Now here was a name I had not heard in a long time: Kick Axe! The band formed in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1976 and, after relocating out here to Vancouver, released three strong albums (and selling half a million copies) between 1984 and 1986. Kick Axe toured with such big name acts as Metallica, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Triumph, Whitesnake and Quiet Riot before calling it a day in 1987 due to management issues. Interest in the band has always been there and their final album, ROCK THE WORLD, commands prices of $150 US on eBay! So here we are, 17 years later and Kick Axe have released a brand new CD entitled IV. They got back together in 2002 and have been working on new material slowly but surely and while this doesn’t really reflect where they left off with ROCK THE WORLD, IV is a solid hard rock release. The “classic” lineup””that of VICES and WELCOME TO THE CLUB””remains intact with the exception of vocalist George Criston who, despite wanting to rejoin the band, was left unable to participate due to his commitment to managing other acts. In his place is original vocalist Gary Langen, brother of bassist Victor Langen.
As for the music, do not expect to hear songs like “Heavy Metal Shuffle” or anything else of that style. Nearly twenty years have passed and the guys are obviously older. This is not “metal” and IV sees the band having more in common with melodic hard rock acts like Bad Company, Damn Yankees or Night Ranger than the big-haired bands they once shared stages with. “Right Now” is a good rocker and features some amazing vocal harmonies by the band. The guitar intro to “Rockin’ Daze” sounds like an ode to Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” (“Purple Haze”…“Rockin’ Daze”??) and is a catchy and fun track. “Consolation” is a bluesy ballad, not unlike that which Whitesnake or Great White used to do. “Turn To Stone” is an emotional ballad which showcases Gary Langen’s voice as if he were made to sing this material. “Who Knows Ya” continues on with the bluesy feeling but is a groovy swamp rocker complete with slide guitar. “Time” reminds me of what Bad Company was doing in the late 80s and early 90s with its mid-tempo AOR feel. “Slip Inside My Dream” is a slice of psychedelia with an incredible bass groove from Victor Langen. “Rock ‘n Roll Dog” is a dirty rocker that I can imagine Ted Nugent or ZZ Top doing. The riff is rough and has a cool, almost southern bounce to it.
Even though it is a significant change from their original sound, it is great to hear new music from Kick Axe again. The songs are all catchy and melodic but have an edginess to them that hearken back to the bands roots. IV is a welcome return for Kick Axe and hard rock or long-time fans with an open mind will enjoy this album immensely.
KILLER KUTS: “Right Now,” “Rockin’ Daze,” “Consolation,” “Turn To Stone,” “Who Knows Ya,” “Time,” “Slip Inside My Dream”
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