A tenacious Canadian hard rock/heavy metal crew based out of Ontario, Helix emerged in 1974 with a sound that boasted both a high decibel count and commercial appeal. After landing an international hit in 1984 with the single "Rock Me," which appeared on their chart-topping fourth studio LP, Walkin' the Razor's Edge, the band endured a series of hardships that included the onset of grunge music and the 1992 death of guitarist Paul Hackman. Despite experiencing myriad lineup changes, Helix have soldiered on through the decades with vocalist Brian Vollmer serving as the sole constant member, and they've released 14 full-length albums, including It's a Business Doing Pleasure (1993), The Power of Rock and Roll (2007), and Old School (2019).
The group formed in 1974 as the Helix Field Band in order to compete in a Battle of the Bands contest in their hometown of Kitchener, Ontario. By 1976, they were operating under the Helix moniker and had solidified into a core lineup comprising singer Brian Vollmer, guitarists Brent Doerner and Paul Hackman, bassist Keith Zurbrigg, and drummer Brian Doerner. They issued a pair of albums independently (1979's Breaking Loose and 1981's White Lace & Black Leather), with the latter LP being the first to feature new bassist Mike Uzelac.
Helix inked a major-label deal with Capitol in 1983 and released No Rest for the Wicked, which marked the studio debut of new drummer Greg "Fritz" Hinz. Bassist Daryl Gray replaced Uzelac in time for the follow-up, Walkin' the Razor's Edge, which spawned the hit "Rock You" and sold over 100,000 copies in Canada, and over 400,000 internationally. 1985's Long Way to Heaven couldn't get the same traction in the United States, but it managed to top the charts in Sweden. Follow-up Wild in the Streets went gold in Canada and included a cover of Aerosmith's "Dream On." Doerner elected to leave the band in 1989 after the release of the Capitol-sanctioned greatest hits compilation Over 60 Minutes With…, but the remaining quartet resurfaced with Back for Another Taste in 1990.
In 1992, longtime guitarist Paul Hackman was killed when the group's van rolled down a 40-foot embankment after a concert in Vancouver. Helix forged on, however, with Brent Doerner returning to the lineup long enough to record 1993's It's a Business Doing Pleasure, which also featured guitarist Greg Frazer. In 1998, Helix — now comprising Vollmer, Gray, Hinz, and guitarists Mark Chichkan and Gary Borden — issued Half Alive, which featured five new studio cuts and five live songs from earlier tours, but it would be years before the group would return to the studio.
In 2004, after an 11-year gap, Vollmer put together an all-new lineup of the group and issued Rockin' in My Outer Space. The band continued to tour and record extensively, with Vollmer leading the charge, while various former members and newcomers made their way through the stage and studio doors. The Power of Rock and Roll arrived in 2007, followed in 2008 by the group's first collection of holiday material, A Heavy Mental Christmas. Vollmer managed to bring the classic 1980s lineup of the group together for 2009's Vagabond Bones, but the members' myriad other projects proved to be too demanding.
In 2014, a lineup featuring Vollmer, Daryl Gray, Greg Hinz, Chris Julke, and Kaleb Duck put out Bastard of the Blues, and in 2019 Helix issued their 14th studio long-player. The resulting Old School was pieced together from old tapes as well as new performances, and it was dedicated to the memory of Paul Hackman, who co-wrote eight of the tracks and played on three. ~ James Christopher Monger