Helix (1974-1993, 1997-present): a Heavy Metal band from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
ormed in 1974, Helix was started by Brian Vollmer (vocals), brothers Brent Doerner (guitar) and Brian Doerner (drums), Paul Hackman (guitar) and Keith Zurbrigg (bass). After the release of their domestic debut, the aptly named, Breaking Loose in 1979, Zurbrigg and Brent Doerner were replaced by Mike Uzelac (bass) and Leo Niebudek (guitar).
Yet again on an indie label, the follow-up, White Lace And Black Leather (1982), marked an improvement in recording quality allowing the group to develop their party-rock feel but it was met with a cold reception. Greg Hinz (ex-Starchild) joined on drums just as they signed to 'Capitol' for the recording of No Rest For The Wicked (1983). Despite being a single guitar attack they still managed what many consider the finest of their career. Walking On The Razor's Edge (1984) was their only US top 100 (69 actually) and also marked more membership changes with Uzelac being replaced by Daryl Gray; this line-up would prove to last. The following sets were more commercial attempts and, as usual when commercial attempts are attempted - they usually fail, leaving Long Way To Heaven (1985) and Wild In The Streets (1987) less then what 'Capitol' wanted and they subsequently dropped them. The only remaining release from this era would be their first ever compilation, Over 60 Minutes With... (1989), that received some notoriety and nicely summed up their career to this point.
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At the turn of the 90s they signed to indie 'G.W.R.' for the release of Back For Another Taste (1990). It also failed to impress, but the tragic death of Hackman in a road accident would be too much for them to take and they broke up shortly later. The compilation The Early Years (1991), and the aptly titled It's Business Doing Pleasure (1993) was belatedly released by 'G.W.R.' and would be the last heard from the band for some time.
Dissatisfied with the music business the band was effectively gone between 1993 and 1997 but Vollmer was determined to resurrect the outfit and went through several membership changes (mostly involving guitarists) to find a line-up to work. The result culminated in several of their early releases being re-released on CD, as well as a set of compilation albums and live sets would follow including Half Alive (1998), which featured 5 new studio tracks as well as some live recordings, and the release of the long awaited Live At The Marquee (1998); an album that originally was only distributed to radio then shelved back in 1984. Also in the lot was the compilations Deep Cuts (1999) and the appropriately titled B Sides (1999).
Vollmer would also engage in several side projects, the first one a solo project named simply Vollmer that also featured Brian Doerner where he released When Pigs Fly (1999). He also started a second short-lived act named Cherry Street. Vollmer also would release compilations of hits and rare tracks.
Helix continued to play live through this period, recruiting new guitar players as they were available. At various times, Mike Hall and Gerry Finn, who were both in Killer Dwarfs, joined Helix on the road, as did Darren Smith, the former Harem Scarem drummer, who had switched to guitar. Periodically, the surviving members of the classic 80s lineup would reform, as they did on the aforementioned B-Sides CD to record three new songs including Danger Zone, which were again produced by Daryl Gray. This was a song that Paul Hackman had been working on shortly before his death. At the beginning of the new decade, Helix had to endure another major lineup change. Daryl Gray left the band in 2002 due to an increasingly strained relationship with Vollmer, leaving Vollmer as the sole member from their 80s heyday.
With Glen Gamble's help, Vollmer added three new members to bring some stability back to the lineup: Jeff "Stan" Fountain replacing Daryl Gray on bass, Dan Fawcett on guitar, and Shaun Sanders on guitar.
In 2004, the 30th anniversary of Helix, the band released several titles. Their first new studio album of all-original material in over a decade, Rockin' in My Outer Space. Two compilation CDs followed, Never Trust Anyone Over 30 in the US, and Rockin' You For 30 Years in Canada. These albums featured a new line-up - a six member band, a configuration not seen since 1974: Vollmer, Gamble, Fountain, and new members Jim Lawson (ex-Cherry Smash; guitar), and the husband and wife team of Rainer (guitar) and Cindy Wiechmann (acoustic guitar and vocals). Vollmer first encountered the Wiechmanns in Newfoundland when their band, KAOS, who opened for Helix on the Long Way to Heaven tour.
Helix then played a special 30th anniversary concert at Brantford Ontario's Sanderson Centre. The show featured the current band and past members.
Helix experienced a slight resurgence in popularity thanks to a third-season episode of the Canadian television series Trailer Park Boys that featured Rush track Closer to the Heart during which characters 'Bubbles' and 'Ricky' discuss the merits of Helix compared to Rush.
In late 2005, Glen Gamble left Helix to form his own band, The Joys. Gamble was briefly replaced by a returning Brian Doerner, who stayed with the band for several months. With Gamble gone, Brian Vollmer was left to manage every aspect of the Helix organization, from booking tours, to distributing merchandise.
2006 saw more line up changes with Brian Doerner quitting, this time to play in Saga to be replaced by Brent "Ned" Niemi, who was a veteran of the Toronto progressive metal band THD that also featured former Slash Puppet vocalist Mif. Helix toured with this new lineup, most notably opening for Alice Cooper, before the Wiechmann's left amicably and formed their own band Nail. Rainer was replaced on guitar by Kitchener, Ontario man Rick VanDyk (ex-Zero Option who had released an album in the early 90s). Finally, bassist Jeff Fountain left and was replaced by Paul Fonseca. VanDyk, Fonseca, and Niemi had played previously together part-time in a Metallica tribute band called Sandman. With these musicians on board, Helix began augmenting their live set list with Metallica's Creeping Death riff to segue between songs.
In October 2006, the song Heavy Metal Love was to be featured on the soundtrack for the Trailer Park Boys movie The Big Dirty, however, at the last minute, the track was pulled by Dean Cameron, president of 'EMI Canada', as distribution of the soundtrack was being handled by 'Universal', and not 'EMI' who actually owns the track [God help us if record companies could actually get along!]. To make up for this, the band re-recorded Heavy Metal Love and included it on their next release, the 2006 EP Get Up!. The original song was still included in the movie even though it did not appear on the soundtrack CD.
In 2007, the band re-released all the tracks from Get Up! along with four new studio tracks on the full-length studio album called The Power of rock and Roll. Unlike the EP, this album received both US and UK release.
In October 2008 the band released their first Christmas album, A Heavy Mental Christmas.
In February 2009, Brent "The Doctor" Doerner joined the band for the third time. Sean Kelly (ex-Crash Kelly; vocals/guitars) joined on bass player. Brent Niemi was replaced on drums by former Sven Gali member Rob MacEachern, who had played drums on Get Up! and The Power of rock and Roll in Niemi's absence. Jim Lawson remained on guitar, VanDyk having departed to make room for the returning Brent Doerner.
In an unexpected turn of events, after their July 10, 2009 Rocklahoma performance, Sean Kelly amicably gave notice that he was quitting to be the new guitar player in Nelly Furtado's band.
Brian Vollmer reunited the surviving members of the classic 80s lineup.
Jim Lawson's departure was announced on August 30, 2009.
The next album was supposed to be titled "It's rock Science, NOT Rocket Science!", before being changed to Vagabond Bones in 2009 after a song co-written by Kelly.
Bastard of the Blues (2014) and Old School (2019) followed under the membership of Vollmer (Lead vocals/Executive Producer), along with Chris Julke (guitars/backing vocals), Kaleb "Duckman" Duck (guitars/backing vocals), Daryl Gray (bass/keyboards/guitars/backing vocals/producer) and Greg "Fritz" Hinz (drums/backing vocals).
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