Do you remember Krokus? I certainly do. Krokus was the biggest selling Swiss band ever until the band Gotthard came along, but that is another post. For now, the focus is Krokus…hey, that rhymed!! Back in 1983, Krokus was starting to make some headway in the US. Their sound was heavy and sounded a lot like AC/DC. Then on April 25, 1983, they released the album ‘Headhunter’. They took that heavy AC/DC sound and when up another notch as they were louder and way heavier than they had ever been before.
All of that was due to producer Tom Allom (hey, I think that rhymes too! – man, I am on roll). Tom is a producer and a sound engineer who had worked with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest so the man knew his metal and he took that expertise and gave Krokus their biggest selling and most successful album to date. And man, did it rock. The use of the twin guitars, the awesome sound of the double bass drum and man the singer could lay down some killer vocals on the chorus. It is everything you could want. And on a side note for you Def Leppard fans, Tom was producer on their debut ‘On Through the Night’.
And look at that cover. The skull and cross bones was all bright and shiny like metal. Then the back cover had each member’s face super-imposed with a skull on one half of their face. How badass is that. Well, at this time in 1983, I was a young lad of only 14 and was badass to me. Now, Def Leppard was King for me and so was Krokus. I had two posters on my wall at this point and one was Lep and the other was this one below. And yes, I still have both posters (they are rolled up in a box in storage, but I still have them).
The band at this time consisted of the following members:
- Marc Storace on vocals (or simply called “The Voice” on the back of the album)
- Fernando von Arb on guitar
- Mark Kohler on guitar
- Chris von Rohr on bass
- Steve Pace on drums
Now, for some dirt. Chris von Rohr was fired shortly after this album because he went to the press and leaked information about the band and their rock & roll lifestyle. Apparently, that didn’t sit well with the band. Also, this is the only album that features Steve Pace on drums. He didn’t make it to the end of the year either. So, with all the success the band was having, the band was in a little turmoil with line-up changes (sounds familiar)
My copy of this album on vinyl, is Mint. The cover looks crisp and clean and it is hard to believe as it is 37 years old. The album even has the inner jacket sleeve which is also in fine, fine shape. I’m not sure how I found one in such a pristine condition, but I did and I am glad for it. Plus, it was only $6. How could I pass this one up as it is a favorite of mine.
I think that is enough chit-chat. Let us get to the music.
The album starts out with a bang and those double bass drums blasting away at break-neck speed. The guitar riff comes in and than Marc lets out a massive, yet melodic scream and then straight in to the lyrics that only a teenage boy could love…”Sex & Drugs and Rock & Roll, that’s my cup of tea”. The song, “Headhunter” is fierce, it is loud and it is the closest thing I would get to speed metal at the time as those guitar notes and riffs were coming at you so loud and fast it would drive you mad. Marc sounds like a mad man screaming out the verses and then ending with a nightmarishly scream before the final rat-ta-tat-tat of the drums.
Then right in to another vicious song in the form of “Eat the Rich” and any song with a curse word in it was something could wrap my head around. The solo in this song was mixed with some wicked bass lines, some cool drum-fills and then a killer solo. But the highlight for me, as always, is those lyrics and Marc’s delivery. There is a roughness in his vocals (Bon Scott type) and is pure rock & roll.
But let’s be honest, as destructive as those first two songs are, the gem on this album and the song they are known for is the ballad, “Screaming in the Night”. The wind blows in with those soft and eerie guitar notes are played slowly as the drum and the rest of the band slowly fade in. Marc goes softer with his vocal delivery and reaches for all the heart strings in the emotions he brings and man, what melodies. MTV played the hell out of this song and is probably why I went and bought this. The backing vocals on this were Cobra lead singer, Jimi Jamison…but you might know him as lead singer of Survivor just a year later.
And all you Judas Priest fans hold on to your hats as Rob Halford helps with the backing vocals on “Ready to Burn”. The song starts out with some bad sounding motor and I’m not sure if a car or a motorcycle, but luckily when the guitars and drum come in you forget about that. Krokus are back with the rock in full force. Marc still throws in some screams which seems to be his trademark in these songs, but the guitars are the winner on this one, oh and Halford of course. When you get to the chorus and you hear Rob, you kinda feel like it is a Priest song…it’s as heavy as one. It is a nice treat and an amazing end to a brilliant first side.
Side 2 kicks off just as hard as side one with another heavy, speed song in “Night Wolf”. The guitar shredding on this one is exactly what everyone needs to hear. The song is a torrent of guitar notes flowing swiftly throughout. On a fun fact note, this song was originally written for an animated movie called ‘Metal Hollywood’ and nope, never heard of it.
“Stayed Awake All Night” comes next and is actually a cover of a Bachman-Turner-Overdrive song. It isn’t as rocking as the rest of the album and actually doesn’t feel like it belongs as the tempo and style are so different then the rest of the album. It isn’t a bad song at all, but it doesn’t have the punch or speed of what I love about this album. I will admit, back in 1983, I didn’t know who BTO was so I didn’t know it wasn’t original except for the fact I was like, who is the Randy Bachman getting a writing credit, he isn’t in the band!! The only cool part is that Steve Pace gets a moment to shine in the musical interlude break as he drives home the rhythm behind an understated guitar solo.
The heavier side is brought back with “Stand and Be Counted”. This is another rock anthem for the angst filled youth. Not as good as “Headhunter” as far as an anthem goes, but still enough to get the juices flowing. And the guitars still shred and that is what you want to hear anyway.
We get an instrumental on here as well in the form of “White Din” written by the two “von” boys. The song opens slow except for this really cool, fast pace, electronic sound repeating. There are a lot of effects on here that make it a little scary sounding, but also an emptiness feel to it. It is interesting.
Then the album ends with “Russian Winter” which for me feels like an Iron Maiden song. The guitar has this galloping feel to it and the whole thing has this whole epic battle charge going to it. It is pretty awesome. And it is a great way to go out and leaving you wanting more.
- Headhunter – Keeper
- Eat the Rich – Keeper
- Screaming in the Night – Keeper
- Ready to Burn – Keeper
- Night Wolf – Keeper
- Stayed Awake All Night – Delete
- Stand And Be Counted – Keeper (1/2 point)
- White Din – Keeper
- Russian Winter – Keeper
The Track Score is 7 1/2 out of 9 for a Score of 83% which is a solid score. I still love this album today and it takes me back to my youth on when I was discovering heavy metal. I didn’t go too far heavy, but I did enjoy this. The overall Album Score is a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as the album delivered some blistering dual guitar work and the howls of Marc Storace are something to be heard. It is a solid metal album and even gives you one of the best power ballads of the time. What more could you want!