Playing classic rock in the vein of Europe, Kruk, the Polish rock band, sound strangely refreshing in these days of artifice and heavily pro-tooled metal. Opting for the strident guitar tones of classic metal and hard rock bands such as Europe, Iron Maiden and Queensryche, augmented with soaring vocals and keyboard, Kruk clearly are not interested in the vagaries of fashion, and they sound all the better for it.
‘Be 3’ is the band’s third album proper and it has all the hallmarks of a solid classic rock album – blistering solos, soulful vocals and plenty of energy. First track ‘rising anger’ is as perfect a case study of what makes a great classic rock track as you could wish to find outside of Europe’s recent spate of excellent albums. The ingredients are all here: Tomasz Wisniewski’s note-perfect vocals, Piotr Brzychcy’s crunchy, yet clean guitars breaking often into fret-board burning solos and Michal Kurys’ spot-on Hammond Organ adding a dash of class throughout. Second track, ‘steal your heart’ is a hard rock ballad the like of which is rarely heard these days. In the much maligned eighties such music would have taken the airwaves by storm, highlighting the fact that people then had far more taste than they were ever credited with, but there is no denying that this is a classy and well written example of the form. The third track sees the band returning to heavier pastures with ‘Master Blaster’ which, despite sounding like the type of title Tenacious D would come up with, proves to be a suitably fast-paced slab of hard rock, all galloping riffs and Dariusz Nawara’s hard-hitting percussion, even making way for some brutal screams towards the conclusion. ‘At the desert’ opens with the pared down sound of an acoustic guitar and Tomasz’s soulful vocal before the band come in to create a funky, jazzy vibe, all throbbing bass (Krzysztof Nowak), tremolo-laden synth and piano. It is shamelessly nostalgic, and all the better for it, as the band deliver the song with a sense of yearning that is palpable.
Having mellowed the mood sufficiently, ‘calling you’ turns to the blues for inspiration and whilst Piotr shines on the opening solo, the band hit on a laid back vibe that brings to mind cruising in an open topped car on a beautiful sunny day seemingly despite the desperate loss depicted in the lyrics. ‘Burnin’ inside’ takes the temperature up a notch with some heavier riffing and neat vocal harmonies that add depth to the chorus. ‘Miss sometimes’ returns to the softer vibe that will be familiar to fans of Europe’s ‘last look at Eden’ album, combining a distressingly memorable melody with crunchy guitars and subtle synth and then ‘It’s gone’ kicks off with some classic blues riffing shot through with the power of hard rock attitude, Tomasz once again demonstrating that he was born to sing the blues. ‘On the station’ sees the album racing towards its conclusion, and whilst the song’s rhyming scheme leaves much to be desired, the music is driving soft rock that is as irresistible as it is nostalgic. The album ends with ‘child in time’, a flawless recreation of the Deep purple classic, highlighting the band’s classic roots and musical ability. It is a brave band that tackles Deep Purple, but Kruk do the song justice and it’s hard not to be impressed by any singer who so successfully takes on Ian Gillan’s vocal gymnastics.
The digi-pack edition also includes a number of bonus tracks, the most notable of which are the three Polish language versions of songs from the album (the other two being instrumental mixes of ‘Rising Anger’ and ‘Steal your heart’) that close the selection. The first track, ‘Gdyby Upadl Swiat’ (the ballad ‘at the desert’) which oddly sounds weaker in its Polish language incarnation, veers into the pop-rock territory of Wilki and does not benefit too much from a repeat visit. The second track, ‘Jestem Bogiem’ (‘master blaster) is much better – a slab of driving, string-laced hard rock in both versions, it is cool to hear it in the band’s native tongue. Finally ‘Jak Glaz’ (it’s gone) rounds out the collection and it too sounds as impressive in its Polish version as it did on the English language album cut. It’s a fascinating move to include tracks in both English and Polish and a welcome one, moving the music away from the unnecessarily English-language dominated market and showcasing that Kruk are a classy band in any language.
Kruk are a classic rock band who have wisely followed their passion rather than the foibles of fashion. Like Europe who made such a stunning return with ‘last look at Eden’ Kruk have balanced their album perfectly with pile-driving blues laden anthems at one end and poignant, well-written ballads at the other. There are the occasional missteps: the rhyming couplets of ‘on the station’ do not work well, for example, but overall this is classy, well-played stuff that warrants attention. Highly recommended for fans of melodic rock music with a blues twist – ‘Be 3’ is a musically impressive and memorable endeavour.