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The Red Cove; Ventura, CA; 11/06/98

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

It's a rare enough occasion when you head out to the local watering holes and find a decent hard rock band playing original tunes loud enough to make your ears bleed. It's even more rare when you find TWO decent local bands sharing the stage on the same night.

Such was the case recently, however, at the Red Cove when Ventura favorites SLAM ALICE and HELARAGE hauled their equipment out in the drizzling rain and brought their music to the masses.

Thanks to a scheduling conflict (God, don't jobs suck?!), SLAM ALICE was first up that night. As they did at their recent performance at Chicago West in Ventura (see our review) the Slam Boys - Fred Dixon on bass and vocals, Jack Rickman on guitar and Jim Woodall on drums - delivered another stunning set. As always, Rickman amazed with his guitar prowess (this guy could play for Ozzy in a second) blistering his fingers with fiery lead runs and T-Rex-sized riffs. Woodall slammed the skins with the power of Jack Nicholson with a five iron and the speed of a runaway freight train (Oxygen, anyone?). Dixon was the band's constant attitude check, belting out the lyrics, changing them when he felt the need (making them hysterically funny most of the time) and doing some finger-blistering of his own bass-wise.

Slam Alice - always a very tight band (okay, make that usually a tight band) - were no different tonight. They topped their set that evening with the much-requested "Taco Bell" which brought the spin-eyed Red Cove crowd to a fever pitch.

HELARAGE was up next and tried to blow the walls down with the sheer power of their sound. This band may have had a bad mix last time we saw them at the Ventura Theater (see our review) but the mix at the Red Cove that evening was sharp and pure.

Helarage plays a slightly more traditional brand of heavy metal than does Slam Alice. When vocalist Craig Stearnes sings about heavy metal it comes out "Heavy metaaaaallll!" with about an octave's worth of notes thrown in between. The band's driving hard rock style is reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio-era BLACK SABBATH with an appealing raw fury.

Stearnes and bassist Joe Queen split vocal duties and both have proved capable vocalists in the past. Both sounded particularly good this evening - whether due to the better sound mix at the Cove or because of continuing gigs and rehearsals after the departure of former vocalist Robert Edilson, who recently left the band.

Like Rickman, Stearnes is a guitar shredder but - again - in a more traditional vein than Rickman. His lead runs are quick and well-phrased. Queen seemed more at ease pulling both vocal and bass duties this time out. And drummer Kenny Forth smacked his drums around like James Woods smacks the bloodsuckers in the John Carpenter film, "Vampires."

The heavy-on-bikers crowd at the Cove were banging their heads to Helarage as the band raged through their set and - in the words of one passer-by - "Shit, man. These guys are good!"


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Copyright 1998 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:16 -0400.