Hellion was one of the first bands bearing the US Metal title and one with a female on the microphone to boot. The said singer, one Ann Boleyn, would actually claim in an early fanzine interview to be a descendant of the famous character of the same name. Boleyn had started her career as a lounge/jazz singer and as a guitarist and keyboardist. She was also reportedly approached once to become a member of The Runaways. The first line-up of the band came together in 1982, played cover songs and included Ann Boleyn (vocals), Ray Schenck (guitar), Sean Kelley (drums) and Peyton Tuthill (bass). The latter man soon left the band, citing Ann Boleyn's involvement in the occult arts as his reason. The same man would soon become a practising minister. Bassist Rik Foxx, a founding member of W.A.S.P., replaced Tuthill, however, quit several days before the band's first recording session because he was offered a slot in Steeler.
The band, born in the Tujunga suburb of Los Angeles, would issue a couple of demos and 7"s (most notably the Driving Hard/Black Knight single) in the early '80s. Hellion was soon thereafter heard through its independent and self-titled MLP which showcased a heavy metal band with solid music and similarly impressive vocals. The UK version featured extra songs because the European licensee had given the band a budget for extra tracks. The manager and wife of Ronnie James Dio, Wendy Dio, oversaw the band. The connection also meant the endorsement and production work of the man himself. Hellion would also open for Dio and Whitesnake on The Last In Line tour. The group was also booked to tour with Hanoi Rocks in December of 1984. The death of Hanoi's Razzle scrapped those plans.
The band would not be able to sustain itself and line-up changes became the norm. The only constant was band leader and singer Boleyn. Nevertheless, Hellion was featured on Roadrunner Records' 12 Commandments In Metal sampler in 1985 with the fantastic song Run For Your Life. The entire band abandoned Boleyn and formed a group called Burn. A new line-up and new deal finally resulted in the release of the band's debut through England's Music For Nations label. The album was called Screams In The Night and was quickly followed by the Postcards From The Asylum EP. The EP was so named because, according to Boleyn, it perfectly described the life and times of the singer. It also was a 'postcard' and not a 'letter' because it was a mini-LP and not a full-length. Perhaps not coincidentally, a year earlier in 1987, actress Carrie Fisher (of Star Wars) had an autobiography entitled Postcards From The Edge, which became a best seller. Regardless, the EP - comprised of both new and older songs - featured a couple of returning members from the band's earlier incarnation and the band was finally doing well having even received airplay on MTV with the video for the song Bad Attitude.
The band toured Europe, including the USSR, and seemed to finally be back on track with the release of The Black Book. The album was another great metal contender that was sadly under-promoted and ironically became a last hoorah for the American band. A similarly-titled book by the author was also announced, but was never actually located by any of the fans. The Black Book narrated the story of a besieged character hiding in Thornhill, Scotland. The band would later disown the sound and presentation of this album - as it had the Screams In The Night release earlier. Boleyn turned her attention to the ever-fledgling New Renaissance label and the band became a fond memory of sorts.
The band would reform in 1997 with guitarist Ray Schenk and drummer Sean Kelly back in the band. Not surprisingly, the duo would depart soon after contributing to a compilation album of sorts called Up From The Depths. Ms. Boleyn would get around to releasing a new album with yet another and newer line-up only in 2003 courtesy of Germany's Massacre Records. An early live album titled Live And Well In Hell was re-released in 1999. Another, called Cold Night In Hell, was issued in 2002. This album was in fact nothing more than the audio component of an old VHS tape and was recorded at The Country Club in December, 1984.
The band's 2003 line-up featured guitarist Chris Kessler, bassist Glenn Cannon and drummer Sean Scott. Over the years, Hellion has seen significant contribution from members like Ray Schenk, Chet Thompson, Sean Kelly, Bill Sweet, Rex Tennyson and Peyton Tuthill.
In a surprise move Ann Boleyn and Agent Steel’s guitarist Juan Garcia joined Détente members Caleb Quinn (guitar), Steve Hochheiser (bass) and Dennis Butler (drums) to perform as Détente at July 2008’s Headbangers Open Air festival. Ann was out of Détente by the time 2010 rolled around.
Aside from her label business, Boleyn was a pace leader with the Los Angeles Roadrunners, the official training group for the Los Angeles Marathon. She is rumoured to be eccentric and does nothing to discourage reports of her eccentricity.
HELLION - COLD NIGHT IN HELL - NEW RENAISSANCE
I first heard Hellion circa 1985 on a Roadrunner compilation called 12 Commandments In Metal. The band's song Run For Your Life was not only one of the best songs on the LP, but was one of the best metal songs ever committed to vinyl. The mixture of the quintet's talented US metal sound and Ann Boleyn's untamed voice was quite a potent combination. One could listen to the song over and over and over. It was that good.
Years have passed and time has not been kind to the career of Ann Boleyn and her ever-changing cast of musicians This side of the century's borderline Ann's own New Renaissance Records has issued a live CD of the band which was recorded in December of 1984 in California and taken from the audio portion of an old VHS tape. Of course, the sound is hardly good, yet is adequate for fans to live the magic of those heady days and, sure enough, the first thing that hits the listener is the way Hellion and its '80s heavy metal peers managed to be harder, faster and more savage than 90% of today's death/thrash/black/power metal bands. The kick ass dynamics and unrestrained attitude corresponded to a feeling that bands nowadays just do not match. Run For Your Life remains the band's coup de grace. It simply is fantastic. Don't Take No For An Answer (about fans demanding heavy metal in clubs and on the radio) is strong and really complimented by the backing vocals. Nothing To Say hints at Judas Priest. Get Ready begins slowly, but as the notes strum into the night and Ann soars the band's tale of the road reaches its full potential. Authentic and vintage heavy metal solos are supplied here, on the song Backstabber and similarly on Drivin' Hard For You. Even the rough sound fails to detract from the feel of Hellion at its zenith.
Hellion obviously did not have lady luck riding with it. The band's own business decision, instable line-ups and release of albums like this which, in typical New Renaissance fashion, gets things like the number of songs, track listing and names in the liner notes wrong probably did not help either. Still, and whatever the events, Hellion is more than alright in my books and so is this heavy metal time-piece. - Ali "The Metallian"