The 80’s Helix sound is back. This is full on OLD SCHOOL, classic Helix. Vollmer and band are going full throttle with this new album of unreleased tracks. A few of these songs feature the late, great Paul Hackman on guitar along with Brian’s original vocal track. Brian rescued these songs from the old masters and from cassette while cleaning out Planet Helix. After getting the tapes baked, he salvaged some of the original vocals and Paul’s guitar. He then re-recorded the remainder with the current band. As a fan since the early to mid 80’s I cannot tell what songs contained the original vocal track. Brian still sounds like he did back in the band’s hey-day. A few tracks I could tell but for the most part, I was stumped. In a few places it sounds like the Dr’s playing on it too?
As a big fan who has seen them live about a dozen times, have all the music (multiple copies of some albums on several formats) and “got the shirt to prove it” many times over, I can say that without a doubt that this is THE best Helix album since the glory days. I have enjoyed many albums since the EMI Days but this is in a different category. This is the Classic sound that made us fans in the first place. It rips at our heart while sounding fresh and new. This has those little bits that set the band apart from others and made them one of this Country’s greatest. The band always had a distinct sound that set them apart from the pact, largely do to Vollmer’s voice and the amazing harmony vocals of Doerner and Gray.
Kicking off this album is the aptly titled “Coming Back with Bigger Guns” which is an all out, guns blazing, full on heavy rocker in true to form 80’s Helix style. As soon as I received my copy and sat back to give it a listen it only took a few seconds, if that to grab the remote and crank it up. It was like I was transported back to my teens and just home with a brand new Helix tape. Nice harmony backgrounds, just like the old days and a killer groove to it. The perfect opening track to the album. Next up is “Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound” which is a guitar driven rocker. It begins with some clean guitar with soft vocal then kicks in quick. The guitar really stands out on this song. From the subtleties at the start to the full blown solos to the bits of noodling in the background, this is one for guitarists to sink the teeth into. One of the standouts on the album.
Another standout is “Your Turn To Cry”. Vollmer’s vocals really shine on this song. The background harmonies really compliment the lead. At around two and half minutes in the vocal just before a wicked guitar solo is just what the Dr. ordered.
Halfway in at Track 5; “Tie Me Down”, the pace is slowed down with a Power Ballad. Yes, you heard me correct. A Power Ballad. It doesn’t get better than this. Nice mellow song then a full on distorted, crunchy guitar solo. Pure 80’s bliss, or guilty pleasure if you prefer?
The politically incorrect by today’s standards “Games Mother Never Taught You” was the first song I heard from this album. I was fortunate enough to be given a copy of this song as soon as it was completed and I have had it in constant rotation ever since. You can visualize Paul, Brent and Daryl on stage playing this, lifting their guitars up to their heads as if they were rifles taking aim.
The next pair of tracks; “Southern Comfort” and “Hound Dog Howlin’ Blues” are more of the same. Killer guitar, vocals and background harmonies. On the latter Brian really shows off some of his amazing vocal abilities about 3/4 the way in. Then some super fast guitar takes over until the end. The disc comes to a close with another aptly titled song: “Cheers”. This is different from anything you have ever heard from the band. It is just Brian and a piano. A very powerful song. Brian’s vocal is astounding on this. It is raspy in places but just so powerful. He sings it with such emotion. This is the perfect way to close out this album.
Ten songs that were almost lost to us forever. I cannot say how glad I am that Brian found them and decided to release them. As a fan I love each and every tune on here, some more than others. A few stand out but none as much as “Cheers” which has to be my favourite on the disc. From one Helix fan to all of you reading this review; do yourself a favour and pick this album up. It really is OLD SCHOOL Helix. I hope Brian and the current line-up release a studio album later the year in this vein as this ranks up there with WILD IN THE STREETS, WALKIN’ THE RAZORS EDGE and LONG WAY TO HEAVEN. This is what us fans want, heavy guitar driven Metal with killer vocals and harmonies that only Brian, Daryl and band can deliver. Everything about this CD is great, from playing to songs to vocal to production to the mix it all just sounds perfect. I cannot wait to spin my LP as soon as it arrives and hear it how it should be. This is what the world needs, more OLD SCHOOL Helix.