Krokus spawned a few remarkable records in their early days. Names like Pay It In Metal, Hardware, Metal Rendez-Vous (with which yours truly felt the vampire pull of this band) come to mind. And sweaty, rocky concerts in “the pit” come back to memory. But nothing mentioned before really blew the true Heavy Metal record Headhunter of 1983 out of the water, their 7th studio album. Not equaled then and not ever since.
And a word to the album cover: The metal skull and bones together with the name Headhunter is just superb. A fitting visual to a very metal album. The disc also features its very own epic spicy stories: For instance, Chris Von Rohr got himself fired from Krokus later in 1983. Or it was his loose mouth and some Machiavellian machinations from management that led to his demise at that time. But nothing is forever and Chris is now – in 2015 – firmly ensconced back in the old, new formation, moins Fernando Von Arb. Headhunter hit Platinum status in the US and got to 28 in the Billboard 200.
Headhunter can be seen as one of the forerunners of todays Speed and Power Metal scene. And what the fuck happened to their guitar play? They been on drugs? The change from the somewhat laid back, mid-tempo riffing now all of a sudden went by the board. And got replaced by a technically much more refined guitar work. The pace for that track list gained a lot steam and displays REAL power songs. I reckon the change to a harder, faster delivery is partly due to their one-time producer Tom Allom (also called The Colonel), best known for his long involvement with Judas Priest. Tom of course did many other outstanding bands too, like Def Leppard, Black Sabbath and odd ones like Strawbs (forsooth, not metal that).
Now, the album was made with Allom in Orlando, Florida and he rocked them around some. Even if he thought – by his own words – that they sounded a lot like … AC/DC. In the end, his influences seemed to be such that their sound now was way more metal than ever before and for sure much less AC/DC. But whatever the reason for the boost, the effect was and still is outstanding.
And as a result, Headhunter is one of the records heaping less guilt on the Swiss band Krokus on being an AC/DC sound-alike. So this record really is an outstanding one in this respect. You will still find some similarity, thought. But compared to other albums of theirs, the extent of the damage considerably lessens. And never forget, their own style and Marc‘s voice really lends itself to this belief. Unlike other records – of course – like their latest disc Dirty Dynamite, where they really knocked themselves out in Bon Scott-ism. And this in turn knocked a few stars off their rating.
Their pre-Headhunter albums already got them this reputation by the way. Back in the ’70s and especially in the US, which – commercially – must have been an enormous setback. As the lore goes, Headhunter saw the light of day to win back this market and especially got us the rock ballad Screaming in the Night for that purpose. But more to that later.
And you know, when Headhunter (the title song) takes off, it just projects a smile on my face. Drums first, then lead guitar, then rhythm guitar, then bass and off they rock onto their Heavy Metal highway with a scream that would make David Byron (ex Uriah Heep) proud. Marc Storace at his best. He had and still has a reach today that will make many other metal fronts appear pale by comparison. An absolutely stellar start to a totally metal album. Then Eat the Rich and Ready to Burn both still living on the A side, follow in this rocky path to glory with full tilt. Typical Krokus fare with an energy not quite known before.
Now, Screaming in the Night has been screamed, bitched and moaned about a lot over the past 30 years of so. It actually charted in the US on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. And it is played by stations to this day, so there is some merit. Mission accomplished? No. OK, it is actually mainstream, but this is exactly its downfall. In my book the track does not qualify as a decent rock ballad, it is so overgrown with moldy cheese. And the lyrics on that one: Well, let’s not go there. Pretty much the only negative on this very speedy and powerful metal album.
‘Cause Headhunter takes off in the second half – the B side – full steam with Night Wolf. This one is like enjoying a second lead track. And the disc will not let up. Moving through to Stayed Awake All Night with a most astonishing mid-section. Now, what really knocked me flat is the rocker Russian Winter at the very end of the album. This one would have qualified for a starter. But hey, great news to have a kicker occupy what used to be the knacker’s yard for leftover fillers. Stellar!
So, back in 1983 Krokus seemed to have found their ultimate nirvana in Headhunter. A metal-clad monster from start to finish, with a very small, soft mid-section. The style came away from the mid-tempo fare the band served us with and had a go at us much more aggressively than ever before. And the effect was truly remarkable, with rock hard tracks that still resonate to this day. In truth, they tried to reproduce this spirit recently and to an extent succeeded. However, this never reached the heights of this old record.
And this is why this record made it onto the Old’n’Tasty series as well. Good stuff.
Record Rating: 9/10 | Label: Arista | Web: Official Site
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