heavy metal love

REVIEW: Helix – The Power of Rock and Roll (2007)

HELIX – The Power of Rock and Roll (2007

When Helix seemingly dropped off the map in the mid 90’s, I didn’t think they’d ever really come back with more studio albums. Yet they did thanks to the power of the internet. The Power Of Rock And Roll is a return to roots of sorts, after the alternative stylings of 2004’s Rockin’ in My Outer Space. This is a throwback to the basic guitars/bass/drums/shredding vocals of the Helix of yore!  “It’s a party that’s better than a beer, it’s a party in your ear!”  That’s their modus operandi on “Fill Your Head With Rock”, a song they wrote for the Sweden Rock festival.  They named it after the Kim Mitchell song of the same title, also recorded for Sweden Rock.

The Power Of Rock And Roll is essentially a reissue of the earlier seven song EP, Get Up! with five additional tracks added. If you already have Get Up! (which is now out of print), you still need The Power Of Rock And Roll because those five new songs are just awesome. Wait until you hear the power of “Nickels And Dimes”, an awesome track with a great chorus.  “Eat My Dust” might be the fastest song Helix has ever done.  “The Past Is Back (To Kick Your Ass)” is truly a statement of purpose. And kick your ass, this album will!

Personal favourite:  “Get Up!”  Can’t get enough of that chorus!  “We don’t need a reason to party, so get up get up!”  The first time I heard “Get Up!” was when Helix opened for Alice Cooper in Kitchener in early 2006.  It was a brand new song, but instantly memorable.  Brian Vollmer noticed I was in the second row singing along to the chorus.  He came down and slapped my hand!

Guitars are by session musician Steve Georgakopoulos who used to play Ace Frehley in the London tribute band Alive. As such, you may notice some very Ace-like bends and licks. Steve co-wrote every song on this album with Vollmer and Gord Prior (ex-Blu Bones). The only thing that I disliked about this album is that then-current members of the live Helix band doesn’t play on it. Rick VanDyk (ex-legendary Kitchener band Zero Option), Jim Lawson, Brent “Ned” Niemi, and Paul Fonseca did not appear, although they’d play everything live. In their stead are the aforementioned Steve Georgakopoulos on guitar, ex-Sven Gali drummer Rob MacEachern, and ex-Helix bassist Jeff “Stan” Fountain. I guess this is fine — these guys have a longstanding relationship with Helix. MacEachern even later joined the band in 2009. They’re all studio pros, and the album does not suffer for it. It’s just a personal taste thing. I prefer the members of the band to play on the albums. I’m traditional that way.

There’s a bonus track, a remake of the hit “Heavy Metal Love” which is almost as great as the original. Casual listeners might not even notice the difference. This was done to coincide with the use of the song in the first Trailer Park Boys movie.

If you’ve ever been a Helix fan, you will be delighted and pleasantly surprised by The Power Of Rock And Roll. Every single song kicks, no ballads. It is pure, raw, well recorded, well played, and Vollmer signs his ass off.

4.5/5 stars

Notice the Japanese symbol for “power” on the back?


DVD REVIEW: Helix – S.E.X. Rated (2000)


HELIX – S.E.X. Rated (2000 EMI DVD – NTSC and PAL)

Every good Canadian that was alive and rocking in the mid-80’s remembers the music video: The dudes are breaking rocks in the quarry, in chains. Then the singer stands up and yells, “Gimme an R! O! C! K! Whatcha got? Rock! And whatcha gonna do? Rock you!” And then, freedom!  It’s just one of those great 80’s rock music videos, and it’s only one of many on this DVD. Here, you get ’em all from the Capitol years.

The videos are not in chronological order, which would be my preferred arrangement.  The DVD commences with the award winning “Running Wild in the 21st Century” featuring Snake the Tattooed Man from London Ontario.  The older classics range from edgy to campy, but are always cool in their own way.  My preference is towards the live on stage type of video, like the exciting “Wild in the Streets”.  On the other hand, “The Kids are all Shakin'” is undeniably fun, with Brian Vollmer playing multiple characters from an old man to a radio DJ.  You can’t help but chuckle in your beer.

