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Krokus Finds Someone Else's Niche - 85%

Deathdoom1992, July 26th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Rock Candy Records (Reissue, Remastered)

As another reviewer put it, "Their True Debut". Maybe so; I'm sure everyone was happy to simply consider it as such, sweep their first three efforts under the rug and forget all about them. I know I would. But the fact remains that Krokus had spent the previous four years dragging their name and reputation through the mud, and when they didn't opt for a deft name change to hide from their past, they flushed their chance at major stardom down the toilet. Think of it like this: they're the popular kid at the party, but then those geeky third grade photos are broken out and BOOM, suddenly no one's interested. So yeah, this is the sound of a band finally getting their shit together after 4 years. How did they do it, you ask? Well, they blatantly stole AC/DC's act, but I'll forgive them 'cos hey, the music's enjoyable.

It became clear after the release of Painkiller in late '78 that something had to change in the ranks of Krokus if they were to try and make something of their career. The two creative forces, Tommy Kiefer and Chris von Rohr, had both had a go at lead vocals and decided neither were any good, and their music was very safe and sterile. The band saw an AC/DC concert in 1979 and inevitably saw the light of heavier music. To get there, however, major changes needed to occur. Firstly, Jurg Naegeli's technical, almost progressive playing had to go, replaced by vocalist von Rohr with a much more straightforward act, but the band knew that they couldn't continue with the new bassist's softer vocal approach. The band tried out a guy named Henry Friez at first, but then they found a Maltese-born 29 year old who'd already had almost 15 years experience singing: Marc Storace. This would be the final piece in the puzzle to developing Krokus' definitive sound, marking their transition from, well, nobody's to almost somebody's, I suppose.

Now, this isn't any more or less generic than Painkiller, and I know for that I should give it a lower score, but it's a blast to listen to so I'll keep my 85%, just know it's a little nice or the rating for their previous album was a little harsh. Particularly enjoyable moments: well, Painkiller had one of the worst ballads of all time with "Bad Love", this has one of the best with "Streamer". Slow but with a foot-tapping beat, and Marc Storace's anguished vocals. It has two of the band's closest songs to hits: "Heatstrokes", and "Bedside Radio", both good songs, the former with an AC/DC-esque (yeah, it's that name again) guitar intro and riffage and the latter becoming a live staple with its catchy, radio-friendly chorus. We also have the lovable am-dram of "Fire", so flawed that it's awesome, and "Backseat Rock 'n' Roll" also has a heavy, shall we say, Australian influence, with the lyrics, no prizes for guessing what they're about.

The guitar duo of von Arb/Kiefer has really now found a style they can excel in, bringing us Krokus' greatest riffs, particularly on the aforementioned "Heatstrokes", "Fire" and "Streamer". Marc Storace really brings another dynamic to the band's sound, his high-pitched nasal voice finally giving the songs the character which they always had, but didn't display in earlier eras. Chris von Rohr turns out to be a solid bassist, his overall loudness and accuracy really suiting the album, and Freddy Steady goes for loudness and aggression but not accuracy. His performance is good here, but on the whole he's overrated. There is great production, very clear and crisp, not like the fuzzy sound most 80s records have, and the songwriting is innuendo-laden brilliance, a far cry from the almost introspective lyricism of their self-titled opus, and an element which had rarely been brought to the fore on past albums.

It isn't perfect, alas. For example, I know although the band seems to thrive on cliches, they could've just cut a few out few of them for the sake of originality, not a word often used when describing the music of Krokus however. "Tokyo Nights" for example, is a cliched lyrical ode to Japan, hoping it'd win over some Japanese fans. On the bright side, they learned that that ploy fell flat on its face and didn't try it again. Other than that, there are only minor issues, for example the album is about 2-3 songs too long and that Steve Pace doesn't play on it, they could've got in another guy to make Freddy Steady's good performance absent for a great one.

Finally, this opus is, to this day, Krokus definitive work. That said, I personally think Stampede is their best, but this has some much weight compared to the release of Stampede. It has a variant of the classic lineup, the first in their new rockin' style, their signature song, etc. Krokus really did find someone else's niche with this record, and they've never been quite inspired since, this being a must-own for any hard rock fan.

Their real debut - 75%

Felix 1666, October 26th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1980, 12" vinyl, Ariola

Of course, "Metal Rendez-vous" was not the debut of the Swiss metal rockers. But due to its liveliness, the new lead vocalist and a significant change of style, the album had the aura of a newcomer´s first work. Even today, almost 35 years after its release, it sounds fresh and rather exciting. From today´s point of view, it seems logical that this carefree yet professional record cleared the way for the heavy metal markets worldwide.

Noticeably and extremely positive was that Krokus did not focus on the mainstream audience. The majority of the songs was straightforward and powerful. Tracks such as the up-paced opener or the dark "Come On", which convinced not only by its edgy choruses, offered an remarkable heaviness, particularly in 1980. Admittedly, some other tunes did not reach that level of metallic intensity. Nevertheless, this album delivered a more than solid dose of musical aggression.

Apart from this, "Metal Rendez-vous" earned for the band the reputation of being European AC/DC clones. Maybe this was true in individual cases, but it could not be generalized. For example, it is correct that the verses of the casual (and slightly commercial) "Bedside Radio" or the light and loose "Lady Double Dealer" showed striking similarities with the typical tracks of the Australians, especially due to the rhythm guitars and the simple drumming. But songs like "Streamer" or "Fire" headed in an other direction. I am not a great fan of these pieces. From my point of view, they constitute the only bad songs on this album. But I really cannot blame them for sounding like second class AC/DC tunes. Additionally, a track like "Tokyo Nights" with its melancholic approach and its Far Eastern melody line did not follow the songwriting pattern of the Australians in any way.

