I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Krokus will be next year's Def Leppard.
— Krokus manager Butch Stone to Circus Magazine, September 1983
Krokus - "Original Album Classics"
(3-CD set; Sony/Legacy/Arista, 2012)
Swiss rockers Krokus never quite lived up to the grandiose managerial prediction shown above, but they had a few good years during the big '80s metal boom.
American audiences probably remember them best for 1983's Headhunter album - a derivative-but-fun slab of early '80s metal which included the enduring radio staple "Screaming in the Night." Krokus was considered a "new" act at that time, but Headhunter was actually their seventh (!) release.
Founded as a progressive rock act in Switzerland in 1975, Krokus' first two records - 1976's self titled debut and 1977's To You All - barely made a splash, even in their homeland. A stylistic switch towards AC/DC style hard rock on 1978's mostly ignored Pain Killer album (aka Pay It In Metal) did little to reverse the band's waning fortunes. It wasn't till Marc Storace, a singer originally from the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta, joined the fold on 1980's Metal Rendez-vous that things started falling into place for Krokus. Storace's gritty vocal style - a blend of Bon Scott's pub-rock swagger and Robert Plant's arena-rattling wail - fit the band's sound like a glove. The rest, as they say, is history.
Seeking to re-acquire some of the Krokus albums that I'd owned in my youth, I recently came across this cool mini-box set, part of Sony/Legacy's bargain-priced Original Album Classics series. The box features Marc Storace's first three albums with Krokus - 1980's Metal Rendez-vous, 1981's Hardware and 1982's One Vice At A Time - each in neat little cardboard slipcovers meant to mimic the appearance of the vinyl LPs. The set was an absolute steal for ten bucks so I snapped it up and I've been going down Metal Memory Lane with the trio of CDs all week long.
"Metal Rendez-vous" (1980)
I owned Metal Rendez-vous on vinyl in the '80s, but since I no longer own a turntable, I hadn't heard it in dog years. Revisiting this album after more than two decades was like getting a letter from an old friend. Metal Rendez-vous is about as subtle as the automobile collision on its front cover, kicking off nicely with the uptempo "Heat Strokes" before sliding into second gear with "Bedside Radio" and the heavy-duty "Shy Kid." "Tokyo Nights" is a mid-tempo track that begs the audience to sing along, almost like an early blueprint of "Screaming in the Night." "Back Seat Rock N Roll" brings things to a satisfyingly pummeling close.
Comparisons to AC/DC are unavoidable when listening to Metal Rendez-vous (and indeed, most of the band's catalog) due to Storace's Bon Scott-esque vocals and Krokus' propensity for groan-worthy double-entendres and puns in their lyrics and song titles, just like their Aussie heroes. What Krokus lacks in subtlety, they make up in terms of catchiness and sheer volume!
My brother owned Hardware on cassette back in the day and it was a frequent player back then, but I've never owned a copy myself, therefore I hadn't heard it in at least a quarter century. The rumbling "Celebration" gets things off to a moody start before kicking into "Easy Rocker," which salutes the band's fans clad in leather jackets, covered with patches of "those heavy bands." A particularly nasty groupie is immortalized in "Smelly Nellie," and it doesn't take much imagination to figure out what the charming "Mr. 69" is about. Contemporary audiences will likely be shocked at a line in album-closer "Mad Racket" in which Storace barks about a rival, "He's a transvestite -- he's a fag!" (I don't think he's talking about a cigarette...) Of the three albums included in this set, Hardware was my least favorite, in spite of a few decent tracks. It just doesn't have the fire of the two albums that bookend it. .
"Rock City" (1981)
"One Vice at a Time" (1982)
One Vice at a Time was released in 1982 - a year prior to Krokus' "breakthrough" success with Headhunter - and was possibly their hardest-rocking (and also most derivative) album thus far. It kicks off with one of Krokus' best-known pre-Headhunter songs - the oh-so-subtle "Long Stick Goes Boom" (hint: it's not about a stick of dynamite...), which rips off AC/DC even more blatantly than usual. Krokus mines the Thunder From Down Under for inspiration for the rest of the album, especially on "Bad Boys, Rag Dolls" and "Down the Drain." Seriously folks, they owe Angus and Malcolm Young some royalties for this one! Despite its near-total lack of originality One Vice is still a fun listen, especially when it's cranked up to appropriately obnoxious volume levels.
"Long Stick Goes Boom" (1982)
So whatever happened to Krokus anyway?
After the platinum success of the Headhunter album, Krokus' fortunes took a fairly swift downward turn. The band made the poor decision to abandon their headbanging, pedal-to-the-metal approach on follow up albums like 1984's The Blitz and 1985's Change of Address, favoring a slicker pop-metal sound aimed at American rock radio and MTV. The metal fraternity said "no thanks" to their new direction, labeling Krokus sell-outs and bandwagon-jumpers. Storace left the band after 1988's barely-noticed Heart Attack and Krokus split up after one album with a new singer (1990's Stampede).
Storace returned to the fold a few years later for 1995's successful To Rock Or Not To Be reunion album, and the band has been active ever since - even if membership has been something of a revolving door from album to album. Krokus' most recent studio album, Big Rocks, was released in 2017.
I hope I've piqued your interest in this underrated band. If so, this Original Album Classics 3-CD set would be an excellent place to start your journey.
Get the Set!
© 2015 Keith Abt
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on August 13, 2015:
Hi Leo - thanks for stopping by. Will check out "Dynamite," you can never have too many AC/DC ripoffs, haha
Leo on August 13, 2015:
I found your site today via Steve Hoffman and really enjoyed it. I also have the Krokus trinity (with 4) and hadn't heard them in more than 20 years. The time has come. Cheers from Brazil
Another AC/DC's Bon Scott era rip-off is Dynamite - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJ-uQQw04CY
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on May 29, 2015:
Cool, Fox - hope you dig those Krokus records. Rock on!
Fox Music on May 29, 2015:
Thanks for the Read FatFreddysCat This Was a Great Review On the Swedish Rockers Krokus -- Looks Like I Am Going to Have Go To the K's & Dust Off My Krokus Albums and Give Them A Spin