[published]: 2023, March 17
[in]: Ear of Newt
[article]: Kick Axe guitarist Gillstrom helps Vancouver metalheads kick ass
[by]: Steve Newton

Gillstrom with Kick Axe, second from right

Heavy metal. The words strike fear into the hearts of Julio lovers everywhere. Luckily Larry Gillstrom isn't an Iglesias fan. The guitarist for local metal merchants Kick Axe prefers his music fast and hard, so, along with Club Soda sound technician Mike Price he came up with the idea of a showcase night for Vancouver's young metal acts. The series, called Metal Storm, takes place every second Monday at Club Soda.

"Mike and I have always been into heavy rock, guitar-rock," says Gillstrom, "but there's not enough going on in this city to support it in the music industry–it's all supporting pop music, or alternative music. So we thought we'd do our share."

The first Metal Storm night took place July 11, and featured the rip-snortin' sounds of Death Sentence, Ogre, and Aregothor. Because it proved so popular (drawing 400 people), Club Soda has given Gillstrom the okay to put the show on every Monday n August. He says there won't be a problem finding enough bands to fill the bill.

"There's a lot of bands out there," he says. "Once I started investigating it I found there were three or four times as many bands as I had thought. There are the ones that people hear about, like Pretty Boy Floyd and Nitevigil and that, but there are also Harlots Webb, Goliath, Night Child, Anasthasia, Dragon, Night's Realm, High Strung, Beauty Kills, Organized Chaos, Allan Hammer–the list goes on and on. And we're gonna give them all a chance." (Bands wanting to enlist can reach Gillstrom at 984-8615.)

Even with the considerable number of metal bands lurking just below the surface of the local music scene, Larry Gillstrom still feels that this kind of music gets a bad rap these days.

"I think it's got a lot of enemies, because it's a sort of scapegoat If you want to blame something on music that's the one to blame it on.

"But what I'm trying to demonstrate is that there's lot of kids out there–and a lot of blue-collar people–who just want their music straightforward and still want to hear that guitar thumpin' away. A lot of people would like to see that music gone, but I grew up on that kind of music. I think there's a heritage to be carried on here."

Gillstrom says that there have been a few breaks in the stranglehold that top-40 has on the Vancouver club scene.

"A lot of clubs seem to me to be trying to break away for just doing top-40 all week. John Bell at the Metro has the Golden Apple Rock Awards there, and the Town Pump's been supporting a lot of hard rock shows. Even the Commodore is doing them now. So it seems like the community is searching for other alternatives."

Larry Gillstrom seems like the ideal candidate to spearhead a hard rock/metal revival in Vancouver, especially since his band Kick Axe was the first local metal recording act to rise to prominence. Its debut album, Vices, went gold in Canada, selling over 50,000 copies, and the band shared the stage with the likes of Scorpions, Whitesnake, Judas Priest, and Ratt. But after three albums, Kick Axe sort of faded from the scene.

"There were a lot of leg problems," explains Gillstrom. "It's one of those business things that creep up, and it got into such a large amount of money that everybody just walked away from it. It's still there, though. The third abum is still selling in the U.S. and they're still asking for another record. But everybody's gone off and started doing their own thing."

While Kick Axe has been in limbo, its members have kept busy in a number of other projects. Gillstrom's co-guitarist, Ray "Hitman" Harvey, became a member of Rock & Hyde, and has been working with saxophonist Kirsten Nash of late. Singer George Criston is collaborating with keyboardist Doug Johson from Loverboy and Skywalk guitarist Harris Van Berkel. Bassist Victor Langen has joined former members of White Wolf and Simon Kaos in the hard-rock cover band Giant. And Larry Gillsrom and his brother Brian are putting together their own band right now.

With all this going on, is there any chance of a Kick Axe reunion?

"Oh, yeah," says Gillstrom. "definitely. We're still the best of friends, and we've always had a lot of respect for each other–even after the band came to a rest."

Originally published on July 22, 1988 in the Georgia Straight