The year 1984 had to be one of the biggest in metal history. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal had washed ashore a few years prior and given us the new sound of metal with bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Diamond Head. Judas Priest had delivered the goods with "Metal Gods" in 1980 and then given us the phenomenal album "Screaming for Vengeance". By 1983, Quiet Riot and Def Leppard had soared to the top of the charts and California bands like Mötley Crüe were shouting at the devil. Heavy Metal had become a household name and for many parents a household scourge as the rebellious teen found a new image: long hair, skin-tight jeans, and T-shirts with nightmarish images of Eddie or War-Pig emblazoned across the front. The new idols of teenagers were long-haired men in S&M wear sometimes with teased hair and make-up, and at times sneering with the challenge of a one-fingered salute. That opening scene of Sam Dunn's "A Headbanger's Journey" could have been my junior high school!
Bands sang about Heavy Metal. Sammy Hagar sang "Heavy Metal", Helix sang "Heavy Metal Love", Quiet Riot sang that metal anthem "Metal Health", Anvil sang "Metal on Metal", Lee Aaron sang about the "Metal Queen", and Kick Axe gave us "Heavy Metal Shuffle".
For me in 1984, this was metal. Metallica and Slayer hadn't hit the big time just yet though they were getting there. Venom was still an unique band. Bathory and Celtic Frost were still getting their kit together. Metal was Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Judas Priest, Dio, Accept, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Y&T, and so many other bands who somehow fit in the category of loud, aggressive music and long hair and leather.
Kick Axe were quite the band in 1984. Helix was the party band; Anvil the Judas Priest of Canada. Kick Axe was in a way Canada's answer to Quiet Riot but also different. Vocalist George Christon had his pipes loaded with powerful, gruff vocals, haunting and spine-chilling screams, snarling whispers, and anthem-leading bold singing. The major debut was the classic set-up of vocals, two guitars, bass, and drums. There's a smidgen of synthesizer and studio effects but for the most part this is straightforward 1984 metal. Of course there's a ballad with acoustic guitar but even that track has a heavier and almost darker feel to it than say "Thunderbird" by Quiet Riot or Helix's cover of "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want".
The album opens with that fantastic metal anthem "Heavy Metal Shuffle", which has just the right heavy chords, screams, breaks, and everything else including a brief bass solo to make this as good as "Metal Health" if not better. Though it's the definite highlight of the album for me, the other heavy rockers offer a variety of moods so that there's no rehashing of themes. Some are your typical lusty-woman-leaves-boy-in-distress songs while others like the title track and "Just Passing Through" take a more philosophical and reflective approach. Of course there are the lust-for-life songs and the keep rockin' songs, too, staples of any glam metal album.
Kick Axe make good use of background vocal "gangs" and harmonies. There's also this reoccurring deep growling voice speaking in between lines of some songs, suggesting a concept connecting some of the songs. Christon even adds some metal scat in "Stay On Top".
The only thing I'm missing from this CD is the cassette bonus track, their cover of Humble Pie's "30 Days in the Hole". Not a huge loss but I do remember it well enough.
I consider this one of the great classic albums of the day though it never hit the same heights as albums by British or American contemporary bands. It just has all the right ingredients for an album of Heavy Metal's peak days between the NWoBHM and the thrash/speed movement.