[published]: 2022, November
[in]: Classicrockhistory
[article]: Top 10 Kick Axe songs
[by]: Eric Kamau

Our top 10 Kick Axe songs list looks at the music catalog of a Canadian outfit prominent for its mainstream successful heavy metal ballads. Kick Axe was formed in 1976 out of the short-lived band called Hobbit, which included guitarist Larry Gillstrom, bassist Victor Langen, and his brother Gary, who served both as the band’s drummer and lead vocalist. The trio soon after added Raymond Harvey into the Kick Axe’s lineup as the band’s second guitarist.

Several lineup changes, including the departure of Gary, happened before the band issued its debut album. The search for an illustrious frontman was over when the band discovered George Criston, an American vocalist. George played a significant role in the success of the band, thanks to his alluring vocal delivery. While it never got the recognition it deserved, Kick Axe achieved mainstream acclaim in Canada. The band also made a dent in the American market, especially with its acclaimed debut studio album, Vices.

Kick Axe’s Career Beginnings and Breakthrough

The band’s first noteworthy appearance was on Street Rock, a Playboy-produced 1981 compilation album by several artists/bands. Led by vocalist Charles McNary, the band delivered a remarkable performance of the hit “Reality is the Nightmare.” Thanks to the catchy feel of this song the band attracted the attention of heavy metal lovers. After ushering in vocalist George Criston into its lineup, the band signed a recording contract with Pasha Records.

Kick Axe went on to issue its debut studio album, Vices in May 1984. This heavy metal album was produced by Spencer Proffer, who also has a successful career as a producer for Quiet Riot, Vanilla Fudge, Heart, W.A.S.P., Beach Boys, and Cheap Trick. Vices was a mainstream success in Canada where it peaked at number sixty-six. The album also made it to the Billboard 200, rising to a peak position of number one hundred and twenty-six.

“Heavy Metal Shuffle,” “On the Road to Rock,” “Stay on Top,” and “Alive & Kickin’” are the best Kick Axe songs from Vices. The cassette version of the album featured the band’s cover of the 1972 rock ballad “30 Days in the Hole” by Humble Pie. Kick Axe’s success with the album Vices saw the band tour behind distinguished acts including Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, Judas Priest, and Scorpions.

Other Albums by Kick Axe

After the success of Vices, Kick Axe started working on a follow-up album. Welcome to the Club, issued in 1985, marked the band’s sophomore studio album. The album was issued through Pasha Records and produced by Spencer Proffer. Spencer was also joined by Randy Bishop in production. Welcome to the Club finds the band taking on its usual heavy metal sound with notable glam metal sound influences.

“Comin’ After You,” “Feel the Power,” and the album title track are some of the most popular songs by Kick Axe from the album. Welcome to the Club also features the band’s definitive cover version of the 1967 hit “With a Little Help from My Friends” by the Beatles. The album achieved mainstream success in Canada, rising to position ninety-three on the RPM Top 100 Albums Chart. Unfortunately, Welcome to the Club never made it to the Billboard 200.

In 1986, Kick Axe released its third studio album, Rock the World. The album was issued through Epic Records with production work handled by Larry Gillstrom. While the album failed to rise into the mainstream charts, it managed to feature some of the best Kick Axe songs including “Warrior,” “Red Line,” and “Rock the World.” The album is also home to the band’s cover of the 1977 hit “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac.

Kick Axe disbanded in 1988 only to reunite in 2003. Unfortunately, the reunion wasn’t as impactful as the band’s mid-’80s tenure following the collapse of the band’s classic lineup. Apparently, Kick Axe had lost its frontman George Criston forcing the band to fill his position with its original lead vocalist Gary Langen.

In September 2004, the band issued its fourth studio album, Kick Axe IV. Regrettably, Kick Axe IV failed to impress in the mainstream. The album saw the band blend its signature heavy metal sound with hard rock and glam metal influences. “Right Now,” “Who Knows Ya,” and “Rockin Daze” are some of the notable songs from the album.

Kick Axe Other Musical Pursuits

Kick Axe was featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 animated sci-fi action movie, The Transformers: The Movie. However, the band was credited as Spectre General on the soundtrack. The band is credited to have performed two songs on the soundtrack including, “Hunger” and “Nothin’s Gonna Stand in Our Way.” “Hunger” was initially issued in 1985 by King Kobra on Ready to Strike. However, its lyrics were solely the work of Kick Axe’s members.

Kick Axe’s Legacy

Influenced by the ‘70s AOR scene, Kick Axe took on a more melodic heavy metal sound. Some of the songs by the band also feature a tinge of glam metal and hard rock influences. Unfortunately, Kick Axe’s fame was short-lived despite its high-spirited and fun-to-listen heavy metal tracks. While Kick Axe might have been overlooked for the better part of its career, the band is still adorable to lovers of melodic heavy metal.

The band’s debut studio album Vices has been cited to be among the exceptional mainstream metal recordings of the mid-’80s. Kick Axe might not have been as commercially successful as other Canadian heavy metal outfits such as Helix. However, its songs sounded a little more contemporary finding critics comparing Kick Axe to prominent acts like Van Halen, Kiss, and Aerosmith.

