Books on metal are not new. We see them everywhere lately with biographies, encyclopedias and heavy metal cook books, even! (Seriously, check out Annick Giroux’s Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook from 2010.) Here, in Metal on Ice, we have a book based on the stories of the guys who started it all, from the land where the cold northern winds blow harsh and the beers flow… Canada.
Author and guitar rocker Sean Kelly has been into the hard rockin’ metal scene since the ‘80s as a kid, playing hockey and going wild to the sounds of Helix’s Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge. Later on, the man played in a fair amount of bands, such as Crash Kelly (whose name is inspired by his American Hockey League playin’ and heavy hittin’ uncle!), Canadian pop singer Nelly Furtado’s band, and, hell, he was even in his heroes Helix for a short period. Yeah, this dude has been there! If you’re looking for a book to read about Thor, Messiah Force or Outbreak, then keeping looking bud, this ain’t the one for you!
In this book, you read lots of stories from now almost unknown bands like Coney Hatch, Killer Dwarfs, Honeymoon Suite and Kick Axe. Sure, these guys weren’t the heaviest of shit, but Kelly makes it clear that in those days as a young kid in Canada, that shit was the heavy stuff. He would later go on to mention more of the real rockers like Anvil, but grants only a VERY small mention to Exciter, Razor, Voivod and Sacrifice.
“There are a lot of bands who should have been mentioned that were not included. The bands that I chose to talk about mainly were the ones that made up a big part of my personal musical upbringing,” he says of the band selection decisions. The book deals with a lot of stuff bands would struggle with like finding rooms to stay on tour, the classic drugs, sex and, of course, being an alienated banger kid looking to just thrash and bang like a maniac.
”There were definitely a few I left out of my own story to protect the (not so) innocent, haha! And yes, a few of the lewder tales were left on the cutting room floor… but really, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to realize that people had sex and did drugs in rock bands in the ‘80s. I wanted to show some of these artists in a different light.”
In the centre of the book you get a solid middle section of great promo shots and live shots, which point towards the present and future of classic metal in Canada. One such picture is the infamous vocalist and guitarist Lips, of Anvil, playing and, on the ground watching him, is none other than Jackie Slaughter (guitarist and vocalist) of Toronto-based traditional metal warriors, Skull Fist.
“Bands like Diemonds and Midnight Malice (whose guitar player I actually taught elementary school to) are definitely making us proud on the international scene,” acknowledges Kelly. Both hail from Toronto; the former is a sleaze rock band and the latter are dead of night rockers. “This might make for a great chapter in the next edition of Metal On Ice!”
After reading this, I felt I got a better understanding of how scarce it was here in the desolate north during the ‘80s for real hard rock and heavy hittin’ metal. This book’s really only for people who want to learn about mostly hard rock and stories of tours and hardships, but with great reward. Kelly put great perspective to the hard rock scene and has had a great time doing it seems. Now playing for Nelly Furtado, you would think this guy would be done with the hard stuff. Think again!
“I have the pleasure of working with incredible female musicians all the time… I absolutely love the sound of female voices framed in loud guitars and pounding drums,” he says. His book even features a chapter on the challenges and triumphs of the women who have made up Canada’s hard rock and heavy metal community, including Lee Aaron. “The more women in metal, the better!!”
We can only hope Kelly writes another book on the heavier stuff that REALLY gets the blood flowing.
“I have a few proposals in right now…I really want to continue writing about guitar driven Canadian rock, so I believe there are a few more books to be written, and definitely a lot more stories to share!”
Metal on Ice: Tales from Canada’s Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Heroes is available online from dundurn.com/books/metal_ice.
Canadian Metal Gems
Possibly for the next edition of Metal on Ice – but more because we’re just into these bands and wish people had heard of them and lists are fun – we present six rockin’ heavy metal bands from Canada whose story is yet untold. Listen up!
Messiah Force: Releasing only one album, The Last Day, in 1987, this band had it all! Blazing fast drums, ripping solos and deadly female vocals — definitely a sped-up version of Germany’s Warlock.
Genghis Khan: Hailing from the slums of North Delta, British Columbia, we only got one demo only from these progressive heavy metal kings. Soaring vocals and beautiful riffs in the style of early Crimson Glory.
Trop Feross: Dark, moody heavy metal from Quebec with that deadly horror feel. Death SS lovers only! Odd as hell and downright amazing, this strange band put out one EP only – 1986’s Resürrection!
Iron Dogs: Stratocaster heavy metal for the masses. Get ready for razors of doom and firebirds. These guys have the right sound of heavy metal leads and punk vocals. Check out one of 2013’s best albums in Free and Wild.
Midnight Malice: Street lethal heavy metal from Toronto. These guys are nasty to the bone with sleazy vocals and pounding drums. They will hunt ya down in the dead of night!
Manic Strike: This Vancouver band are untouchable speed demons! This is speed metal perfection with eagle-like screams. THUNDERSTORM/MOTORSTEEL!!!!
by Dan Neild