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Back in the magical 80s, Krokus looked for all the world like they were going to rise to the top of the hard rock/metal scene. It was not to be, however, as at the last minute they pissed away all their momentum with a lame duck known as Change of Address. Sadly, the change of address the title referenced was not a move to the Sunset Strip to live out the rest of their career in glamour and debauchery, it was a change to the status of a middling cult band, forever known as the band which always could've been, but never were. Gloomy future aside (and the band seem to enjoy it), there was a defined (by me) "Golden Era" for the band, lasting from the period of 1982-84, and releasing three classics, namely One Vice at a Time, this album, and The Blitz. Despite being sandwiched unfavourably between two great albums, this has to be the crowning centrepiece, a jewel and the pinnacle of 40 years worth of albums from the band.
With One Vice at a Time, Krokus established themselves as serious (though not lyrically) hard rock contender. So what do they do from here? Streamline themselves into a metal machine, and write lyrics which are more cerebral, though still accessible. Throw this into a melting pot of great riffs and lovely hooks, add the masterful drumming of Steve Pace and a hit ballad (this was the 80s of course) which managed to avoid cheesiness and you've got this album, served up in traditional Krokus style for fans to consume en masse. What a resounding success it was, both for fans and critics, an opus which has actually stood the test of time, mostly.
The inevitable sensible record begins with a blast of hard-hitting drums courtesy of Steve Pace and then a monstrous, inhuman scream from vocalist Marc Storace before Fernando von Arb's and Krokus debutant Mark Kohler's twin guitars launch us headfirst into the blistering title track, raucous quick riffing and animalistic lyrics making this track unforgettable, and from time to time in my head I get Marc Storace belting out "HEADHUNTER!". This is a song which will stay in your head long after the album finishes. The momentum is held, the greatness of the opener matched (or neared) by one of the greatest opening sides in metal history. The pace slows a little for the raging "Eat the Rich", setting up the melancholy ballad "Screaming in the Night". What can I say about the band's best known song? Aside from some language difficulties (like the misinterpreted meaning of "Swore to be avenged" by the band) this is one of the greatest power ballads in metal history. Brooding and slow throughout its near-seven minute runtime, it plods in all the right places, and tastefully, and knows when to up the ante and get your fist pounding. A great song.
Other excellences include the production, wonderfully clear and not hindering the tunes, just how I like it, the perfect balance of quick and slow songs, and the individual performances, particularly Pace's drumming (more on this later). I love the artwork too; visually striking but not retardedly so, and fun to just observe. We have smart lyrics as well, removing a lot of the sexual content to focus on relationships and society, giving this album a grounded style, an almost gritty feel and that gives it an edge over its precursor, One Vice.... We've got dark moods penetrating the album too, again this dark mood setting it apart from the rest of the discography. Different, it is.
Let's talk more about individual performances. Everything here seems good too. Firstly, we have Marc Storace's best performance, from the fucking evil sound that commences it to the impassioned vocalisations that close it in "Russian Winter". Every emotion is shown by the singer to perfect it. There's the soft longing and later quiet rage in "Screaming in the Night", psychosis in "Headhunter", and partying style in "Stayed Awake All Night". However, the guitars could be improved, the riffs and parts a little too stock, they could inject more excitement into them. The rhythm section: bass is average-good but could do with being a little more thumping and emotional, whereas the drumming...well, wow. Just wow. Steve Pace is inhuman, blazing through the songs at a rate which may well've burned a hole in the drum stool, hitting everything as hard as humanly possible and making you want to pick up a pair of sticks yourself. He's inhuman; needless to say this is the best performance on a Krokus album.
Given the almost hyperbolic praise at this point, it takes sound reasoning to give this a sub-90 rating, and believe me, if this record was half the length, I'd give it about 120%. However, you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned side 2 yet. That's because it's boring and lacking in substance. If ever there was a record let down by its side B, this is it. Krokus shift through the gears, simply because they have to make a second side, hitting us with a mundane, stupid BTO cover, a noise instrumental, equally banal, and a couple of strong moments here and there. Seriously, this side needs to get its shit together, for it's literally my only gripe. Oh yeah, and could we have at least one (lovably) stupid song so we know it's Krokus. No? Dammit.
So to sum up. If you want a perfect 80s metal album, listen to side A twice. Otherwise, the curse of Krokus strikes again, with there always being something to dislike. But if you're a detractor from this band because they only do insipid, then listen to this and behold. That's about the long and the short of it. Wait, one final thought: had Steve Pace stayed with the band they could've stayed away from the crappy electronic drums of later years and have one of the greatest metal drummers. Again, a shame.
