Hellion, originally formed in 1982, is no stranger to the heavy metal scene. After a decade of silence, the roar of Hellion is back and stronger than ever. Founding member/vocalist Ann Boleyn reformed Hellion with a new lineup in late 2013. In April 2014 the band released a two CD anthology, To Hellion and Back. Now Hellion is on tour following the release of their recent album, Karma’s a Bitch, under New Renaissance Records. The lineup of the Karma’s a Bitch tour consists of vocalist Ann Boleyn, drummer Simon Wright (formerly of AC/DC, DIO, and UFO), keyboardist Scott Warren (formerly with DIO and Heaven & Hell), bassist Greg Smith (formerly with Alice Cooper, Rainbow, and Blue Oyster Cult), up-and-coming guitarist Maxxxwell Carlisle, and special guest rhythm guitarist Georg Dolivo of Rhino Bucket.
With a history of success, Hellion will no doubt reclaim its place on the heavy metal throne. Hellion was the first female-fronted metal band to be featured on MTV and VH1 and the first US metal band to perform in the former Soviet Union on a Monsters of Rock Festival. By 1987, Hellion’s album Screams in the Night had achieved airplay on over 100 radio stations, as well as a video on MTV (on daytime programming and on Headbanger’s Ball) and VH1. Boleyn has also worked with many great artists including famed metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio. “Working with Ronnie was very challenging. He was a very nice guy – super, super nice guy. But when it came to working with him, it was a very special situation. It was very, very demanding. There were days where I would go into the studio at about ten in the morning and would just be singing again and again and again and again until very late at night. He was relentless as far as his working and his demands and I think that made me a better performer,” Boleyn recounted.
During the band’s hiatus, Boleyn achieved a number of personal and professional successes. She graduated law school, ran in marathons, and was touring vocalist with thrash metal band, Détente from 2007 to late 2009.
A decade after the release of Hellion’s 2003 album, Will Not Go Quietly, Boleyn said she knew that the time had come for Hellion’s return to the music scene. “There were a number of rumors that started spreading around about me retiring from business, my voice being crashed, me being done… a lot of very not nice things. So last year when the rumors just got totally out of hand– it seemed like every event that I would show up at, it was always a controversy. It seemed like the best way to solve that problem was to get out there and record something new and that led to doing some shows and that led to the tour. We’re really excited! It’s been really great.”
Despite a few bumps in the band’s initial reunion, Boleyn has been more than happy with the outcome. “When I first started to go into the studio and record and tour, the first thing I did was contact the original band members, or I should say tried to, and tried to put out invitations. Unfortunately, with everyone’s situations people have got houses, families, mortgages and they can’t just drop it all to go on the road for a month or two at a time. With that said, Simon and Scott were into going out and performing and then we ended up realizing Bjorn Englan wasn’t going to be able to come because he had a conflict in his schedule, so we brought in Greg Smith, who is on the lineup of Ted Nugent’s band and has played with Rainbow, Alice Cooper, and all kinds of amazing things that he’s done. And then we rounded it out with addition of Georg Dolivo as our guitar player. It’s just awesome!”
According to Boleyn, fans – new and old – have a lot to look forward to with the new lineup. “I think every single lineup of Hellion has been stronger than the last. And I mean no disrespect to any particular musicians… but when we started out we were really still learning our craft as performers. Some of the guys were just 16/17 years old when we started out. As everybody progressed, even some of the musicians from the original lineup, we really came out as a better band. If you are continuing to take your craft seriously as a performer and as an artist, you want to improve. I think that the musicians of Hellion have always held up that standard.”
Boleyn said Hellion will be upholding the same heavy metal standard that fans have come to expect in Karma’s a Bitch. “I think, number one, it’s all in the style of heavy metal – the kind of metal that came from bands like Priest, AC/DC, stuff like that. That’s what Hellion does, that’s what Hellion is, and that’s what we’ll always be. I think to a certain extent, with myself being the founder of the band and the continuing band member from day one, I consider myself kind of to be quality control and the one that helps us stay in a certain direction and that way people know when they come out to a Hellion show, they know they can expect the head-banging and fist-pumping and all the good things Hellion brought before,” described Boleyn. When describing the band’s initial development, she listed heavy bands from the late 60’s and early 70’s as having influenced Hellion’s style – bands like Deep Purple, Hocus Pocus, and Black Sabbath.
Karma’s a Bitch can be described as a rebirth of classic heavy metal. It features inspired performances and catchy heavy metal anthems. Tracks like Betrayer demonstrate the band’s diverse range of abilities. Starting off with a mysterious and ghostly introduction, Betrayer quickly blasts into overdrive with a scream from hell and raw, powerful vocals which can only come from Boleyn. Hell Has No Fury delivers full-tilt metal elevated by an orchestral section and blistering guitar work. Watch the City Burn takes listeners on an in-depth journey into the chaos and anger of a full-blown riot. Though this album is a mini-LP and features a humble five tracks, listeners can expect it to pack a big punch.
Reminiscing on the recording process, Boleyn said Karma’s a Bitch was “the album that wrote itself” and that it underwent some pretty big changes. “I’d originally written a different set of lyrics for the record and once I got into the studio I wasn’t satisfied with what I was hearing and I literally took a break in the middle of singing. I went outside, it was on a beach in California and it was very hot, and ‘Karma’s a Bitch’ just came into my head and I literally started scribbling it down on a notepad as fast as I could write. I subsequently changed a number of the different songs on that record,” explained Boleyn.
Through the changes Hellion has undergone over the years, the band has never stopped having an abundance of faithful followers. “I want to really thank everybody for the years of support. For coming and liking us on Facebook and things like that. That was very instrumental in us getting the record deal overseas. Hellion signed a record deal with Cherry Red, out of London, and that pretty much started the ball rolling with everything. I just want to thank everyone for your participation. We have a very good community on Facebook and the website, too. It’s something we’re very appreciative of. On this tour we’re doing one formal meet and greet but other than that anybody that wants to come out to our shows, come out and say ‘hi’ to us after the show. We’re happy to talk to everybody.”
The remaining shows scheduled for the Karma’s a Bitch tour can be found on Hellion’s website. And according to Boleyn, each show has been better than the last. “It was tremendous, last night we just finished up a show in Chicago and you can really see with every show we do that the enthusiasm is growing. Word’s getting out and I’m so excited about it!”
For fans eager to get a glimpse of what’s coming up for Hellion after the tour, Boleyn offered some insight. “Our booking agent is booking a bunch of shows in Europe. We’re already writing new material. It’s tremendous the number of companies that are helping us out and it’s just growing,” said Boleyn. Following Hellion’s record deal with HNE/Cherry Red Records, the band is also planning to reissue their albums that are currently out of print.
Those that long for the heavy metal of yesterday are likely to find resolution in the raw talent Hellion has to offer. Though it’s been a decade since Hellion appeared bright on the scene, the band has done an impressive job of picking up where they left off. Between the commanding vocals of Boleyn and the barefaced talent of her crew, many might say it’s as though they never stopped in the first place.