PRESS GUIDE

[published]: 1985, December 12
[in]: Whig Standard
[article]: Helix Band Delivers a Wild Night of Rock and Roar
[by]: Greg Burliuk

A GOOD-SIZED rock concert at the Memorial Centre should attract at the very least 2,000 screaming souls. So when a band like Helix draws, at a charitable estimate, only 500, then you have to wonder if it deserves to be a headliner. Wonder no more, you 1,500 others who should have been there. This band is for real. Despite the small crowd, Helix put on a high-voltage show that was sexy, raucous and relentless, with a large splash of panache. It made me forget that I'm no fan of this kind of music.

At a heavy-metal concert, certain rituals have to be observed: the audience must continually be grilled as to how it feels and is required to roar back to prove it; there must be two guitars thundering in concert; the main singer must have spent his previous life as a police siren; and the music must make your eardrums ring for at least 10 minutes after the concert is over.

Helix meets all those requirements but adds flair to each one: its show is carefully choreographed to look wild and free. Guitarist Brent Doerner throws his guitar over his shoulder and retrieves it in much the same way as the boys in ZZ Top.

Vocalist Brian Vollmer tapes his wrists, because he does so much tumbling on stage. And drummer Greg Hinz wears braces to hold up what turns out to be nothing but a glorified jock strap. On stage the band becomes a group of whirling dirvishes who occasionally form into a fairly precise conga line.

With little muss or fuss, Helix has also managed to put together a nonpareil light and sound show. A diamond cluster of ramps, with marquee lights around their edges, surrounds drummer Hinz. The guitarists use the ramps to strut their solos, while Vollmer dives off them as if he were flying. The other lights combine for a dazzling amount of variety. There are lots of incendiaries: the loudest and at times scariest I've ever heard.

Musically, what sets Helix apart from the others is the beat. Most metal bands favor ponderous rhythms, as if all that noise must be cranked out slowly. Helix, on the other hand, moves at a blistering pace. There's been talk that the band isn't really a metal band any more; proof is offered from the latest album, which has two slower songs on it. Don't believe it. Last night's concert was pure headbanger stuff: even the slow tunes sounded tough.

With a couple of fire bombs, Vollmer tumbling around and some machine-gun guitar on the opening song, House On Fire, I didn't think that Helix could keep up such a blistering pace. It did, and more. Sometimes it went too far.

Vollmer grabbed at his crotch a couple of times and stuck into his tights, like scalps, a bra and garter belt tossed on stage. During the song Heavy Metal Love, he tastelessly queried this teenaged audience: "How many of you ladies qualify for heavy metal love?"

The rock anthems -- such as Helix's biggest hit, Rock You, and one that will be big, Ride The Rocket -- were the best. As an extra fillip guitarist Doerner did a metal version of the William Tell Overture.

Opening act Kick Axe paled beside Helix. Its set went on too long, which only served to show its inadequacies: the music isn't varied enough, and although energetic the band needs a little more polish applied to its performance. There was a time when on leaving the Memorial Centre after a concert you stumbled over empty beer bottles while groping through a haze of marijuana smoke. Not last night.

Everyone entering the arena was searched by Kingston policemen as part of their drunk-driving-prevention program.