The goal was clear. The band wanted to establish itself on the US market. It was therefore essential to compose a pretty nice song that could be played on the radio without doing harm to the mainstream audience. For this purpose, Krokus created the ballad "Screaming in the Night". After a rather quiet beginning, the bridge predictably led to an extremely memorable chorus. As a matter of course, the lyrics were about love and the moaning of Storace got on my nerves. From a commercial point of view, this song served its purpose. In my humble opinion, "Screaming in the Night" sounded vapid and grovelling. This was aggravated by the fact that its album version was repetitive due to its running time of almost seven minutes. However, do not make a mistake, because this song cannot be regarded as representative for the full-length. The good news is that this greasy number was the only annoying piece on "Headhunter" that delivered a lot of unexpectedly hard songs.
Not for the first time, Krokus created a lot of outstanding riffs that gave the full-length its own character. In the second half of the album in particular, the songs were fueled by the excellent guitar work. In the golden age of vinyl, "Night Wolf" offered an exciting introduction at the beginning and turned into a rapid and heavy opener of the B-Side while "Stand and be Counted" as well as the final "Russian Winter" were certainly no less exciting. Especially the outreaching quality of the latter song surprised due to the former inclination of the Swiss boys to put slightly worse songs at the end of an album. They probably thought, we would not notice this insidious practice. Far from it! But the stomping "Russian Winter" was as powerful as the opening title track so that it was a great pleasure to listen intently to this output from start to finish. Speaking of the title track: thanks to its high tempo, the long drawn-out screams of the singer and the whipping chorus it could be recognized immediately that Krokus did not want to prefer a gentle songwriting approach. What is more, they were not afraid to confront the amazed listener with slightly dissonant sounding vocals. And one more innovation: one could hardly find any similarity to this well-known band from Australia which had been their biggest influence until then.
The sound of the album had one minor weakness. At the beginning it took a while to get used to the production and even after repeated listening the guitars did not sound as powerful as they should have done. The album sounded clean but not sterile so that the production could be considered as acceptable while the uninspired cover was undoubtedly less acceptable. However, this constituted just a venial sin, especially if one considers what Krokus presented on their next records, the polished "The Blitz" and the terrible "Change of Address".
Finally, it should not be forgotten that Krokus presented the next cover version of a song that was co-written by Randy Bachman. The casual "Stayed Awake All Night" was suitable for every kind of party, because it was not too heavy for the mainstream listener without following an excessive commercial approach so that metal fans could also enjoy it. Due to the slight repetitiveness of the chorus, even simple minds and drunken teenagers could easily internalize the song. However, this was a solid tune that enriched the already captivating album. And despite its commercial goal, this record was and still is strong and the majority of the songs has stood the test of time. What more can be demanded?
Swiss rockers Krokus were the ultimate bandwagon jumpers, shamelessly changing their style, sound and look regularly in an attempt to cash in on whatever happened to be popular in the hard rock world. After struggling as a Genesis-like prog band, they decided to become AC/DC clones in the late 1970s, signed up Maltese Bon Scott-soundalike Marc Storace and began to pump out fairly undistinguished albums every twelve months or so. The album before this one had produced the minor US radio hit "Long Stick Goes Boom" as well as "Rock N Roll", a bald-faced rip-off of the Led Zeppelin song of the same name that exposed the band's greatest flaw: Krokus just sounded like a second-rate covers band. Headhunter was their fourth major label album, so it was probably time for them to make a decent record and they almost succeeded.
Judas Priest producer Tom Allom gave Krokus a harder-edged sound that made them sound a bit like Accept, who were just about to break through internationally themselves. The band continued to rely on near-plagarism and regurgitation as they mined the AC/DC riff catalogue mercilessly, but at least Headhunter had a consistency about it that everything else Krokus ever recorded lacked. Indeed, while the songs sound like they were stolen from an array of other bands, most of them aren't half bad. Both the title track and "Night Wolf" are frenzied metallic splats that drew inspiration from Accept's Restless and Wild, "Eat the Rich" and "Ready to Burn" are solid mid-paced rockers influenced by Screaming for Vengeance (Rob Halford actually sings on the second of these!) and the power ballad "Screaming in the Night" is perhaps their greatest achievement. It isn't spectacular, but Headhunter is actually a pretty enjoyable slab of party metal if you can put up with Storace's often try-hard vocals.
Krokus never came even remotely close to emulating Headhunter, instead slipping further and further into unintentional self-parody with every subsequent release. If nothing else, this minor classic proves that even the most ordinary band has at least one good record in them somewhere.
Originally written for Pyromusic.net
I'll never stop to be amazed with all the wonderful albums released during the 80's. If you search with passion and devotion, you'll find a lost gem in any place of the world, and this time fate has taken us to Switzerland. Krokus had already had a decent run since their inception in the mid 70's, with some good moments as 1980's "Metal Rendez-vous", but, unfortunately for them, never transcending the label AC/DC wannabees.
Finally, in 1983, they got all their shit together and things started to change. Teaming up with long time Judas Priest producer Tom Allon, the five Swiss travelled to the USA and registered what would be the peak of their musical career. Infusing their traditional hard rock with lots of heavy metal power, the new album, from it's truly heavy cover with that steel skull, would become a monster of an album.
If any of the songs stand out from the rest, they would surely be "Headhunter", "Screaming in the Night" and "Russian Winter", each one for very diverse reasons. The title track opens the album as an excellent cover letter. Uncompromising speed metal at its best, like their own "Fast as a Shark". "Screaming in the Night" offers the opposite side of the spectrum, an impressive and moving ballad that manages to sound heavy and dark during its entirety. Very much in the vein of W.A.S.P.'s "Sleeping in the Fire". Finally "Russian Winter", a hell of an epic song which works perfectly as the closer for the album.
This work would be worthy just with this three songs, but the rest are also, at least, fucking consistent. From the addictive hard rock vibe of "Eat the Rich" and "Ready to Burn" (still with the AC/DC influence), to the heavy intensity of "Night Wolf", any classic metal fan will find in "Headhunter" an excellent album to spend some minutes of their life.
With my bigger tendency towards heavy metal, I end up preferring songs as, for example, any of the aforementioned, rather than "Stayed Awake all Night" which is, in my opinion, one of the few flaws of the album. All in all, this is an excellent heavy metal album that owes as much to Judas Priest or Accept than to AC/DC so, if you happen to like any of those bands, don't lose the opportunity to check out "Headhunter".
Originally written for Ample Destruction 'zine.
Wow, Krokus...I had no idea these guys were even on here. Seems they've been up for a couple years yet they have a grand total of 2 reviews, so I thought I would help try to get the ball rolling and review what is probably their best and most successful album. And I'll tell you what, you may be able to dispute whether or not Krokus were truly "metal" but this album is pretty heavy at times and kicks loads of ass so who cares?. The best way that I can think of to describe this would be Scorpion's Blackout meets early AC/DC, with a pinch of Thin Lizzy and a dash of Priest. Vocalist Marc Storace sounds an awful lot like a more refined version of Bon Scott too.
The first 3 songs are all undeniable hard rock classics. "Headhunter" is simply bad ass, it's definitely got that AC/DC vibe but with a proto speed metal drum beat and some killer vocals. "Eat the Rich" is more of the same, but more rock-ish and just as good damn near, awesome solo in this one. But "Screaming in the Night" is the real gem here. This is one of rock or metals all time great ballads. An eerie intro with some melodic soloing that flows right into the incredible vocals of Marc Storace, this dude could sing. One of the catchiest choruses you'll ever hear. Supposedly the metal god Rob Halford is in this song, but it's really hard to tell.
Some of the other songs are solid as well. "Ready to Burn" is such total AC/DC worship that it borders on laughable, but I still love the song to death, great song to drive to. Despite the atrocious lyrics, "Night Wolf" is a killer song and has some of the best guitar work on the album. But it starts to fade badly after "Night Wolf" though, "Stand and Be Counted" Is half ass decent, but "White Din" is just 2 minutes of noise, and "Russian Winter" is horrible. Not a bad album at all, a lot of fun to party to or drive to, that's what this type of music was made for. Play it loud or don't play it at all.
What a privilege it is to be the first here on MA to review this stalwart heavy metal (and I use that term intentionally) album by Krokus. Come to think of it, I’m not surprised, I’m shocked – that no one has reviewed Krokus at the time of writing this, and especially shocked that no ones tackled this, their seminal 1983 release. Swiss act Krokus are an early on the scene band that have their roots in the 70’s and play an often AC-DC-esque brand rock hard rock/heavy metal. This little release was probably their most ‘metal’ up to this point, and is a collection of high-octane thrillers like the title track, and some excellently crafted slower pieces.