The inspired band benefitted from a powerful production that set all instruments in the right light. However, the main focus was on Marc Storace´s variable vocals. He appeared for the first time and his performance took the band to the next level. His charisma was surprising and I did not care about the fact that he sounded a bit like Bon Scott. In 1980, this style of singing was just the state of the art. The crispy riffs also contributed to the good overall impression. The band obviously liked the riffs, too. Some of them reappeared on later works of the group. In this respect, "Say Goodbye" from the awkward "Change of Address" marks the prime example. Its riffing was evidently a slavish imitation of the guitar lines of "Tokyo Nights".

Well, you did not need to be the greatest guitarist of all times to play the easily structured songs of this album. The same applied for the rhythm section. For example, you can learn the drum parts of the tunes in five days, although the first two cuts of the B side offered some unusual percussion parts. But what ultimately matters are the songs themselves. In this regard, Krokus held all the aces.

The Beginning of 'Classic' Krokus - 80%

DeathRiderDoom, May 21st, 2009

Krokus – Metal Rendez-Vous

This damn early release (1980!) by Krokus was I think the second album I heard from them, and I’ve owned it for about 6 years. It’s an impressive album, particular given the early release date, but probably fails to stack up to what many consider their master-work: ‘Headhunter’ (1983). The sound on this one marks a departure from the previous few records, with the addition of ‘classic sound’ Krokus vocalist Mark Storace, as well as somewhat of a more mature overall sound.

The opener ‘Heatstrokes’ is a strong and energetic track which kicks of the album with a bang, while not having any of the distinction of Krokus’ finer tracks such as ‘Headhunter’ or ‘Fire’. It’s a strong yet simplistic effort, which serves as a good introduction to the new vocal stylings on board, and packs a decent amount of pace which most would appreciate.

One of my favourite tracks is ‘Come On’, in at track three which tackles the generic ‘we’re a rock band and we’re here to rock’ subject matter, yet does it with some stylistic devices and excellent lyrics. It’s got a driving, energetic sound influenced by the Riot/Accept-ishness of the guitars. I enjoy the simple yet effective chorus, with lyrics which are a tad odd - “Come on, come on – to the place where the evil dies” – I find this a strange choice of lyric, but it sticks in your mind a lot. A well crafted song all-round, this one sees some good choices in guitar riffs by Fernando von Arb & Tommy Kiefer. Quite a bit of variety through the song, with distinct segments which accentuate the effect of the hard rockin’ lyrics. Storace is well showcased, with a powerful voice and no problem hitting notes.

Your slow numbers are tackled in ‘Streamer’ and ‘Tokyo Nights’, with the former being a particularly lengthy affair with production including some rain, storm and thunder effects for good measure during the intro section. I’m not to sure what the song is about really, but again, the vocals are performed readily by Storace, who is a good vocalists which often overlooked in discussions on classic metal vocalists. I guess he doesn’t have the range and mindblowing capabilities of other greats though, but he is good. ‘Tokyo Nights’ is probably one of the tracks weaker moments, with unimaginative riffs, and lyrics dealing with a love affair with a saucy Japanese geisha girl.

Tracks like ‘Shy Kid’ are interesting, but kind of a mixed bag affair. I don’t care for the ‘old-timey-ness’ of the riff in the first verse of the song, which is also coupled with some lame vocals which are an example of lyrics aimed at pleasing the American music market, like what Priest done in the early and mid-80’s after the success of ‘British Steel’. Anyway, the lyric goes something like “Way down in Boston… way down in Memphis”. As a geography graduate, I take exception to this, anyone with a basic knowledge of the area knows Boston isn’t “Way down” from anywhere (excluding Canada, which I don’t think they were – few do), meaning this was a rather poor choice in vocal, but I digress.

‘Lady Double Dealer’ is an example of the bands KISS/AC-DC type brand of rock n roll and is pretty decent, with a memorable chorus, that’s vocals and guitars are incredibly comparable to KISS. There’s a pretty neat lyric in the song in which the guy tells a girl he’s seeing (the ‘Lady Double- Dealer as it were) that she spends too much time listening to his (presumably heavy metal) records, rather than shagging him – great stuff. He also notes that she’s constantly borrowing his records, but never returning them, and expresses his frustration. This little diversion from the standard lyrical formula is awesome. I’m thoroughly intrigued by the girl mentioned here, and aroused by her desire to listen to heavy metal records. Either she’s a genuine ‘rock chick’ with attitude, or the protagonist is rather crap in bed. With all the birds starved for rock in Switzerland, and the relative success of Krokus (even by this early date) comparable to other Swiss acts (let’s say Bullet), my money’s on the former – however; you never know.

Anyway, a strong effort from this enjoyable 80’s hard rock/heavy metal act. People often refer (my self included) to Krokus as the Swiss AC-DC. No doubt this band seems to be a major influence in the band’s sound, but detractors of “Acka – Dacka” (to use a regional term for them) will be pleased to know that this particular release features a less AC-DC relying sound than others (specifically ‘One Vice At A Time’). The most notable tracks include ‘Fire’ (an epic complete with dramatic guitar lead passages; at over six minutes in length), ‘Come On’ and possibly ‘Heatstrokes’, with ‘Back Seat Rock n Roll’ being a fun affair, with a strong AC-DC influence and no real distinctive features. Strong release with good production values, though the bass and drums are markedly quiet at times. Classic hard rock/heavy metal fans would be well advised to check this little number out, and it’s a good starting point for the band, due to it being a bit of a shift from their earlier stuff toward their ‘classic era’ sound. This release also features excellent album art. The image of two classic cars ‘going at it’ is pretty original, and really well-done. Bonus marks for that.

-DeathRiderDoom