HistoryGuitarist Gillstrom and bassist Langen (whose custom bass guitar/axe is something of a legend) operated the band Hobbit in Regina, Saskatchewan as far back as 1974 and even managed to play shows with Chilliwack. Kick Axe was founded in 1976. Suffering a weak music scene the band, including Gillstrom brothers, relocated to Vancouver in 1977. This band announced an album for 1979 with singer Charles McNary, but was ultimately unable to issue it. The hard rockers appeared on a Playboy magazine LP sampler before hooking up with Spencer Proffer to record Vices in 1984. McNary had left in 1982. The Proffer connection had translated into a deal with Pasha Records (Quiet Riot). The band was abetted by an over-the-top imagery and custom instruments.
The album’s single Heavy Metal Shuffle became the band’s biggest song and the group toured with the likes of Judas Priest and fellow Canadians Helix. Welcome To The Club featured appearances by the likes of Lee Aaron and Andy Curran and sold well. A Canadian tour was interrupted when due to their manager’s shyster status the live gear was confiscated by RCMP in Winnipeg. The manager had fled to the USA. The band soon lost Harvey however. The band fully intended to rock on, but veered into the pursuit of different projects and contributed songs to the likes of King Kobra and W.A.S.P. The line-up was also connected to Black Sabbath at this point with George Criston’s name being brandied about as the Sabs’ new singer. Oddly, the band changed names to Spectre General (another play on words) and even appeared on the soundtrack to the film Transformers under the new monicker. The band disbanded in 1988 having been dropped by the label. The band was also involved in several lawsuits. The members mostly went on to form Lion’s Gate and pursue a more mainstream direction.
The band’s music appeared on the faux documentary FUBAR in 2001 and the band soon reformed with early singer Langen upfront. MTM issued a new album and the band announced its intention to tour Canada and the USA in 2004. The band also re-issued its third album on its own Elfin Stone imprint. Daniel Nargang, formerly of Into Eternity and also from Snake Eyes Seven and infernal Majesty, joined on vocals in 2009. Langen had left in 2008. The gang continued to lay live sporadically. Rock Candy Records re-issued the first three albums in 2016.
KICK AXE - IV - ELFIN STONE
Most fans probably remember Kick Axe from the hit songs Heavy Metal Shuffle and Rock The World. The songs were hard and heavy examples of '80s metal and, despite being fairly typical, did a good job of promoting the band as both rebellious and commercial enough.
Times have changed and so has Kick Axe. The band's come-back album and its first release in something like eighteen years is more soft, more moody and less metal. The album, replacing singer George Criston with Gary Langen who is bassist Victor's brother, sounds closer to Billy Squier circa the Don't Say No album than a bonafide heavy metal outing. The vocals, music and especially the harmonies are quite close to Squire and company. Examples are many, but Rockin Daze is a perfect instance. This despite the album's almost inaudible rhythm guitar tone. Other songs are Consolation which begins like a Whitesnake tune, the Pink Floyd-influenced Do You Know or the Aerosmith-tinged Who Knows Ya. In contrast, the more action-packed tunes on the albums are to be found towards the end. These are Who Says and City Lights with its sped-up effect.
In general, the new Kick Axe album has no bad songs, but could have benefited from a culling of tracks from the album's fourteen to ten and a slightly more toned guitar sound. Otherwise, fans of Billy Squier, Triumph and Aerosmith will get a kick out of this. Just don't expect to be doing the Heavy Metal Shuffle. - Ali "The Metallian"
KICK AXE - ROCK THE WORLD - ELFIN STONE
A year after issuing a come-back album Canada's Kick Axe has obtained the rights to its third album, Rock The World, and unleashed it upon, er, the world independently. Rock The World was the band's turnabout album when originally issued. The band was aiming for a more mature and melodic sound. It achieves that here. The album targets the sound espoused by the softer side of Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, Billy Squier and Rush and, the title track and album's name notwithstanding, pours over songs with a heavy rock bent. The album actually reminds me of King Kobra. The problem is that aside from the opening title track not much here stands out. A couple of songs are classy, while another is a cover and yet another counts every classic metal band and album as its lyrics. The bass sound is a monster, but the sound is shrouded and bereft of power. There is enough nostalgia in me to admire the band, but Rock The World was beginning of the end for Kick Axe. - Ali "The Metallian"