EAT SLEEP ROCK
Released in August 2020 (Perris Records)
Is there a more underrated band out there than Helix? As I was listening to Helix‘s latest release Eat Sleep Rock, I was hard pressed to think of a more underrated group than the Canadian veteran hard rockers who have been around (well, really just frontman Brian Vollmer as everyone else joined the band later on) for almost a half century. That’s right. Helix started way back in 1974 and they have released some truly memorable albums including No Rest For The Wicked (1983), Walkin’ The Razor’s Edge (1984), Wild In The Streets (1987) and my personal favorite Back For Another Taste (1990). In later years, Helix have continued plugging out some great albums including Bastard of The Blues (2014) and Old School (2019). Nevertheless, despite their impressive discography, Helix have never seemingly received their just due. With Eat Sleep Rock, Helix continue to release quality songs that I fear will likely get overlooked or simply not even get properly recognized.
It should be noted that Eat Sleep Rock is kind of a compilation album but with four new songs — “The Story of Helix”, “Eat Sleep Rock”, “The Tequila Song” and “The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight” — that have never been on an EP (two songs does not qualify as an EP in my eyes) or album before, and another track — “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead” — that has only been included on ‘best of’ compilation records (2016’s Rock It Science and 2018’s Icon). That’s at least an EP of new material here. Throw in that most of the rest of the tracks on Eat Sleep Rock are rather obscure ones that many will likely not have heard, except likely “Even Jesus (Wasn’t Love In His Hometown”) from the album Bastard of The Blues, and it really feels like an album of brand new material from Helix!
As it turns out, the compilation tracks chosen for Eat Sleep Rock were handpicked by Vollmer and meant to represent some of the best songs from Helix‘s years after their deal with Capitol / E.M.I. expired (post-Back For Another Taste in 1990). How many of you have any of the Helix albums half-ALIVE (1998), The Power of Rock And Roll (2007) or Vagabond Bones (2009) in your collection? I know that I don’t and I still consider myself to be a big Helix fan. Assuming that you don’t have those three albums either, nor singer Brian Vollmer‘s debut solo album When Pigs Fly (1999), I think that it was a great idea to release some of the best songs on those albums to beef up Eat Sleep Rock from an EP to a full-length record. Out of the songs that have previously been released, I was only familiar with “I’m A Live Frankestein” and “Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Hometown)” which are staples in the Helix live set. Both songs are very good and it’s actually a shame that “I’m A Live Frankestein” wasn’t first released on a Helix record because it’s one of the best tracks that Vollmer has written in the last 30 years or so. Obviously, when one decides to release one or two of the best songs off various albums on a compilation record, you usually end up getting a very solid record since the “crème de la crème” is being showcased. That’s exactly what happens with Eat Sleep Rock as all of the previously released songs on the record are good to great ones.
The one song that I have been wrestling with since listening to the record is the rather long “The Story of Helix” which is essentially a kind of rap type song from Vollmer outlining Helix‘s history. While there’s no question that some of the lyrics are witty and fun to listen to including the introduction of the Helix line-up at the time (that included guitarist Kaleb Duck), the “song” as a whole is the low point of the album and unfortunately, the opening track as well. At first, I was listening to the entire track to hear Helix‘s history as narrated by Vollmer but as time went on, I just started skipping that opening song to start rocking right away with the title track. Interestingly, the liner notes from Vollmer indicate that Helix used to incorporate “rap” type songs in their early years. If anything, it reminds me a bit of the rants that Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider would do live in the late ’70s / early ’80s except that Twisted Sister never released a “song” based on those rants. If anything, I would have preferred for “The Story of Helix” to close off the album as a “different” track like Van Halen used to do such as with “Happy Trails” on Diver Down or “Inside” on 5150. Having either of those tracks as the opening one on those albums would have felt rather odd and that’s the feeling that I get with “The Story of Helix.”
The unreleased tracks or songs that never made a Helix record are actually some of the best ones on Eat Sleep Rock. The title track is a straight ahead rocker with a video that might make you a little dizzy. “The Tequila Song” reminds me of something that Sammy Hagar might have come up with. It has a simple but cool riff on which the verses are based on and is easy to sing along to during the chorus portions. The best song on Eat Sleep Rock is saved for last with “The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight” which is the best Helix song of the last 25 to 30 years. There are some great melodies on it, the guitar harmonies are simple but infectious, and it will have you singing along before you know it. Not surprisingly, that song has been a staple in Helix‘s setlist for the last few years as well.
Overall, Eat Sleep Rock is a very solid record and if you haven’t purchased a Helix album in the last 25 years or so, this is the one to buy! If anything, Helix continue to show that they have a lot of gas left in the tank despite getting close to the half century mark.
01. The Story of Helix
02. Eat Sleep Rock
03. Shock City Psycho Rock
04. Wrecking Ball
05. I’m A Live Frankenstein
06. Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Home Town)
07. Cyberspace Girl
08. When The Bitters Got The Better Of You
09. The Tequila Song
10. (Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead
11. The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight
Band Members (current line-up):
Brian Vollmer – lead vocals
Daryl Gray – bass, vocals, all instruments (1)
Greg ‘Fritz’ Hinz – drums, vocals
Chris Julke – guitar, vocals
Gary Borden – guitar, vocals
Kaleb Duck – guitar (6, 9, 10, 11)
Sean Kelly – additional guitar (2)
Robbie Gogo – background vocals (2)
Mike Markarian – background vocals (2)
April Phillips – background vocals (2)
LJ Scott – background vocals (2)
Produced by Daryl Gray (1, 2)
Mixed by Seigfried Meir (1, 2)
Mastered by Harry Hess (1, 2)
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, September 2020
Helix‘s “Eat Sleep Rock” video:
Helix‘s “The Devil Is Having A Party Tonight” video:
Helix‘s “(Gene Simmons Says) Rock Is Dead” video:
Helix‘s “Even Jesus (Wasn’t Loved In His Hometown)” video:
Helix‘s “The Story of Helix” video: