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Many "Greatest Hits" albums come from bands that may have had two. "Best Of" is a more honest label. KROKUS had a Best Of collection released back in the late 1980s. I thought that would be the last I'd ever hear of them. I was wrong.
KROKUS began in the early 1970's in Switzerland as a band that wanted to sound like YES and Emerson Lake & Palmer. By the late 70's they wanted to play Heavy Metal and were totally committed to sounding like AC/DC and SCORPIONS. Only problem was, both those bands already existed.
Still, though the word KROKUS is the Swiss spelling of a flower, it has a Heavy Metal sound to it in the English language. WHich is trivia but clearly demonstrates how most flowers could never cut it as the name of a Metal band, say Roses.
Bottom line was, band leaders/founders Chris Von Rohr (bassist) and Fernando Von Arb (lead guitarist) were really just into having a band so they could get laid a lot. These noble reasons have been the driving force behind more than thousand bands and who can blame them? When they found a Frontman in Marc Storace, who could actually make those Bon Scott and Klaus Meine vocals, they finally got their big recording contract.
They released PAINKILLER and PAY IT IN METAL, both in 1978. The albums got the kind of respect they deserved, but the little girls understood.
In 1980 they released METAL RENDE-VOUS. That album got the kind of respect, and more importantly the venues, which leads to groupies that are higher up on the food chain than 200 seat clubs can provide. Then with HARDWARE in 1981 they went on heavy touring duties and had the time of their lives.
Then they released ONE LUST AT A TIME and gained a small but definite following. Their biggest hit (this was back when all bands needed a hit radio song to sell an album) was a cover of the Guess Who's "American Woman". Heavier and Metal - ier than the original, it still lacked that "I prefer women who are not from the American Continent" jene' se' quoi." What it did provide was that Castrati style of screaming singing so thankfully absent from modern metal. Back then, Cookie Monster voices and giving bj's to microphones were not the mark of a non-poser. Anyway, Highschool boys who did not fit in with the regular Heavy Metal cliques, or were trying to prove their individuality, started carving KROKUS on bathroom walls instead of OZZY. Their girlfriends wanted to ball the boys in the band.
To be successful, the band was going crazy and finally being wild. With that wildness came a real feel for Metal and the last of the "flower power" vestiges from their early beginning were finally torn away.
1983 saw the biggest, hottest, and best KROKUS album ever with HEADHUNTER. Songs like "Nightwolf", (their own song of) "Eat The Rich", "Stayed Awake All Night", and "Screaming In The Night" was real and credible. After a lot of wandering, the band had finally made it and knew how to make Metal.
Former lead singer and band creator Chris Von Rohr was pissed though. Marc Storace, Mark Kohler, and Fernando Von Arb, were definitely attracting the sweetest of the groupies, despite Rohr's musicianship and song writing skills. When you only go for the groupies, then by the groupies ye shall be judged.
So he left in a huff. That was bad because it was his writing that put the Metal into KROKUS.
When the rest of the band, along with a new drummer (Freddy Steady, the old drummer figured that Chris was right and left with him) put out their next record THE BLITZ in 1984, not even having Bruce Fairbain produce could save it from its two-bit pop sound. They covered The Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" and neutered it. Marc Storace and Fernando Von Arb wrote "Midnight Maniac", one of the most bubblegum pieces of pop crap to have ever been called Heavy Metal. The album sold well on the basis of their previous hit album, but you never saw the used record stores get filled up with so many copies of a new album so fast.
Slammed for the garbage they were spewing, they got the moniker "Poser band". Trying to right their listing ship, they came out in 1986 with CHANGE OF ADDRESS, produced by Tom Werman of CHEAP TRICK. Their hit off this one, and the cover of the album, was a remake of ALICE COOPER's "School's Out". This was the album that set in stone the death of KROKUS. Their last two albums were based, named, and pushed singles after covers of someone else's songs. The mid 80s were now the dawning era of IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA, MEGADETH, as well as a resurge in popularity for JUDAS PRIEST, SCORPIONS and KISS. Bad timing for lazy bands who thought they could fly on autopilot.
Still, KROKUS did have some good Metal tunes in their history, and KROKUS: The Definitive Collection captures nearly all of them on a CD remastered by Bruce Dickenson and Mark Wilder.
The money music, that stuff that was forced onto the hit charts before dropping like a stone is here. The CD opens with "Ballroom Blitz". Hear it once so that you know what I'm talking about and hit skip forever more (that's not an order, I just have a feeling you will). There are also the cover tunes of "Stayed Awake All Night", "American Woman", and "School's Out". All were done with various degrees of success. But where KROKUS shone was during its Chris Rohr / Freddy Steady days where you will find such gems as "Long Stick Goes Boom", "Playin' The Outlaw", "Night Wolf", "Headhunter", and "Screaming In The Night". To be sure, the album is a mixed bag, but that's what programmable CD players are for.
Line up the Rohr and Freddy Steady era tunes, skip the other shit, and you've got a pretty slamming piece of plastic. Worth the money and gets an easy 3 Perplex Skulls.
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.