There are also a handful of rarities here, including the “topless” version of “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” that you definitely won’t see on MuchMusic. “Don’t Get Mad Get Even” was only played on Much, like, twice. So it’s pretty rare too. What’s missing is the alternate version of “Wild In The Street” that I have somewhere on a VHS tape, and any sort of special extras like interviews. Also, I have to say that I wish the video for “That Day Is Gonna Come” was on here. It is my all time favourite Helix video but it wasn’t on Capitol. It was on Aquarius.

[I have a buddy, Rob, who used to work for Rogers TV.  He told me that he had seen and knew where the tape was for the original “Heavy Metal Love” video.  They did an early version of it in T-shirts and jeans, before they changed their image to black leather.  Rob offered to copy it for me but I didn’t believe him so I said no!]

Great little DVD.  Extra interviews would have been awesome. However a lot of that stuff is available on other Helix DVDs. (Check ’em out.)  S.E.X. Rated has one last bonus going for it — it is encoded for NTSC on one side, and PAL on the other.  No matter where you are, you can buy it and enjoy the classic videos of 80’s Helix.

4/5 stars

How fucking cool does Brent Doerner look in every single video?

BOOK REVIEW: Brian Vollmer – Gimme An R! (2005)

The story of Brian Vollmer, lead vocalist of Helix

Forget all those books by the mega stars like Slash and Sammy Hagar that have come out in recent years. Those books have one thing in common — they were written (or co-written, anyway) by guys who are rock superstars! Megastars! It’s hard for me as a reader to relate to a guy who hasn’t had to hold down a job in 30 years. Not that there’s anything wrong with stardom, it’s just an observation.  I can’t relate to the human beings.   Not so with this book!

Brian Vollmer, lead vocalist of the hardest working band in Canada (that would be Helix), comes across as a pretty regular guy.  (I’ve met him a number of times, and he’s about as regular as anybody you’d know.)  Yes, he’s traveled the world in a rock band and played for thousands of people, but at the end of the day the book is something I can still relate to. Through crappy jobs in crappy convenience stores, crappy apartments, getting mugged, it doesn’t seem like a rock star’s life.  There are parallels in the story similar to other bands such as Anvil (another hard-working Canadian band). While Vollmer always manages to scrape by and continue to Rock Us, nothing comes easy.  Incredibly through it all Brian Vollmer never really stopped being an artist.  He seemed to always keep music, and Helix in his life even after dozens of lineup changes and band members.  (Approximately 35 people have been in Helix since 1974.  The newest member is Cambridge’s Chris Julke, replacing John Claus.)

From humble beginnings in Listowel Ontario to playing in Sweden, England and Trinidad, Vollmer’s tome has plenty of rock and roll stories. As one of the first Canadian bands to release independent albums in the 1970’s, he was a bit of a pioneer. Gimme An R! is loaded with rock star encounters one after the other, from Eddie Van Halen (on stage!) to Gene Simmons.  Vollmer remains himself through it all, even after Helix signed their big deal with Capitol and released “Rock You”.  The tragic death of primary co-writer Paul Hackman nearly derailed the band.  Even after the departures of longtime partners Brent Doerner, Fritz Hinz, and finally Daryl Gray, Brian kept going.  He kept the Helix name alive, finding success on the internet which was a brand new way for him to make contact, and sell albums directly to his fans.  Then, a little TV show called Trailer Park Boys helped expose Helix to a new audience.

Included between the covers are dozens of black and white photos of the band over the years.  From small-town Ontario to meeting superstars like Richard Pryor and Robin Williams, it’s a pretty cool collection of snaps. Unfortunately while reading I found myself distracted by spelling errors — “Atlantis Morissette” for example.  I would like to see a second printing that corrects these mistakes.  (A new chapter on the last decade would be cool too Brian!)

Vollmer’s prose is not frilly or poetic, but it’s conversational and descriptive.  There’s no ghost writer, so the pictures that Brian paints of all those seedy bars in the dead of winter come straight from his memory to the page.  He’s a great storyteller.  The bottom line is that the story of Helix keeps you hooked.  I’ve had friends come over and pick up the book, and they just get entranced. It’s a really different side of the rock and roll tales.  It shows what old fashioned determination and hard work can accomplish.

