit Alive' - Russ Dwarf (Killer Dwarfs)

Uplifting and raucous, this fine Killer Dwarfs slab has been given a fresh coat of paint with added guitar licks and flowing harmonies. But this wee Dwarf has a towering voice and time has been very kind to his lungs. To anybody that is down and out, the message remains as clear as the sky on a crisp, chilly winter night in January.

'Metal On Ice'

Of course the title track and only original on the EP, 'Metal On Ice', won't help Canada's image that we all live in igloos 24/7, the driving tunes quite fittingly features the aforementioned staples to the scene: Brian Vollmer, Lee Aaron, Nick Walsh, Carl Dixon and Darby Mills. But read the coinciding book by Sean Kelly, loaded with tales from the tundra as these bands paid their dues. "It ain't about the dough, it's all about the show," the track screams with an anthemic quality, as each voice shares their blood, sweat, tears and beers! Crank it!

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