Sunday Old School: Krokus
When most people think of metal music from Switzerland, they almost immediately think of Celtic Frost or Coroner . But the home of tax dodgers’ bank accounts also hosts of the best balls out, hard rock bands to ever emerge from Europe in the form of Krokus. Krokus were formed in the Swiss city of Solothurn in 1975, initially as a progressive rock outfit and released their self-titled debut album in 1976, which was limited to only 560 copies and was never re-released. After witnessing an AC/DC concert, the band decided to abandon their prog style and opted for a more hard rock approach, leading bass player Chris von Rohr to take over the position of lead singer. This new, harder incarnation of the group proved to be a success in Switzerland, though their subsequent albums, "To You All" and "Painkiller" (released in some countries as, "Pay It In Metal") were critically panned by some reviewers. The band soon realised that von Rohr would have to step down from the mic as he was unable to reach the vocal standards they had hoped. He returned to his former position as bass player while Malta native, Marc Storace, formerly of TEA and Eazy Money entered the fray as their new singer.
Storace’s recording debut came in the form of the 1980 album, "Metal Rendez-vous," which was met with a mixed reaction critically, but found favour amongst many rock fans over the world, particularly in the United Kingdom where the song, "Heatstrokes" topped the heavy metal charts. This was also the first time the band received much attention from the United States and the success of the album resulted in it being certified triple platinum in their home country. They followed, "Metal Renez-vous" the next year with, "Hardware" which received negative reviews and was unable to achieve the commercial success of it’s predecessor, reaching only Gold status in Switzerland. However, it did see the band enter the charts in the United States, Great Britain, Sweden, Germany and Austria, where it peaked at number sixteen. The record also featured some songs which would go on to become fan favourites such as, "Easy Rocker" and "Rock City."
The following year, Krokus sought to expand their chances of success across the Atlantic by hiring an American management team and recorded their sixth studio album, "One Vice At a Time." The album was somewhat controversial in that it featured a sound extraordinarily close to that of AC/DC, with some listeners dismissing the group as AC/DC clones, a sentiment not helped by von Rohr himself who described the record as, "the album that AC/DC never made." Nevertheless, it contained a notable cover of the Guess Who classic, "American Woman" and one of their most popular original songs to date, "Long Stick Goes Boom," and entered the charts in a number of countries, including the United States where it peaked at number 53. Krokus did however win over a number of cynics with their next album, 1983’s, "Headhunter" which proved to be their most successful album to date, achieving Gold status in the United States where it peaked at number 25 on the Billboard album charts and spawned a number of hit singles including, "Eat the Rich" and most notably, the power ballad, "Screaming in the Night" which was aired regularly on MTV. The record also boasted a guest appearance from Judas Priest frontman, Rob Halford who contributed backing vocals to the song, "Ready to Burn."
Krokus attempted to maintain their commercial success the following year when they released, "The Blitz" which once again earned the group a Gold record in the United States and contained another high profile cover in the form of the Sweet classic, "Ballroom Blitz." Despite its commercial success, "The Blitz" was despised by critics, perhaps in part due to the departure of founding member Chris von Rohr and the critics were no kinder to their next effort, 1986’s, "Change of Address," which is seen by both the press and fans alike as the weakest Krokus record yet, culminating in poor sales as well as reviews. The band claimed that pressure from the record company was the reason for the low quality song writing and decided to change labels for their next studio release, 1991’s "Heart Attack," which was their first for new label, MCA and marked the return of Chris von Rohr to the group. "Heart Attack" received marginally better reviews than, "Change Of Address" and peaked at number 5 in Switzerland and number 87 in the United States.
After touring the world in support of, "Heart Attack," Krokus decided to go on hiatus. However, guitarist Fernando von Arb formed a new version of the band and released a new album entitled, "Stampede" in 1990, which marked the first Krokus album since "Metal Rendez-vous," not to feature Marc Storace on vocals. The record did well enough to reach number 18 in the Swiss album chart but it did not cement a lineup, with members of the "classic" quintet drifting in and out over the years in addition to new musicians, most notably with the 1995 album, "To Rock Or Not To Be," which featured Marc Storace back on vocals, whilst he did not appear on the 1999 follow up, "Round 13," then returned once again for the 2003 release, "Rock the Block." Whilst von Arb had been the sole reason for Krokus continuing throughout the nineties, he announced his departure in 2005 as a result of a wrist injury, and was replaced by another former guitarist, Mandy Meyer. This new, post von Arb incarnation of the group released their first album, "Hellraiser" in 2006, which saw the band return to commercial success, earning a gold record in Switzerland on the day of it’s release and entering the Billboard charts for the first time since, "Heart Attack."
Despite the success the new lineup earned, Krokus announced the next year that the classic incarnation of Storace, von Arb, von Rohr and Freddy Steady would be appearing together on a Swiss television programme to perform a medley of hits, before announcing in 2008 that the vintage cast of Krokus was back for good and would release a new album in 2010. The band made good on their promise and released the album, "Hoodoo" in 2010 as planned. Although it failed to chart in America, it went Platinum in Switzerland, becoming their first album to do so since "Metal Rendez-vous," thirty years prior. The band have been busy since then, mostly with touring, but they will soon hope to mark their mark on the charts once more, when they release their seventeenth album, "Dirty Dynamite" in Europe this week, with a North American release of March 5th to follow. Regardless of how the album fairs, there is no denying that over the past thirty eight years, the boys from the small Swiss town have worked (and played!) hard to earn their place as one of the top rock and heavy metal acts to ever emerge from their country.
Krokus - "Bedside Radio"
Krokus - "Easy Rocker"
Krokus - "Long Stick Goes Boom"
Krokus - "Eat The Rich"
Krokus - "Ballroom Blitz"
Krokus - "Hoodoo Woman"
Krokus - "Dirty Dynamite"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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