‘All In’, is the third album from Hamburg based rock outfit Kickhunter. Although sporting Helloween four stringer Markus Groβkopf amongst their number, Kickhunter are about as far removed from the power mad pumpkin lovers as you could imagine. Playing a groovy, retro kinda bluesy rock mixed with contemporary elements and tender ballads, ‘All In’ sends out an overall vibe of fun and genuinely held quite a few surprises for me. Far from being a watered down version of Helloween, the Kickhunter crew have a firm crystal clear identity of their own and shouldn’t be simply dismissed as just another dodgy side project…. see Markus’ Bassinvaders for that 😉
Following on from 2007’s ‘Little Monsters’, ‘All In’ offers nine originals and two covers, one sublime and one total shite, we’ll get to which is which a bit later. Good time rock ‘n’ roll from the off, ‘Mine All Mine’ gets the ball rolling with some glorious sounding Hammond fills swelling a retro sounding swagger that’s got Bad Company stamped all over it. An easy sounding simple intro track that sets the pace nicely. An interesting dynamic to the band is the changing vocals between frontman JC Westenberg and “backing singer” Melanie Black who seems to spend a lot of the time in the foreground. The pair each bringing a unique style that compliments the other perfectly. Plus with Zed Yago man Karsten Kreppert on the drums there’s a solid backbone to roll alongside the Groβkopf thunder.
Now I know that I said Kickhunter bear no resemblance to Helloween musically but second track and lead single ‘Revolution’ however does come a little close to picking up the style of craziness that was present around the ‘Pink Bubbles/Chameleon’ era. A zany assault with the slightest funk edge from Markus and more massive Hammond drives shining bright within the crazy cats silky smooth production. The Hammond pretty much steals the show before it’s toned down a little for the more straight ahead melodic rock of ‘Another Tear’. This is where the guitars of Stefan Aurel and Rollie Feldmann take over, melody flying high with a far more European bent before the tranquil ‘Feels Like Home’ echoes the type of tender laced acoustic simplicity that Michael Kiske became famed for during his wilderness years searching for a life away from the metal spotlight and the satanic rock scene. Bulked out with subtle piano and choir-like backing vocals it shines like a diamond and is by far my favourite track on the album. Then with the outright foot stomping boogie of the perfectly titled ‘Boogie Town’ leading straight into the acoustic Westenberg/Black duetting beauty of ‘Deep In My Heart’ the varied selection of self penned songs show just how adaptable and experienced the musicians of Kickhunter are. Totally differing genres and styles seamlessly interlocking to create an interesting mix that certainly holds your attention for the full length of the album…..
….Almost! Like I said there are a couple of covers here and while the first, a successful spin of Victory’s ‘Check’s In The Mail’ gives an intriguing twist to the eighties metal classic by having Melanie Black’s striking vocals taking the lead, it’s the second, an astonishingly atrocious and much un-needed murdering of Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ that sends the well balanced house of musical cards tumbling down. Bland and cringe worthy, it’s devoid of any lovable identity and sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the other quality tracks and totally ruins the continuity of the album for me. Personally I think something a little older and less poppy would have been a better choice for the tail end of the album, something by Deep Purple, Uriah Heep or maybe even The Doors would fit in much better than this out of place offering that in my opinion totally ruined the vibe the album had been building. Last track ‘Ocean’ and nearly 7 minutes of peaceful acoustic meanderings of Pink Floydyness would have provided a perfectly mellow closer to follow ‘Deep In My Heart ‘ if ‘Call Me’ hadn’t got in the way and ruined the build up to the finale. ‘Call Me’ aside ‘All In’ is a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience, a rock n roll curve ball that came out of nowhere at me and knocked me off my feet with its energy, enthusiasm and most importantly substance.