Krokus has certainly matured in their sound by this point, with more complex elements and a heavier approach taken. Having said that though, they still retain an ‘early’ heavy metal feel, with that classic Riot hard rock type feel being present. Of particular note on this one are the screaming title track ‘Headhunter’ and the emotive 80’s love song ‘Screaming in the Night’ which is phenomenal on first listen. The latter is an example of the more technical side of Krokus’ song-writing I mentioned earlier, with production/mixing playing an important part in this one. What gets me is Storace’s powerful delivery of vocals, and the heart-wrenching chorus vocal, in which he layers 3 or so excellent takes of the vocal with an exceptional harmony which is thoroughly memorable. Really an excellent chorus here, which precedes an emotive guitar-lead section showcasing some good instrumental skill by axe men Von Arb and Keifer. Drums are mixed well into this masterpiece track with that classic reverb-heavy sound, and really accent the punchiness of the track. The use of the fad-out ending is thoroughly appropriate here, while detractors of said technique may disagree.
The scorching track ‘Ready to Burn’ is another favourite, with a classic intro riff kicking things off in a ‘Priest-like fashion. Of particular note in this one are the chanty gang-executed choruses which add an edge, but still go along well with the melodic aspects of the lead vocals (they’re punchy, while not being ‘too’ harsh for the rest of the track). This one’s got an overall ‘Priest feel, without seeming like its ripping their sound (remembering the bands 70’s credentials, and the fact this is like their 4th or so full-length). Anyway, one of the memorable points in this are the held ‘screams’ by Storace in parts of the chorus – distinctive.
The albums intentional ‘anthem’ track is the memorable, yet not overly great ‘Stayed Awake All Night’ which covers your subject matter about partying and rockin’ out. I am fond of the opening lyric “In the cool of the morning…” which really captures the essence of realisation of the fact you’ve been up partying all night, having an awesome time. I don’t know why that lyric is so effective, but I guess ‘party’ anthems might not often delve to far into ‘poetic’ sort of imagery, and usually stick with clichés. I’m not sure – but it’s effective on me anyways. I like the added ‘beer bottle rattling’ in one of the interlude moments of this track – also evokes some deeper ‘party’ imagery. Additionally; the chorus in this one is a tad lacklustre, though you pretty much expect these types of songs to stick ti something incredibly simple for the chorus, so that’s not a real surprise. ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’ is a more energetic anthem, with a more enjoyable chorus.
‘White Din’ is an interesting instrumental piece leading into the strong and epic-feeling ‘Russian Winter’. The former is a production heavy use of varying guitar techniques heavy in reverb and other effects. There’s some really loud shifting bass towards the end which is ‘ear-catching.’ I’m not sure if this piece was written specifically for the album’s closer ‘Russian Winter’ but it works incredibly well as an intro to this very much ‘metal’ number that has an almost speed metal feel reminiscent of Accept in terms of vocal touches and guitar rumbling. Either way; the two tracks share a theme in terms of song-title, so that’s a connection.
‘Russian Winter’ is definitely a high-point in the album, along with the tile track. It’s pretty complex with perhaps the most impressive guitar lead trade offs present in the album, with a ‘heavy metal’ subject matter in lyrics which I thoroughly enjoy. Vocal-wise, in enjoy the repeated, down-turned chant “Run for your life” at the end of the song, which is faded out. The verses are well-written with a structure that compliments the rumbling guitar well. The lyrics here are pretty great with talk of “spilling blood” and “full moon burning bright” etc – very much ‘metal’ but delivered with that distinctively Krokus melodic feel – making for a winning combination. The more heart-felt subject matter here seems to be equalled with an increase in intensity in the lead vocals; strong screams and great pitch by Storace. The twin guitar credentials of the band are best displayed in this powerful opus.
To conclude; this album is incredibly strong. It’s usually considered the band’s high point and would make an excellent introduction to the band to anyone new. Pretty darn consistent right the way through with no real ‘filler’ just some song better than others. The standouts are pretty easy to pick, in my opinion; ‘Headhunter’, ‘Russian Winter’ ‘Eat the Rich’ and ‘Ready to Burn’ are all excellent. This was the first Krokus album I got, back in 2003 I think, and it’s served me well. From here it seemed natural to hunt out much of the rest of the bands material, and believe me there’s a lot of it. This one’s got the bands classic 80’s sound down to a‘t’ and will not disappoint by any means. Any fan of good classic/traditional heavy metal will appreciate this one.