METAL ON ICE – Tunes from Canada’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal heroes (2013 Warner Canada)
Good Sir Aaron purchased this for me at his local establishment for the low, low price of $5. In Aaron’s review, he stated, “This is the best $5 I’ve spent on spec in ages. Bar none.” That’s mighty tribute from a guy like Aaron, who buys a lot of CDs on spec.
What is Metal On Ice? The talented guitarist Sean Kelly (Crash Kelly, Four By Fate, The #1 Classical Guitar Album) put together a book of rock tales from Canada’s best of the 80’s: Helix, Anvil, Coney Hatch, Killer Dwarfs, Kick Axe and more. To go with it, he also produced this EP. Metal On Ice, the CD, consists of remakes of Canadian heavy metal classics. For all but one song, he has the original singers from the bands singing lead vocals. For the one that he doesn’t, (Kick Axe’s “On the Road to Rock”) he has Nick Walsh from Slik Toxik. Then to top it all off, he and Walsh wrote a new song called “Metal On Ice” featuring vocals from almost everybody.
Many of these songs are radio staples. “Heavy Metal Love” is one of those Helix classics that has endured. Written by Brian Vollmer and the late Paul Hackman, I think it’s one of Helix’s best tunes, period. Vollmer’s pipes speak for themselves. Sean Kelly was in Helix, on bass, for a few months before Brian reunited the classic lineup. Playing bass on this version however is Helix bassist Daryl Gray. It’s a pretty authentic remake.
I found “Metal Queen” by Lee Aaron to be the most impressive track. I cannot believe Lee’s voice, powerful as ever! With the new production and guitars by Sean Kelly, “Metal Queen” has actually been improved. It’s still an old-school metal chugger, but you can actually hear the lyrics now! What is important is that Kelly has not changed the songs very much at all. His impressively tasteful playing is enough to make each one shine just a little more. Each solo is 100% appropriate to the classic songs.
A great example of this is the Headpins’ “Don’t It Make Ya Feel” featuring Darby Mills. He has captured the vibe of the original guitar tone, and the song is very authentic. Similarly, Nick Walsh does not deviate too much from George Criston’s lead vocals from “On the Road to Rock”. When Walsh screams the high notes, it’s perfect. Carl Dixon sings lead on Coney Hatch’s classic “Hey Operator”. Dixon nearly died in a car accident not too long ago; it’s great to hear his voice as strong as ever. How do these Canadian singers stay perpetually young sounding? Is it our cold, frosty air?
Russ Dwarf returns to remake the Killer Dwarfs favourite, “Keep the Spirit Alive”. This has always been my favourite Killer Dwarfs song, right from the very beginning. It’s absolutely wonderful to hear a well produced updated version. I admit that when I first got this CD, I went back and played “Keep the Spirit Alive” four or five times in a row.
Finally, there is the new original song “Metal on Ice”. This ode to the road features lead vocals from Dixon, Vollmer, Mills, Walsh and Aaron. I love the lyrics: “Hello Kelowna, goodbye Kenora, but we do it all tomorrow in Thunder Bay,” for example. It is these kinds of Canadian towns that has kept the rock alive through trends and changing winds. Walsh proudly proclaims that even though they may never make it to the top, they’re never going to stop.
A great sentiment on which to end a great CD.