Part 3 of 3 in this week’s Helix miniseries. The original review was posted in August 2012, but this is completely new and improved!
HELIX – No Rest For the Wicked (1983 EMI)
Finally! The big break came, after nearly 10 years of hard work. The trick was re-branding Helix as a “metal band” instead of a plain old bar rock band. An early video for “Heavy Metal Love” was filmed in T-shirts and jeans. It was only after they switched to leather clothing and a more “metal” image, did people start to take notice. “Heavy Metal Love” was re-filmed for a more metallic music video, and Helix were more or less off to the races. They had a boost from CanCon rules, which meant the video went into rotation on MuchMusic.
“Heavy Metal Love”, written in a crummy hotel room in Seaforth Ontario, is an ode to Joan Jett; or rather a fantasy about Joan Jett. It remains as fun now as it was then. Helix re-recorded the tune in 2006 for their Get Up EP, but it is this version produced by Tom Treumuth that has become timeless. Indeed, it was chosen for the wedding scene in the Trailer Park Boys movie that same year. It’s still a great groove, and a whole lot of fun.
“Fun” is a great word to describe Helix’s music in general, and No Rest For the Wicked is perhaps their strongest effort, at least from their years on Capitol Records. It is true that I gave Breaking Loose (1979) high praise and a 5/5 star rating, but No Rest is easier to sink your teeth into on just one listen.
Helix in 1983 consisted of:
- Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
- Brent “the Doctor” Doerner – guitar
- Paul Hackman – guitar
- Mike Uzelac – bass
- Greg “Fritz” Hinz – drums
The only lineup change this time was the drum seat. Leo Niebudek departed, and was replaced by Fritz Hinz, ex-Starchild. (Starchild’s claim to history is an early single produced by some unknown guy named Daniel Lanois. Fritz played on their later, uber-rare Children of the Stars album.) With Hinz, the band had acquired an easy-to-love showman who had the chops required. I shall never forget the sight of Fritz’s buttless chaps, giving us the moon at a 1987 concert.
Even though I hold Breaking Loose in very high esteem, No Rest For the Wicked is probably just as good, but in a different way. The new heavier direction didn’t alienate their old fans, but it did gain them plenty of new ones. It seemed a lot of kids on my street had a copy of this LP or cassette. It’s more than just the one song — every track is great, every single one of ’em. The title track still serves as Helix’ show opener. Live, they change part of the lyrics to “Ain’t no rest for the Helix band!” It’s true! It’s an unrelenting and cool metal assault. But again…plenty fun.
Need some party rock? Look no further than “Let’s All Do It Tonight”. Listen to that one, and then try to forget the chorus! If you like that kind of melodic hard rock, then you’ll probably also dig “Don’t Get Mad Get Even”, the second (much less seen) video made for the album.
Need some sleeze? Then “Check Out the Love”, before you do the “Dirty Dog”. Both songs are killer grooves. “Dirty Dog” never fails to make the setlists today. It is suspended by a killer riff and Vollmer’s shredded vocal cords. And let’s not forget “White Lace and Black Leather”. (Like they did with the track “Breaking Loose”, Helix put the title song on the next album!) This is about as dirty as they get, and I love it.
Need a ballad? Naw, didn’t think so. But just in case, Helix put on a ballsy one, in “Never Want To Lose You”. Sounds wimpy, yes, but it has the guitars and heavy chorus necessary to keep you from losing your cool.
Need a boost of adrenaline? Then the doctor prescribes “Ain’t No High Like Rock ‘N’ Roll”. Kicking up the pace a few notches, it still retains that Helix knack for melody.
Also recommended, chase this with the live album called Live In Buffalo, which was recorded for radio shortly afterwards. It has high-octane live versions of most of these tracks as well as a sneak preview of the next album, Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge.
I think this one sounds particularly good on vinyl. Gimme an R!