I can clearly remember where I was the first time I heard a Krokus song; in fact, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1988, the sun was hot, the days were long and I was finally gonna score some new tunes (hey…they nearest shopping center was damn near an hour away, and I wasn’t old enough to drive a car yet). After spending a ridiculous amount of time rifling through the discount cassette bins at the festering neon eyesore that was the Duluth, MN Musicland, I found myself torn between two choices: The Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks…Here’s The Sex Pistols and Krokus Alive And Screamin’. I just couldn’t decide! However, after a little not-so-gentle prodding from an annoyed cashier (hey kid…you planning’ on buyin’ anything anytime soon?), I made my purchase and was on my merry way.
Which one did I choose? Well, let’s just say I spent the rest of the Summer belting out the choruses from Hot Shot City and Bedside Radio. The rest, as they say, is ancient history as I have been a uniquely dedicated (if not obsessed) fan of virtually all things Krokus ever since.
On the stellar Hellraiser (2006), an expertly assembled fourteen song collection of ingeniously delivered Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the pummeling title track, and the fist-pumping “Too Wired To Sleep”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of even the most hopelessly jaded and unimaginative of listeners--myself most definitely included--with a seamless, mostly mid-tempo barrage of gritty vocals, searing fretwork and unusually abusive rhythms. Undoubtedly attempting to re-embrace international recognition without resorting to the shameless, payola and chart position-driven tactics so often embraced by the ‘mainstream’, the group proves their mettle early and often by engulfing the listener amid an ensemble worthy of the highest of critical and commercial accolades.
Continuing with the ear-pleasing first single “Angel Of My Dreams”, and the driving “Midnite Fantasy”, the newly revamped combination of vocalist Marc Storace, lead guitarist Mandy Meyer (who returns to the group after a twenty year hiatus), rhythm guitarist Dominique Favez, bassist Tony Castell and former Accept/Helloween drummer Stefan Schwarzmann steamroll forward at what can only be described as a carefully calculated pace. Forging ahead in an obvious attempt to separate themselves from the overwhelmingly vast array of acts seemingly content with resting on the laurels of their past glories, the group wastes little--if any--time locking down on an airtight groove. Wanna Rock out like it’s 1989 without sacrificing your dignity of self-respect? Well look no further as your savior has at long last arrived.
Armed with a brilliantly executed mix (courtesy of Pink Cream 69 mastermind Dennis Ward) that wisely pushes Storace’s already impressively strong vocal delivery to the forefront, other standouts, including the soaring “Love Will Survive”, and the maddeningly infectious closer “Rocks Off!”, only add to an already genuinely satisfying overall effort. So what distinguishes Hellraiser from virtually every other Storace-led release issued within the last twenty six years? Thankfully not that much. Although some will undoubtedly argue that it ultimately lacks at least some of the punchy, nostalgia-induced urgency that fueled 2003’s ingenious return-to-from Rock The Block, the end result is largely the same, a much-welcomed characteristic that instantly sets the group apart from their would-be contemporaries.
Still not convinced the group “do it” without the more than considerable talents of departed founding axeman Fernando Von Arb? Dude…get a freakin’ clue! Believe me, after a listen or two, you won’t--for better or for worse--be able to tell the difference. Even if you still somehow find yourself less than enthralled with a line-up that now officially contains only a single member from the group’s Headhunter/The Blitz heyday, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire Storace’s ability to effectively recapture the magic and spirit of the past without sounding forced or dated. Needless to say, if you are still looking for a slightly ‘Old School’ alternative to the painfully mindless din and clatter that is so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the cure for what ails you. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Believe it or not, Krokus are celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2006, and their new album, Hellraiser, marks this monumental accomplishment. As Switzerland’s most successful musical sons of all time, the band’s big break through, as everyone should know, was in 1983 when one of the 10 best Metal albums in the history of Metaldom, Headhunter, hit the streets with a rare mixture of aggression, melody, catchyness, and killer riffs and solos. Marc Storace, with the band since 1980, really began to be the focal point for Krokus at that time, and appeared to be much more comfortable in that role. Regular FM radio airplay was becoming quite common as a result of that release, and, yep, things looked exceptionally bright for Krokus’ future.
Who knows in retrospect what was being fed to the band from an advice perspective, but Krokus followed up Headhunter with the Hair Metal-esque The Blitz, and although more radio play and a few “hits” came out of that album, the band’s music lacked the aggression and raw edge of Headhunter, therefore clouding up that once exceptionally bright future. Krokus kind of flailed around for a number of years afterwards, never regaining their early 80’s form or momentum. Then, in 2003, main men Marc Storace and Fernando Von Arb knocked out Rock The Block, an album which showed renewed enthusiasm both by the band and for the band … demonstrating Krokus still had a few tricks up their sleeve to offer a rejuvenated Metal scene.
