by Jody Haskins for The Laguna Spectator
Krokus Headhunter is a highly recommended slice of early 80’s metal. It has every element you can ask for; excellent productions, tight arrangements, blistering vocals, instrumentals and just the right amount of sound and fury mixed in with the perfect mindset for an early 80’s metal head. Headhunter is the seventh album by Swiss Rockers Krokus and the fourth with vocalist Marc Storace.
The right sound at the right time propelled this album to Gold status in the United States and a killer video on MTV secured Screaming in the Night a place in heavy metal history. I would be remiss to start a review of this classic album without mentioning the wonderful cover which features a shiny human skull and bones on black background.
If that isn’t heavy metal enough for your, check out back cover which features each member of the band in a black and white head shot that showcases their killer 1980’s hair and one half of their face is a skeleton. This is the way God intended it to be in the world of heavy metal album cover design. Every band should take a cue from this classic.
On the title track of Krokus Headhunter Steve Pace (in his only appearance as drummer for Krokus on vinyl) lays down a driving beat to open this album quickly followed by the guitar, bass and Marc Storace three octave voice sounding very much like an early AC/DC Bon Scott. “Sex and drugs and rock and roll, that’s my cup of tea”. Hey mine too, this might be a pretty good album. Nice chorus and guitar solo over driving rhythm section. Pure rock and roll here folks nothing more and nothing less. Not the greatest song in the world but it sure does an excellent job of introducing the listener to the band and the experience you are about to experience from this album.
Krokus is Sweden’s #1 rock and roll export of all time. AC/DC approached Marc after Bon Scott’s tragic death. Any other time Marc might have taken that offer but at the time, Krokus was having enough success that Marc stayed loyal to his band mates and remained in Krokus where he continues to this day.
The biggest hit off of Krokus Headhunter is Eat The Rich: Here is one of the songs that broke Krokus big in the USA thanks to a killer video on MTV. Man ole Storace really lays on the Bon Scott vocals on this track. This song has everything; class warfare rages while someone steals your car, your guitar and your girl. That is some pretty rough stuff. Here comes some fantastic 1980’s metal bad ass jamming where all the members of Krokus get to really show off their scorching heavy metal abilities. Fernando Von Arb wails on the lead guitar while Chirs Von Rohn plucks the bass strings in the finest tradition of John Entwistle in his prime. Mark Kohler and Steve Pace lay down a solid metal groove to support this scorching track that is an absolute must have on any playlist of early 8o’s metal classics
Screaming in the Night is a power ballad in the finest heavy metal tradition. A nice slow build up with really mysterious lyrics that are made even more mysterious if you see the MTV video. Rusted gates, wolves, moon shining and bleeding in the night cold and shivering. What the Hell? This is some grade A+ 80’s melodic heavy metal lyrical magic. Heavy metal magic is made when Marc Storace sings on top of a blistering Fernando Von Arb guitar that sounds as if it is screaming into the night itself. Epic is the best adjective I can conjure up to describe this track. Most noticeable is how Storace reminds me more of a sort of Ronnie James Dio, Ian Gillan hybrid sound on this track. The guitar sounds very much like something from the first two Ritchie Blackmore Rainbow albums. This song manages to be powerful, beautiful, majestic and brilliant all at the same time. It never gets old.
Ready to Burn opens in the finest tradition of Montrose Bad Motor Scooter. A prelude to Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls”. There is nothing quite as satisfying to a metal head as a song that begins with the guitar mimicking a Harley Davidson motorcycle. This one does Montrose one better by going through the gears and winding the engine up and down. She’s real heavy metal are you ready to burn. I say Hell yeah, let’s burn baby. Rip it up, tear it off and give it all you got. Just like Highway Star from Deep Purple’s seminal classic album Machine Head. You just want to hit the open highway with all the windows and/or top down and the pedal to the metal with the engine roaring wide open, even better if you are on a motorcycle.
This has been one incredible album side. I can’t wait to flip the record over and get to side two.
Von Arb really shows off his versatile style of play with a very Van Halen like guitar sound. Kicking in from a slow groove based intro this first track from side two takes off like a bullet train from Salzburg to Munich. The beast is out and the night wolf is burning with desire. Really great rock and roll metal theme in this track which features equally impressive guitar work from rhythm guitarist Mark Kohler. Once again not a song that will make any top forty list but if you wanted to have a playlist consisting of 1980’s speed metal songs, this one would be at or near the top of that playlist.
At this point we are going to be staying awake all night. Here is a song that any early 80’s rocker can identify. How can you not like a song that starts with the sound of beer bottles rattling in the background.
After a long night of staying awake Krokus commands the listener to stand and be counted. I sense a slight bit of U2 influencing this song but that could just be me. We are back to Storace sounding more like Bon Scott again. This song has a dirty deeds groove. It is a call to arms for all the young metal heads to stand as millions together as one. Not sure what we are standing for but what the Hell apparently there is a danger zone there and it sounds like it could be fun.
I wish the next track was a little slower but these guys are relentless. The rock is fast, hard and heavy again. Wait this isn’t a song, this is a Van Halen Eruption like intro to a song. That song is about the haunting Russian Winter. Kind of starts out with a Led Zeppelin Immigrant Song style beat. These are some tough dudes that survive the cold winds of the dark Russian Winters under the full moon that is burning bright. These guys are running for their lives and you feel like you are running alongside them through the freezing snow. The vocal range of Marc Storace is on full display as this album roars to a close.
Krokus Headhunter is melodic heavy metal rock and roll at its finest. Designed to be played as loud as you can get it while burning down the highway at top speed with no regard for the consequences. This is an epic album that I can highly recommend to anyone who wants to have a listen and really get a feel for what it was like to be a metal head in 1983. It was a glorious time and if you missed it or if you just want to remember it listen to this album and you will get there.