#10 – Warrior

Ushering us to the top 10 Kick Axe songs list is the terrific hit “Warrior.” The song is among the top hits from the band’s third studio album, Rock the World. Like most of the songs from the album, “Warrior” brings the band’s fine blend of hard rock and glam metal influences. The song is quite hard-hitting compared to most of the releases on Rock the World. However, the band doesn’t compromise on its signature melodic tunes despite the song’s heavy feel. George Criston makes a powerful vocal delivery on this song leaving you craving for more of his high-spirited vocals.

#9 – Welcome to the Club

Coming in at number nine on our top 10 Kick Axe songs list is the pompous hit “Welcome to the Club.” The song serves as the album title track to the band’s sophomore studio album. You can almost feel the impactful role of each band member on this hard-hitting track. In some way, all the members manage to squeeze their exquisite skills into this hit making it quite a strong rocker. However, the song faces quite some stiff competition on the album from hits like the anthemic track “Comin’ After You” and Kick Axe’s cover of the Beatles‘ hit “With a Little Help from My Friends”.

#8 – Rock the World

“Rock the World” brings us yet to terrific track by Kick Axe. The song serves as the album title track to the band’s third studio album. “Rock the World” manages to bring back the raw nature of Kick Axe’s debut album. The greatest takeaway from this hit is the energy wielded by the band members which makes it quite a remarkable track. Special credit to Brian Gillstrom for his blistering performance on the drums.

#7 – Dreamin’ About You

Number seven on our top 10 Kick Axe songs is the mid-tempo hit “Dreamin’ About You.” “Dreamin’ About You” is among the top musical gems featured on the band’s debut studio album, Vices. The singer seems to have had fallen head over heels for a certain lady as expressed by the lyrics of this track. George Criston is joined by his fellow band members who sing background vocals on the chorus of this hit.

“Dreamin’ About You” showcases the band’s ability to pen intentional, on-point, and incredible lyrics. Larry Gillstrom and Raymond Harvey manage to deliver killer guitar riffs on this heavy metal ballad. Of course, the band had more powerful and hard-hitting ballads than “Dreamin’ About You” from the album. However, it is the melancholy that this song oozes that makes it quite a remarkable cut!

#6 – Comin’ After You

Listening to songs like “Comin’ After You” makes one wonder why the band was quite underappreciated. A cleaner production for this hit off the band’s Welcome to the Club unbridles Kick Axe’s potential to release fascinating radio-friendly tracks. The song finds the band making an attempt at fusing its signature heavy metal sound with glam metal influences. “Comin’ After You” is no ordinary classic rock ballad. Be sure to get musical frissons after listening to this gorgeous hit.

#5 – The Chain

Rock the World, the band’s third studio album, brings to us the fifth pick of our ten best Kick Axe songs, “The Chain.” The song was initially released by Fleetwood Mac on the album, Rumours. Amazing is an understatement to Kick Axe’s cover version of this song. The band breathes heavy metal influences into this rock ballad and changing its overall feel and impact.

This cover version sound more refined than Fleetwood Mac’s original version, thanks to prodigious arrangement. Kick Axe’s cover version was among the band’s most-played songs on MTV back in the ‘80s. Other artists/bands to have made a rendition of this Fleetwood Mac classic include Taking Dawn, Three Days Grace, Tantric, Evanescence, Shawn Colvin, and Harry Styles.

#4 – Stay on Top

“Stay on Top” is yet another stunning track that helped distinguish Kick Axe as a Canadian powerhouse of heavy metal back in the ‘80s. The song is among the top hits featured on the band’s debut studio album, Vices. “Stay on Top” is an anthemic hit that finds vocalist George crooning about how rock ‘n’ roll stole his heart and evolving into a metalhead. The charming backing vocals of all the other members of the band on this hit complement George’s blistering vocal delivery.

#3 – With A Little Help From My Friends

There is something magical and special about cover songs by Kick Axe. The band has over the years managed to recreate great rock ballads into refreshing heavy metal-influenced tracks. Kick Axe’s cover of the Beatles‘ 1967 hit “With a Little Help from My Friends” is no exception. The song towers over all other tracks on Welcome to the Club to become the best Kick Axe song from the album.

Kick Axe’s cover version was a mainstream success, peaking at number seventy-nine on the Canadian Singles Chart. Other notable covers of this hit were issued by Joe Cocker, the Beach Boys, Toto, George Burns, Ike & Tina Turner, and Bettye LaVette. Among artists featured on the backing chorus of Kick Axe’s rendition is Lee Aaron and Rik Emmett of Triumph.

#2 – On the Road to Rock

“On the Road to Rock” is one of the most sought-after heavy metal tracks by Kick Axe of all time. The song is among the top musical gems featured on the band’s most acclaimed album, Vices. “On the Road to Rock” played a significant role in the mainstream success of this Canadian band. The song’s music video was among the regular hits on Pepsi Power Hour, a live program aired on MuchMusic. Other artists who saw their songs receive massive airplay on the show include Triumph, Iron Maiden, and Helix.

#1 – Heavy Metal Shuffle

Number one on our top 10 Kick Axe songs list is the rip-roaring hit “Heavy Metal Shuffle.” This anthemic hit is the band’s signature hit, featured on the album, Vices. “Heavy Metal Shuffle” is a flawless embodiment of Kick Axe’s musicianship. This thrilling heavy metal track features hard-hitting guitar riffs which complement George Criston’s powerful and fascinating vocal delivery. “Heavy Metal Shuffle” is among the most popular hits issued during the mid-’80s flourishing Canadian heavy metal scene.