Random Review: Krokus’ Stampede (reissue)

Sireena Records

Nov 15, 2013 By Frank Valish Bookmark and Share

I knew precious little about Swiss metal band Krokus when this strange gem of a double vinyl reissue came across my desk. I recognized the name, of course, as Krokus was commercially successful during the mid-’80s, when I was an impressionable middle school-aged whippersnapper, but I was the sort who tended to shy away scared from a bunch of tight-outfitted heavy metal dudes from Switzerland who preferred their rock balls-to-the-wall. Then, of course, there was the band’s video lampooning at the hands of Beavis and Butthead in the ’90s, which featured the latter cartoon clown sarcastically stating: “Metal has come a long way.” But there was something alluring about this record, a reissue of the band’s 1990 album, Stampede, its title written in flames on the album cover, with metallic band logo and inexplicably-placed barbed wire. It begged you to open it, perhaps not the least reason of which was the sticker advertising colored vinyl inside.

So hence began my indoctrination into Krokus. Apparently, Stampede is an odd place to start. Internet research reveals that the album, which came after Krokus had already outlived its metal maniac shelf life, featured a complete re-tooling of the band’s lineup. Every member had left save lead guitarist Fernando von Arb, and for Stampede, von Arb curiously plays no guitar, instead having moved to bass. Stampede was an album out of its time and completely alien in lineup to the band that formed in the mid-’70s.  For additional perspective on its out-of-place status, note that Stampede was released just one year prior to Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The album opens promisingly with the machine-gun guitar and Rob Halford-esque vocals of the title track. Why waste time, when you can state your thesis from the opening gun, I suppose? From here, things move into Brian Johnson-channeling, classic-rock referencing territory. “Shotgun Boogie” references Kiss in the lyrics and sounds overall like a more revved-up AC/DC. Immediately following, “Nova-Zano” is the most blatant Led Zeppelin guitar rip-off one may ever hear, taking the riff in “Kashmir” and carving it up Krokus-style, which is to say re-appropriation of the most dubious kind; the vocals even sound like they’re aping Robert Plant, albeit crossed with traditional ’80s metal wail. “She Drives Me Crazy” is a ridiculous sex romp (choice lyric: “she drives me crazy…[anticipatory pause]…all night long”) with a recurrent melodic and lyrical phrase stolen from Autograph’s “Turn Up the Radio” during the song’s latter half.  “In the Heat of the Night” starts out sounding like the obligatory power ballad, somehow exactly like every other power ballad you’ve ever heard and with all the bad rhymes one might expect: “In the heat of the night when you turn out the light, you’ll be mine all mine.” However, it morphs somehow into a seven-minute epic about the singer’s prowess. “Rhythm of Love” is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. The seven-minute “Wasteland” takes a blues riff and speeds it up to supersonic tempo. And to cap it off is a terrible cover of Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” a track that shouldn’t ever be covered (or heard at all, perhaps), included here as a “bonus” track.

Joking and hyperbole aside, the vocals on Stampede are strong, albeit often almost exact replicas of late period AC/DC. The guitar riffs are even stronger, although they are cribbed at times. The songwriting is about what one would expect, so aside from the cheap shots leveled above, there’s really no shame here. I knew what I was in for when I cracked the cellophane wrap. And truthfully, I’m glad I did.





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