I have to knock off half a star for the spelling errors. It’s just one of those pet peeves — nothing personal, Brian!  I do highly recommend it Gimme An R! to rock fans world wide who’d like a different, more humble angle on the whole rock star thing.

4.5/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Helix – 30th Anniversary Concert (2004)


HELIX – 30th Anniversary Concert (2004 EMI)

Helix will be turning 40 in 2014!  When I talked to Brian Vollmer back in September, he wasn’t interested in taking a look back this time.  Helix did glance back for their 30th in 2004, and this DVD was one of several celebratory releases.

The Helix DVD, the 30th Anniversary Concert, is one of the best rock videos I’ve seen. This band has so much history, and most of it was onstage that night, July 17 2004.

Vollmer decided to celebrate the 30th in style. Traveling to nearby Brantford and taking over the beautiful Sanderson Centre, Helix unveiled a setlist that honored their entire history, and guested nearly every band member from 1974 to 1990!

There were a few conspicuous by their absence, such as longtime bassist Daryl Gray, and a few that we knew couldn’t turn up (the then-missing Mike Uzelac, the late Paul Hackman). However, Brian Vollmer (only remaining original Helix member) proceeded to reunite members of the original 1974 Helix, which had never even been recorded before! From there we go to the lineup responsible for the first two albums (sans Hackman and Uzelac, replaced here by current Helix alum Rainer Weickmann and 1976 bassist Keith “Bert” Zurbrigg, wearing trademark tux). Brian Doerner is introduced as Canada’s greatest drummer, and while Neil Peart and Gary McCracken might disagree, he’s definitely up there. His brother Brent literally steals the show. Singing such lost classics as “Billy Oxygen” and “Crazy Women”, Brent still has that rock star quality. His guitar playing was stellar that night.

Other members from back in the day turned up: Leo Niebudek on drums, and then, finally…Greg “Fritz” Hinz, all the way from sunny Florida, behind the skins to celebrate Helix’ late 80’s heyday.

Not to be overshadowed, the 2004 Helix lineup returned to the stage for some more hits. “Archie” Gamble is a fantastic drummer, it should be noted, spinning his sticks while creatively keeping the time. The addition of a female vocalist, Cindy Weichmann, allowed the band to perform 1976’s “You’re A Woman Now” for the first time ever with a female vocal, just as it was on the album.

The nucleus of this DVD are the six tunes from the 70’s that rarely, if ever, get played today. As great as the hit 80’s material was, the 70’s stuff is what makes this DVD different from any other Helix product you can buy.

There are generous bonus features: interviews with Brian and his ever-supportive wife Lynda, candid scenes of rehearsals and Brian trying to get this monster concert together. There are interviews with fans who traveled all the way across the country to see this one show. Best of all are the clips of the old band members, now short-haired, meeting up again for the first time in years. “I’m Brian Drummer and I play Doerner,” says the drummer as he arrives. As Brian stands next to his twin brother Brent, Fritz says, “I never could tell you two apart”. It’s like watching someone’s family reunion video.

If you are a Helix fan, you have no excuse for not owning this. If you are only a casual Helix fan and want to check out some of their best stuff, this is the DVD package to get. Not only do you get the hits, but you get the history, and that’s not something to be ignored for a band that turned 30.

5/5 stars

This stuff below taken from the Wikipedia page, but I don’t care; I wrote the Wikipedia page.


All songs written by Brian Vollmer and Paul Hackman except where noted.

