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Krokus at their Best - 90%

DeathRiderDoom, May 21st, 2009


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.