Fast-forwarding to 2006 … Von Arb and Krokus parted ways, making Storace the sole remaining member from the band’s early 80’s heyday. However, to replace Von Arb, enter in Mandy Meyer (don’t worry, he’s a dude), the outstanding guitarist with plenty of experience under his leather-studded belt, most recently with the band Gotthard … in the end, you couldn’t have asked for a better replacement, as Mandy ends up being the stellar highlight of this Hellraiser CD. Additionally, Dennis Ward from Pink Cream 69 fame produced this album -– and it’s usually a given that whatever Dennis Ward touches is going to be successful.
Hellraiser starts out in just that fashion, by raising a little hell via the title track. Immediately, you can feel the energy and confidence in this album … coupled with a bit of maturity and relaxed demeanor. It’s heavy, and Storace still sounds the same as he did in the 80’s. It’s not Hair Metal by any stretch, if anything, it’s a track that isn’t that far removed from the Headhunter style. Next up is “Too Wired To Sleep,” which begins to really highlight Meyer’s playing. His solo here is awesome and the song continues the energy blitz started in the title track.
After this, the album can be characterized by the ebb and flow betwixt fast-tempo rockers, and melancholic mid-tempo semi-ballads. Know, though, that all of the 14 tracks are solid, and even the melancholic semi-ballads have killer guitar work in them by Meyer. Definitely a true pleasure to sit back and take in … you think after the first 3 or 4 songs that Meyer is going to run out of original leads, but thankfully and surprisingly, his magic never ceases from start to finish, and after 14 tracks, you even feel like he probably just scratched the surface of his creativity. From an up-tempo perspective, other “highlight” songs would have to be “Spirit Of The Night,” which is perhaps the fastest song ever recorded by Krokus, and “Fight On.” The melancholic semi-ballads that ring truest would have to be the first single from the album, “Angel Of My Dreams,” and “Take My Love,” but as mentioned, even those tracks not mentioned are still pretty solid.
Krokus has had bouts in the past where a bit of cheese had entered the lyrical realm, and true to form, Hellraiser delves into that mode on a few occasions (just a few!), most notably during the otherwise very impressive track “No Risk No Gain,” where the phrase “… it’s all honky dory …” is used. You know, it’s usually a good rule of thumb that a Hard Rock/Metal band should refrain at all costs from using the words “honky dory” in their lyrics. But again, even this faux paux is not enough to ruin this song, as the guitar work and Storace’s voice are just too impressive.
So, overall, you have a great follow-up in Hellraiser to a great comeback album in Rock The Block. Will it be good enough to get Krokus back in the mainstream circle of Metal? Well, if there’s any justice in the world, the answer should be “yes.” If anything, Hellraiser should serve as an album that continues the upward swing of truly “classic” Metal band. Hellraiser indeed is a recommended buy …
"Rock the block" (2003) was a strong comeback album for former Krokus vocalist Marc Storace of the Swiss kings of rock.
The live album "Fire and Gasoline" felt like an appropriate release in 2004 when Storace was proven to be the mighty return Krokus needed not be lost and forgotten.
Now 3 years later, the band deliver yet another fine piece of classic hard rock that will please all fans of the earlier albums with this band.
Long time member Fernando Von Arb left the band in 2005 due to his wrist problems and couldn't tour anymore, he didn't want to hold Krokus back so ex-guitarist Mandy Meyer (Cobra, Asia) who was a member of the band in the early 80's has replaced Von Arb on their 15th studio album.
And just like the last album, Marc truly sings fantastic and even if Von Arb will be missed - you can't tell by these songs that Krokus are weaker without him because "Hellraiser" is a damn good hardrock album.
Who would have thought that a song like "Spirit of the night" could have been written in 2006 when it sounds so much like a strong metal song a la 1982?!
The title track opens the album and it touches the classic Sweet song by the same name just a little but not enough to say it's a rip off, 2nd out "Too Wired To Sleep" feels like a filler and should've been at the end of the album instead.
But from track 3 "Hangman" and many more accelerating rockers, the album gets right on top being sweet music to my ears.
Not even AC/DC can write a song like "No Risk No Gain" today but Storace and Co did, the dynamite rocker "Turnin' Inside Out" will get the crowd wild in no time and "Angel Of My Dreams" belongs on a 'Best of' compilation with this band.
The AOR flirt of "So Long" only makes me cry of joy, what a lovely tune!
Krokus are for real boys and girls, I dare to say this is one of their 5 best albums and the limited edition contains 15 tracks with the great bonus track "Walking In The Spirit".
All in all, a must for die hard fans!
Reviewed by: Kay Roth