  1. The Band (includes the song “Ave Maria” performed by Brian Vollmer) (6:58)
  2. The Sanderson Theatre (5:54)
  3. The Concert: “Space Junk” (taped intro) (Rainer Wiechmann)/”Rockin’ In My Outer Space” (Bill Gadd, Rob Long, Tony Paleschi, Vollmer) (5:53)
  4. “Running Wild In The 21st Century” (3:53)
  5. “The Ballad of Sam and Mary” (Gadd, Long, Paleschi, Vollmer) (4:11)
  6. “It’s Hard to Feel the Sunshine When Your Heart is Full of Rain” (Gadd, Long, Paleschi, Vollmer) (3:35)
  7. The Original Helix: “Thinking It Over” (studio recording) (Del Shannon)/”Buff’s Bar Blues” (Alex Harvey) (9:59)
  8. The Early Years: “I Could Never Leave” (studio recording) (4:01)
  9. “Crazy Women” (Brent Doener) (3:41)
  10. “You’re A Woman Now” (Hackman) (6:59)
  11. “Billy Oxygen” (Doerner) (5:08)
  12. The Early 80’s: “Women, Whiskey & Sin” (studio recording) (Vollmer) (3:36)
  13. “It’s Too Late” (Doerner) (4:01)
  14. “Breaking Loose” (Vollmer, Doerner) (4:23)
  15. The Capitol Years: “Give It To You” (studio recording) (4:10)
  16. “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” (Joey Levine, Richard Rosenblatt) (3:24)
  17. “Heavy Metal Love” (3:45)
  18. “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” (Paul Naummann, Danny Taylor) (4:03)
  19. “Deep Cuts the Knife” (Hackman, Bob Halligan, Jr. (4:31)
  20. “Wild in the Streets” (Hackman, Ray Lyell) (4:30)
  21. “Dirty Dog” (Vollmer, Doerner) (3:40)
  22. “Rock You” (Halligan) (6:23)
  23. “The Kids are All Shakin'” (4:54)
  24. Aftermath (includes the song “Danny Boy” performed by Brian Vollmer) (3:15)

Bonus Features

  1. 8mm Memories (8:44)



  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Jim Lawson – guitar
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar
  • Cindy Wiechmann – acoustic guitar, vocals, keyboards
  • Jeff “Stan” Fountain – bass
  • Glen “Archie” Gamble – drums

Special guests: Everyone on “Rock You”

The Original Helix

Chapter 7, “Buff’s Bar Blues”

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Bruce Arnold – drums
  • Ron Watson – guitar
  • Don Simmons – keyboards
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass

The Early Years

Chapters 8-11

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals on all except “Crazy Women” and “Billy Oxygen”
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar, lead vocals on “Crazy Women” and “Billy Oxygen”
  • Brian Doerner – drums
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

Special guests: Cindy Wiechmann and Cheryl Lescom – backing vocals on “You’re a Woman Now”, Cole G. Benjamin – keyboards on “Billy Oxygen”

The Early 80’s

Chapters 12-14

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Leo Niebudek – drums
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass (standing in for Mike Uzelac)
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

The Capitol Years

Chapters 15-22

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doerner – guitar
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz – drums
  • Jeff “Stan” Fountain – bass (standing in for Mike Uzelac and Daryl Gray)
  • Rainer Wiechmann – guitar (standing in for Paul Hackman)

Special guest: Ray Lyell – vocals on “Wild in the Streets”

Studio songs

  • Brian Vollmer – lead vocals on all studio songs
  • Paul Hackman – guitar on all studio songs
  • Brent “The Doctor” Doener – guitar on all studio songs
  • Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg – bass on “Thinking It Over” and “I Could Never Leave”
  • Brian Doerner – drums on “Thinking It Over” and “I Could Never Leave”
  • Mike Uzelac – bass on “Women, Whiskey & Sin”
  • Leo Niebudek – drums on “Women, Whiskey & Sin”
  • Daryl Gray – bass on “Give It To You”
  • Greg “Fritz” Hinz – drums on “Give It To You”

Part 2: Gimme an R!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 2:  Gimme an R!

When I was growing up in Kitchener, you had only a few choices of who it was OK to listen to. In 1984, your status depended on your listening choices.

Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister were both “finished” by that point, if you liked them you were not cool anymore. Kiss were kind of cool, but only if you only liked their newest album. The stuff with makeup was “lame” and “old fashioned”.  Van Halen were passé by the time David Lee Roth did “California Girls”.  Judas Priest was OK, but the singer had short hair. And Ozzy?  He scared us.  Even then we couldn’t understand a word he said, plus he looked like a monster on his records.

