Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Kick Axe - Vices
(Sony/Rewind reissue)

This Canuck classic from 1984 (and also of note, from the prairies), has long been talked about and desired as a CD reissue candidate. And finally, now it is here, through the band's original label (technically it was Pasha/CBS first go 'round), Kick Axe displaying in all their glory the raw stomp and personal magnetism of their unique, highly hooky songs. After living with this buoyant, life-affirming piece of metal for 16 years, I'm glad to hear that it transfers jes' fine thanks to CD, each and every track aging well due to the band's rock-solid writing, this ability to create stirring, memorable melodies in a zone that isn't so much hair metal but a seriously crunchy and determined party metal, encrusted with a rusty, foreboding edge (i.e. we'll drink alright; we will carouse, but we also freeze to death in a snowbank before this night is through). Hard to explain, but I guess the best way to peg it is that Vices is the culmination of the pre-hair days, sort of Ratt, Crue, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister and quite importantly Helix, crossed with a good three or four qualities from Led Zeppelin, starting with vocals, moving through odd, refreshing riffery, through to the booming, stomping drum performance, a product of Brian Gillstrom's tasteful restrain and the record's pronounced and unique Spencer Proffer mix. But it is George Criston's broken-winged angel vocal work that was always this band's final trump, the golden boy possessed with the pipes as well as a sense of style that again, broke the rules like the mighty Zep. Comes with a mighty informative essay on the band (and I see he's quoted the whole damn review from my book) by noted Canadian music historian Jaimie Vernon, a welcome addition given that there was very little press on this band, despite Vices moving close to 100,000 copies during those magical days of heavy metal. See www.songhausmusic.com or www.bullseyecanada.com for ordering info.
Rating 10

Paul Di'anno's Killers - Live At The Whiskey

Quite the ferocious live set here from Di'anno's much-maligned Pantera-styled metal act Killers, a band he is likely shelving for awhile (outside of charity gigs) to focus on three things: Battlezone, his punk band and a band of fresh Brazilians he has tapped for a recent record under the Di'anno moniker. But that doesn't stop the flow of goods, Killers racing through tracks split evenly between their two studio albums and the obligatory Iron Maiden classics. And the Maiden songs shine, this tight and frenzied collective wrapping barbed wire around Wrathchild and Sanctuary (there are four Maiden tracks in all), each benefiting from the band's awesome mix and performances, the guitars particularly powerful yet precise, the rhythm section groovy and perfectly recorded. The band's metal-up-yours cover of Children Of The Revolution is also a well-traveled treat, as are these under-rated originals which work best when not bowing to Pantera, something which fades away a bit as a complaint in the live environment. A surprisingly hi-fidelity, high energy, high stakes live set, each corner of the maelstrom, yobbo Di'anno included, fired up for a night of pure and perfect metal. Actually more Halford-halting than his recent Dianno band album, and that's saying loads.
Rating 7.5

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