By Albert Mansour
One of Canada’s longest running hard rock/heavy metal bands, Vagabond Bones is Helix’s twelfth full-length studio album and twenty-first release overall. I am very familiar with Helix’s work over the years, with eleven albums in my personal collection and I am glad to say that this one is a keeper. The album carries nine tracks, starting off with a traditional Helix rocker “Animal Inside” that harkens back to their eighties roots and their landmark 1983 album No Rest for the Wicked. This is the best song here without a doubt. Moving along, “Go Hard or Go Home” has a similar vibe to their Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge album, another great one. With some pretty impressive riffing and solos, Helix has written each song with real craft and skill. Each riff is laid out perfectly with the vocal patterns, and thanks to Brian Vollmer’s outstanding voice they are carried out with a true Metal spirit. The main riff of “Monday Morning Meltdown” is steady, thick and chugging, giving the song its heaviness, while the vocals deliver a friendlier, more “rockish” vibe to the song. There is a good smooth flow to this album already, but there’s plenty more to come. “When the Bitter’s Got the Better of You” and “Hungover But Still Hanging In” also contain some pretty cool riffs which will have you moving to the beat. Having said that, there is one major problem with the album, The track ”The Best Mistake I Never Made” is a full out country song (??) and it is a bit too fruity to handle, probably a late career attempt at a huge radio hit. In my personal opinion this song does not fit and should have been dropped off the album all together, because apart from this one misstep this is a 100% total commercial polished metal album. It is a real surprise to hear how clear Brain Vollmer’s vocals are after almost forty years as a professional singer. His singing during the clean parts of these songs is just amazing, no wonder he has become an very in-demand vocal coach too. Overall, Vagabond Bones is a great solid album if you are into traditional hard rock/ heavy metal. If you are a fan of No Rest for the Wicked or Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge then I suggest getting it, but don’t expect anything beyond that.