Your only real choices were: Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., or Helix.

And no matter who you were into primarily, everybody liked Helix. Why? Well, mainly because Brian Vollmer lived on Breckenridge Drive. I could probably see his place from my parents’ bedroom window.

Fritz (Helix) and LeBrain

Fritz (Helix) and LeBrain

All the kids who lived on Breckenridge, like Ian Johnson, would always tell stories about Brian, who lived three doors down. Brian’s got a cool car, he’d say. Brian got a Christmas card from W.A.S.P., and it was so fucked up…something about “Slashing through the toes, in a one horse open slay…” But then again, Ian Johnson also told us he knew George Lucas and he a squad of ninjas who had a secret base in his basement.

Ian Johnson did not have a basement.

So, Helix were the band you had to like. But the stories of Brian Vollmer and his bandmates were considered heresay at best. I had never actually seen Brian in the flesh. He was considered a legend, a myth, like Loch Ness or Sasquatch. Ian, after all, couldn’t be trusted.

Well, fast forward two decades, and now Helix is now a rock institution. They keep truckin on, with new members and new records, but Brian Vollmer is still at the helm, proudly still asking us to give him an R.

Of course, in this day and age, everybody has a website, and an email. The first time I ever wrote to Brian a few years ago, I asked him if he did indeed live on Breckenridge. He confirmed for me that he did, with his first wife, during the early 80’s. Ian told the truth! (I never did email George Lucas to find out about that part of the story.)

Hell, just last night I was surfing http://www.planethelix.com and saw the very Christmas card from W.A.S.P. “Slashing through the toes”. Brian had scanned it and added it to the memorabilia on his site.

Every time you went to the grocery store in 1984 or 85, you’d take a second look at all the long haired guys. I swore I saw Brent Doerner buying soda at Zerhs, but I lost him in the crowd.  Or was it Brian Doerner?

Again, fast forward a few years. When the movie “Fubar” came out, Sum 41 contributed a version of “Rock You” to the soundtrack. I was working at the record store, and a gentleman came in and asked if he could listen to it. He used to be in Helix, you see, and wanted to hear Sum 41’s version. It was Brian Doerner, Helix’s drummer in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Brent’s twin brother. The Doerners are very distinct looking, I should have recognized him immediately. I of course identified myself as a big fan, and we had a nice chat. Brian Doerner turned out to be the nicest guy.

I saw Helix in 1987 and again in 1996, and again from the second row in 2006 (opening for Alice!), and a bunch of times in 2007. They were great every time.  It’s funny because I can’t think of too many kids in the 8th grade who still proudly listen to the same music then as they do now.  They’re all probably embarrassed that they used to listen to Mr. Mister, or Boy George.  I don’t mind boasting that I was never into the trends.  I knew what I liked then, I know what I like now, and although my tastes have grown and expanded tremendously, I never felt embarrassed by my roots.  I still love Maiden, I still love Helix, more now than then.

I remember when Paul Hackman was killed in 1992. It was the total Cliff Burton accident; he was thrown from the tour bus in a crash. My friend Mike McNeill was in a band opening for Helix at the time, he was there.  When we first met in my record store, that’s one of the first topics that came up:  Helix!

Playing the albums today, you can hear that so many of them are solid all the way through. The first two, Breaking Loose and White Lace & Black Leather have that 70’s sound, as only an indi band in 1978 could sound. I think those albums probably only sold about 2000 copies each at the time. But they are solid, the band was writing varied music. And they were always superb musicians. Brent Doerner’s a really talented guitar player, with an amazing stage presence.

“Billy Oxygen” from the very first record , aptly titled Breaking Loose, is a marvel.  Drums:  Brian Doener.  Fast, accurate, and hard, like a good jazz drummer.  Bass solo courtesy of Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg.  Brent Doener took the lead vocal on this, a song he wrote and garner the band some of their first airplay.  The lyrics seemed to be about a spaceman named Billy Oxygen, who went to other planets looking for people to party with.  Not exactly Arthur C. Clarke-ian, but to a me, any sci-fi reference in a song was cool.  (That’s why we older rock fans love Savatage, those silly Trekkies.)

