An AC/DC reference is compulsory in any Krokus review, so we might as well get it out of the way early. Yes, Swiss metal lifers Krokus are AC/DC soundalikes, and if they (or their fans) tire of that comparison, the band has never embraced their Aussie counterparts’ sound more faithfully than on the new Dirty Dynamite. Which means, of course, that it’s an exceptionally easy album to digest for those who think rock kick-assitude peaked in 1979 with Highway to Hell.
No surprises on Dirty Dynamite, and why should there be: Krokus still ship gold in their homeland, singer Marc Storace can still produce those Bon Scott shrieks, and the band continues to bust out sex and guitar clichés into scrappy, hook-filled hard rock. This formula has served Krokus well for 30 years, since Storace came on board with bassist Chris von Rohr and guitarist and former red-pleather enthusiast Fernando von Arb. Even after the US success of 1983’s Headhunter and 1984’s The Blitz, during hair-metal’s heyday, Krokus have kept up the fight, and the band’s records remain the source of vigorous headbanging in Switzerland and much of Europe.
So how seriously can you take an album with song titles like “Hallelujah Rock and Roll” and “Better Than Sex”? Well, not very. Despite the band’s badass poses in the artwork, they’re now in their sixties and looking decidedly Spinal Tappy, and that umlaut in “Dög Song” indicates that the band is willing to laugh with you. That isn’t to say, however, that the album doesn’t bring the rattlesnake rumble, even if there isn’t an original moment anywhere on the record. In fact, one of the new “original” tracks is called “Let the Good Times Roll”. And in “Go Baby Go”, Storace yelps, “She’s givin’ you the blues”, in an exact lift from AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”.
Still, the record oozes and guns credibly enough for a 45-minute fist-pumping session. No evidence of the band’s proggy roots. No remnants of glam metal. No keys, no horns, no acoustic guitars, no ballads. Longtime drummer Freddy Steady has split, sadly, and the band now lists three guitarists (Mark Kohler and Mandy Meyer, alongside von Arb), so the record is bristling with revved-up Chuck Berry riffs and boogie-rock squawking. If anything, the band has never sounded more straightforward, with clean and mean production, and tunes like “Go Baby Go” and “Hardrocking Man” replicate the full-throttled chug of classic Status Quo singles.
Including a single classic-rock cover on each album is a Krokus tradition, marking some of the band’s biggest singles in the eighties (“American Woman”, “Ballroom Blitz”). This time it’s the Beatles’ “Help”, the only real bummer on the album. They slow it down and commit rock blasphemy by altering the melody of a Lennon-McCartney tune, as though the lyrics to “Help” are what make it a classic. Storace digs deep on a larynx-obliterating vocal, but he can’t save this turkey. Krokus are better when they keep it simple, laying down the greasy smolder of “Bailout Blues” or “Dirty Dynamite”. Such tunes don’t dance quite the way Krokus classics “Midnight Maniac” or “Stayed Awake All Night” once did, but Dirty Dynamite proves that Krokus has a metal rendezvous or two left in them.