"Hellraiser" is not the KROKUS of "One Vice at a Time" or even "The Blitz", and it sure as hell is not the KROKUS of the classic "Headhunter" album, but it's a good deal better than 2004's tepid "Rock the Block". Whether the slight improvement has anything to do with the departure of long-time guitarist Fernando Van Arb and his replacement with former member Mandy Meyer is debatable, but there is no question that at least a handful of these track sport more swagger and bluesy toughness in a Bon Scott-era AC/DC kind of way (i.e., what KROKUS sounded like in the first place).In general terms, "Hellraiser" is a very predictable, often generic-sounding album of hard rock tunes, many of which feature a moderate pop infusion in the choruses. The best material is also the most rocking, the title track (also featured in European movie "Handyman") being the best example of the AC/DC-esque circa 1978 strut — basic, yet effective riffs and a simple, but catchy chorus. The fact that singer Marc Storace sound reinvigorated with a voice that reminds one of the vintage years certainly helps. Cliché or not, "Rocks Off!" and, to a lesser extent, "No Risk, No Gain" are fun rockers. The up-tempo "Spirit of the Night" is a decent, '80s metal rocker that almost approaches the band's heyday. A simple hook, mid-tempo groove, a slick little guitar harmony break, and a chorus that is pretty darn catchy make "Too Wired to Sleep" a keeper as well. The aforementioned predictability and simple-groove-and-poppy-chorus formulas makes the remaining tracks a little too, well, predictable. With the possible exception of "Angel of my Dreams" in which the formula works rather well, the remaining songs are borderline throwaways. In fairness, "Take My Love" is the only stinker and songs like the sultry "Midnite Fantasy" and "So Long" don't suck; they're just forgettable. Of course, those that came of age during the '80s and especially those that were (or still are) fans of the Swiss band will find "Hellraiser" to be more than tolerable. Overall, it's not a bad album and a good bit of it is relatively enjoyable. It's still a very average rock album though and one that will not be remembered in six months.
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