When I was in University I tried my hand at bad, bad science fiction short stories.  Suffice to say, none of it survives today with good reason.  However, Helix had a little moment in my fiction:  My spaceship was called an ES-335, named after Billy Oxygen’s ship in the song.  And only a little while ago did I learn that ES-335 wasn’t the name of a spaceship at all.   An ES-335 was a Gibson guitar.

There were other science fiction moments in Helix songs as well. “Wish I Could Be There”, from the same album, is one such song.  It’s about a guy who dreams of going to space.  That song represents their epic, their “Stairway to Heaven”.   “Time for a Change” from the second album spoke of nuclear war, if we do not change our ways, a common theme in the sci-fi of the era.

I should clarify, however, that we didn’t even know about these first albums back in 1984.  The earliest song we knew was “Heavy Metal Love”, and even that was pretty new.  We were vaguely aware that they had existed before 1984, but we didn’t know for sure because there were no music videos before that, and those records were out of print.  You couldn’t walk into Sam The Record Man and ask Al King for them.

Occasionally we would hear rumours.  Usually these “little known facts” would come from that one uncle that everyone had, the one who wore no shirt, watched a lot of football, and had a handlebar moustache.  Usually this stereotypical uncle would say, “Yeah, Helix have been around a long time, like 20 years, I saw them when they were still a country band.  My buddy was in the band too.”

Some nights I sat up in a sweat about this.  A country band?  Helix?  Sure, I didn’t hate country music, my dad played that Johnny Cash stuff and it’s alright.  (I even saw Johnny Cash live in ’83, before I ever heard of Helix.) But Helix were rockers!  Rockers were about breaking loose!  They sang about their heavy metal loves!  They told us not to do what people tell you to do, and to always be yourself!  If a bunch of country guys were now posing as rockers to make a buck, well, that would be a black mark on Rock N’ Roll.  Why?  Because it would prove that our dads were right:  Rockers were just in it for the money.  If we couldn’t trust Helix, you couldn’t trust any of them.  Especially W.A.S.P.

We didn’t speak of these things often.  It was bad to speak of these things.  But each of us dreamed—nightmared—about finding a copy of an early Helix album in our uncles’ musty collections.  And in the dream, there they were always on the cover.  A black and white photo.  And they’re wearing cowboy hats.

It never came to that.  When their first two albums, Breaking Loose and White Lace & Black Leather, were finally issued on CD in 1992, they sounded pretty damn good.  It’s classic rock, but harder, much harder.  And best of all, it sounds like home.  Everything about those two albums sounds like right here.  If I played them for you, you’d hear nothing.  But to me, I can’t understand how nobody else can hear that these albums were born right here in Kitchener,Ontario.

Brian Vollmer and I, back in in 2007 at Planet Helix!

Brian Vollmer and I, back in in 2007 at Planet Helix!

The kids from Kitchener 1984 didn’t hear about Helix until MuchMusic started throwing “Rock You” into heavy rotation.  The song was everything we needed at the time.  It was catchy, yet you and your tone deaf friends could all chant it.  Hey, maybe that’s the same reason hip-hop is popular today?

The video for “Rock You” was equally cool.  There were whips, chains, nearly naked girls, leather, guitars, and fire.  The best part of the video was when Brent Doerner comes out of the water with his Les Paul screaming the guitar solo.  And then your friends would debate:  “Could that guy really play under water?”  “No way man, he’d get electrocuted!”  “Are you sure?  That looked awesome though.”  It was catchy, but you could still be a tough guy if you liked this band, because clearly they got lots of girls.

Come to think of it, Helix seemed to get lots of girls.  There were girls in every single video that we had seen!  Granted, the one in “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” was doing ballet and stuff, but she was still alright.

Oh, and by the way, Ian Johnson also took credit for the “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” video.  He said, and I quote because I will never forget this, “Yeah, that was my idea.  I told Brian that he should make a video with a lot of girls in it.  So, he did.”

But then again, Ian Johnson also said that he wrote the Disney movie “Bambi”.

But that, dear friends, is another story.