This album was a long time coming. The last “true” Helix studio album (eg: not live, greatest hits or previously unreleased songs) was the excellent It’s A Business Doing Pleasure, twelve years previous to this one. A lot happened in those twelve years, including member changes, management and record company splits, and even a Brian Vollmer solo album (When Pigs Fly). That Helix came out with an album this good with no warning was a pleasant surprise.
Almost every song here is quality stuff, with only the instrumental opener “Space Junk” and the jokey closer “Sunny Summer Daze” not fitting in with the serious rocking going on here. A couple of these recordings had previously appeared on Vollmer’s solo CD (with Brian Doerner on drums), but this sounds more like a proper Helix album. The title track features a killer chorus (reminded me of “Rock You” a bit) with those recognizable Helix backing vocals. It’s also the most “party” of all the new songs, some of them being a little darker. Glen “Archie” Gamble (drums) utilizes some interesting cymbal work, a little different from what you usually hear on a Helix record. His playing gives this version of Helix a different rhythm.
“Six Feet Underground” has some nice acoustic work, and is extremely catchy. “Panic” has some irresistible vocals. “It’s Hard To Feel the Sunshine When Your Heart is Filled With Rain” might have an overly long title, but the song is amazing, as heard live in concert. A wicked harmonica solo fills the spot with a guitar solo might normally fit. “The Ballad Of Sam & Mary” is a jokey lyric as Helix have done before, but with some serious kick behind it. (Listen for a cameo by Brian’s wife Lynda Vollmer.) It’s only when you get to the closer with its Hawiian guitar that you feel like the album just hit a speedbump. The final track’s saving grace is a guest appearance by former member “Doctor” Doerner on guitar.
This album represented a muscular return for Helix, one that kicked off a stream of new Helix records. The band seemed revitalized even as lineups changed, as they continued to follow through with more quality rock and roll. Rockin’ in My Outer Space is a pleasure for fans because it’s different. This is not party music. There are audible dark clouds and angry riffs. The changes in heavy metal over the previous decade are obvious here. The guitars are chunkier and dirtier, and no song has a party-hardy chorus like the days of old, though the title track comes close. Helix are known for a certain brand of rock, and it’s nice when they choose to stretch out.
Fear not Helix fans. Brian Vollmer and his gang of little-known but excellent players did not disappoint when they finally decided to release a new album under the Helix Band banner. Aside from the first and last tracks, this is one you’ll be playing all the way through.
And heck, you get used to the the first and last tracks after a while.
Bonus: In 2005, Helix returned to Sweden to play Sweden Rock. iTunes have one song from their set available for download: “Rock You” This track features the short-lived but very cool six-piece lineup of Brian Vollmer, Archie Gamble, Jeff Fountain (bass), Jim Lawson (guitar), Rainer Wiechmann (guitar and producer) and Cindy Wiechmann (vocals and other instruments). This is the version of Helix that supported this album, and fortunately it was captured live. Check it out for an idea of what this great lineup sounded like live.