[published]: 1983, January 20
[in]: Regina Leader-Post, p. B9
[article]: Group got its start in Regina
[by]: Shannon Hamelin

Kickaxe, one in a series of Canadian rock groups being featured at the Paddock this month, is mining a hard rock vein, looking for gold.

The band, which opened a week-long engagement Monday, should be familiar to some Reginans as it got its start here in 1976. Only two originals - bassist Vic Langen and lead guitarist Larry Gillstrom - remain. The current lead singer, George Widule, was imported from Milwaukee to help the band develop a more distinctive, identifiable style and begin its all-out odyssey into heavy metal. Brian Gillstrom on drums and Ray Harvey on lead guitar complete the group.

Widule said the group is "trying to grasp everybody, if not musically, then visually".

"Even the ones who don't like us remember what they saw. They wake up the next morning and remember".

The band offers a tight form of unleashed, raw power which should be the goal of heavy metal purists. The musicians define "power" as anything from feeling and strength to "a wave in your brain". But no matter what the definition, it appears Kickaxe strives to give physicallity to their music. Lyrics are secondary; it's in the music that the "power" escapes.

Kickaxe wants to "take the world by storm" and it's evident from the way group's performances are staged. They start with smoke and flash pots, lighting, a precisely stanced singer, a background of thunder. They borrow from their heavy metal predecessors: the leather, chains, wails, high energy and Robert Plant mannerisms all appear. Kickaxe doesn't do anything new and you may be tempted to write them off as just another heavy metal band, but that wouldn't be right. They perform their music professionaly with tight precision.

Widule may play air guitar, Harvey may look like a blonde Ramone but they redeem themselves with good arrangements, a solid sound system and reliable rhythm section. All coalesces into a solid, grating sound. The vocals are part theatrics, part guts, part range and part power.

The band performs about 60 per cent original material. The rest is made up of mainly older rock numbers and the rendition of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love demonstrates how well a band handles classic is indicative of their worth. Kickaxe is worth it if you enjoy professional discord that is entertaining.

The few dreamy, evocative ballads Kickaxe performs are combined with a backbeat. Some of the sojourns are into instrumental Hades - a feeling of relinquished power, well-directed and well-paced. Yet somehow, you feel the breaking point is never quite reached. It is through the group's heavy metal, with a hint of melody and a strong backbone, that they keep the breaking point deliberately at a distance.

Kickaxe is now based in Vancouver where a variety of well-known groups, including Loverboy, Headpins, Payolas, Doug and the Slugs, Chilliwack and Bryan Adams, are currently active.

But the Kickaxe musicians feel they are different from other west coast performers in that they give "110 per cent" and "inflict the pain".

They are proud of being part of the heavy metal tradition and list Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin, sort of the "grande old dames of heavy metal", as major influences. At the same time, they are influenced by everything they hear and try to appreciate it all. As one of the band members said, "you can't shut your mind out".

They "respect" all groups, right down to bands like The Dead kennedys. In fact the line between early punk (fast and stripped down) and heavy metal does show up in Kickaxe. It's when the drawn-out solos and mood intensifiers take the place of lyrics and a barrage of guitars leave their mark that heavy metal takes command.

Kickaxe is currently putting money aside to return to the studio. Although they recorded several demos before Widule arrived from Milwaukee five months ago, they scrapped the past in favor of a fresh start. According to the band members, WEA and RCA are interested in the group.

They enjoy close contact with audiences, prefer concerts to the nightclub/bar scene which is too distant. As Widule put it, "the best feeling is when the audience responds louder than the band".