"Big Rocks" (Columbia; 2017)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

I don't know what it is with all these veteran rock acts releasing albums full of cover tunes (see my recent review of Ace Frehley's "Origins Vol. 1") but I've got nothing against it. I've always been a fan of cover songs, it's always fun to listen to someone else's interpretation of somebody else's song. Some cover collections have been more successful than others, of course, and that's the nature of things. For example, I'm going to say that Krokus's current covers album, "Big Rocks," is more successful than Frehley's "Origins Vol. 1" ... and they even cover some of the same tunes.

As you'll see if you read my review of Frehley's album, part of the problem with "Origins Vol. 1" is that Ace isn't the world's greatest singer. That's okay, he doesn't have to be. Again, these are his interpretations of the songs and that's how it should be. Krokus' Mark Storace, however, is a seriously good vocalist, with a unique style and an incredible energy. His vocal stylings don't fit every song on "Big Rocks" (I'm having a hard time with the first single, "House of the Rising Sun"), but, on tracks like Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and Neil Young's "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World," Storace really belts 'em out.

Both Ace and Krokus have had success in the past with cover songs. Ace's cover of the Rolling Stones' "2000 Man" from the old "Dynasty" album was one of the highlights of that record. And Krokus had a monster hit with its cover of Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz." The difference, at least here on their latest two albums, is that Krokus truly makes the songs they're covering sound like Krokus tunes. Storace's voice has a lot to do with that, of course, but the band does as well. These songs sound like cover songs played by Krokus. If you heard one of these on the radio, you'd know it was Krokus. The same can't be said about the Frehley tunes, even though his voice might be a giveaway, too.

My only complaint about "Big Rocks" is that I wish a couple tracks had a little more oomph, a little more pizazz. On only a few tracks, the band seems like they're just walking through the song (such as on "Summertime Blues"). Now, that may just be the difficulty of "Krokus-izing" a particular track but that tired feeling does track more than one track down.

None of that matters, however, since the band also covers my favorite song of all time, "Born to Be Wild," and they do it justice here.

Interestingly, there is no AC/DC cover here, which is surprising since Storace is a bit of a Bon Scott sound-alike.

Overall, "Big Rocks" is a big, fun album, exactly what you'd expect from Krokus. If nothing else, it reminds you how great this band really is and, in fact, it's got me digging through my Krokus collection right now.

Krokus: Mandy Meyer (guitar); Marc Storace (lead vocals); Fernando von Arb (guitar, vocals); Mark Kohler (guitar); Flavio Mezzodi (drums); Chris von Rohr (bass, vocals).

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"Hellraiser" (Locomotive; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

It's funny. Back in the day, when Krokus were huge, I was never a big fan of the band. I mean, I enjoyed their hits ("Eat the Rich," "Screaming in the Night") and I even had a record or two, but I always thought they were the cheesiest of heavy metal bands. As entertaining as their music was, it was heavy with cliches and their lyrics were sometimes just flat out silly.

But now here it is 2006 and I've got the latest Krokus CD, "Hellraiser," in my CD player for, like, the seventh time since I got it just last week. And you know what? It's one of the most enjoyable and addictive CDs to cross my desk all year. 

"Hellraiser" captures the classic 80s metal sound better than any release I've heard in a long, long time. It's got crunchy, early AC/DC-like rockers ("Midnite Fantasy"), it's got kick-ass anthems ("Fight On," "Rocks Off!") and it's got the prerequisite 80s-style metal ballads ("Angel of My Dreams," "Hangman"). It's got it all.

What "Hellraiser" has far less of is the cheese. The band has matured in the thirty years of their existence and that's apparent in the lyrics and presentation here. Those of you who, like me, don't mind a little cheesiness here and there will be pleased to know that it's not completley absent in "Hellraiser." There's just far less of it.

And maybe that's why "Hellraiser" works so well. This CD grabbed me from the first listen to the seventh (so far!). It takes the classic 80s style and unapologetically celebrates it, without modernizing it. This is no "updated" version of Krokus; this is the Krokus we all remember. And it's freaking great to hear them back in action again!

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2017 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.