After reading Mike Ladano’s post #394 Between the Buttons, and the mention of Mike not owning any Kick Axe, I remembered how awesome they sounded back in the day. I dusted off my copy of Vices and gave it a spin.
Side one starts with “Heavy Metal Shuffle”. Beginning with a Quiet riot inspired drum beat(more on this later), and a scream that Rob Halford would be proud of, this song morphs into a kind of Helix themed rocker. “Vices” continues the 80’s metal/rock theme, but unlike many bands of the era, the backing vocals add to the flavour of the song. The lyrics on this song are a little weak, but for some reason the band chose to put a portion of them on the back cover of the album. (We all live in our vices. We’re indulging tonight. it’s just part of this crazy world we like.) Ok. The band also chose to include the name of the drummer as Vice Brian Gilstrom. He was apparently in charge of drums, vocals, & responsibility. Similar to the lead vocalist George Criston who was in charge of vocals & inspiration. All righty then. “Stay on Top” is a good song, again with weaker lyrics, but the weird part is the end, with a weird drum solo that seems a little long, then a slowed down transition to the next song “Dreamin` About You”. This is the required 80`s ballad, albeit much heavier and less cheesy than most ballads of the day. It is a nice change, that seems just right. another weird song transition with some kind of wolf pack howling thing leading into `”Maneater”. Sorry 80`s crap music fans, not a remake of the Hall & Oates cheesefest, but a rockin` hair metal romp with some sweet geetar and drums to keep everyone happy.
Side 2 is so good it probably could have been the first side of the record, but I will soon see a reason why it is not. “On the Road To Rock” is awesome. Nothing more can be said. Great song. Played on Much Music back in the day. “Cause for Alarm” is a fast paced rocker, similar to Live Wire by Motley Crue, but kind of like Motley Crue fronted by Kevin Dubrow. This is the point of the album, that I feel this album has a lot of similarities to Metal Health. A quick google search tells me why. Spencer Proffer was the producer. He had just produced Metal Health the year before, and he practiced the if it ain`t broke, don`t fix it. On side a, George Criston occasionally sounds like Dubrow, but on side b he often sounds almost exact. That is not a bad thing in my mind. And Dubrow sounded almost exactly like Noddy Holder, so there you go. Perhaps they did not want the casual fan to think they were a Quiet Riot/Kevin Dubrow copy, hence the song placement. “Alive & Kickin`” is a great rock anthem. “All the Right Moves” is a sweet tune. I dare you to listen to this without bobbing you head or tapping your feet. “Just Passin Through” is a decent song. Other than mentioning vices again, as if the song, lyrics, drummers name etc. were not enough. The cassette version also included a cover of the Humble Pie song “Thirty Days in the Hole”.
Around this time the lead singer was being considered to join Black Sabbath, and songs from Kick Axe were considered by Black Sabbath for the new album as well. The band also wrote “Hunger” and “Piece of the Rock” for Carmine Appice-King Cobra, and “Running Wild in the Streets” for W.A.S.P. So it was obvious the talent was there, and the metal world realized this.
As for this album I give it a solid 9.5 of 10. It would have earned a 10 outright except for the occasional weak lyrics and for the excessive use of vices. For the 80`s hairband nostalgia awesomeness though, it is a perfect 10. I suggest to find a copy of this album and enjoy.