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Metal On Ice: Tales from Canada's Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Heroes

(Dundurn Press)

Reviewed by : Kelley Simms
Rating : 8.5

Metal On Ice: Tales from Canada's Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Heroes is about the pursuit of the rock ’n’ roll dream in Canada. Canadian musician Sean Kelly (HELIX, CRASH KELLY, NELLY FERTADO) lives and breathes Canadian music and is well-versed in the history of the bands that pioneered the Canadian rock sound. Throughout the book, Kelly reminds the reader that there’s a distinct identity within Canadian bands that separates them from their US and European metal/rock counterparts. Kelly affectionately compares band members to hockey players: center (lead vocals), wingers (guitars), defense (bass) and goalie (drums). In chapter one, Kelly introduces “the players” that grace the book; HELIX, ANVIL, KILLER DWARFS, KICK AXE, CONEY HATCH and HAREM SCAREM are the most prominent bands who play a part in Kelly’s narrative on the rise of Canadian rock and metal in the late seventies and early eighties. Less-known but just as influential bands such as BRIGHTON ROCK, WHITE WOLF, and melodic pop rockers HONEYMOON SUITE get prominent word space throughout the book as well.

There are interesting tales about cross-country adventures playing the Canadian bar circuit and the hardships along the way — all the while trying to land that elusive and lucrative record deal. However, Russ (Dwarf) Graham of Killer Dwarfs and Lips of Anvil describe how getting what they wished for by signing a record contract to a small Canadian label such as Attic Records wasn’t all what it was cracked up to be. On touring: Helix vocalist Brian Vollmer discusses having to “buy on” for $30K for the European leg of KISS’ Lick It Up tour only to have fire-breathing bassist Gene Simmons scold the band for stealing his moves! A whole chapter is also reserved for the Metal Queens such as Lee Aaron, Darby Mills of HEADPINS and Holly Woods of TORONTO. Aaron describes her struggles of getting noticed in her native land because of her gender and goes on to state how she was pressured into conforming to a certain image.

As much as this book is about prominent Canadian bands, it’s also a history of Kelly’s own quest for rock stardom and how awestruck he was of these particular bands as a kid. In fact, before he went on to play with HELIX, his first concert was a double bill with them and Honeymoon Suite at Memorial Gardens in North Bay in 1985. With it’s convenient 6” x 9” dimensions and its 203 pages, it makes for an easy read. With only a few typos and misspellings, Kelly proves to be an articulate and descriptive writer. Although, I wish he would have stayed on some of the subjects a little longer. Upon completion, it made me want to spin my old Killer Dwarfs, Helix and Headpins records and shove my worn-out Kick Axe Vices cassette tape into my car deck and rock out like it was 1985.