Released: 2012, Universal
“You can’t talk about American Metal without talking about Kiss” Sam Dunn, Producer, Metal Evolution. 2011. (Episode Two-Early Metal US)
“Anyone who says Kiss were never Metal doesn´t know what they´re talking about!” Quorthon (Bathory) in a June 1994 interview with Malcolm Dome.
Some people may question the validity of doing a feature on Kiss in the hallowed pages of Metal-Rules.com. Many critics of Kiss who suggest that they are ‘not metal’, tend to focus their arguments on non-musical traits. For example some people complain about Gene’s reality show and his various extra-curricular (ie. non-Kiss) activities. Some people complain about the line-up changes, some people complain about the nature and style of the tours, and many people complain about the commercial nature of the Kiss identity and brand. However, many of those critics, deep down when push comes to shove will admit, however grudgingly, based purely on the music, that Kiss is Metal. Therefore we are proud to present our Kiss feature at Metal-Rules.com. This month in reflection and in celebration of the October 9th release of MONSTER, the 20th studio album by Kiss, our specialty book section, The Library Of Loudness is reviewing seven books about Kiss and by members of Kiss, past and present. This month we review… (listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name)
Criss, Peter – Makeup To Breakup
Floren, Ingo – The Official Price Guide to Kiss Collectibles.
Harris, Larry – Casablanca: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records
Leaf, David & Sharp, Ken – Kiss: Behind The Mask
Simmons, Gene – Sex, Money, Kiss
Sherman, Dale – Black Diamond: The Unauthorized Biography of Kiss
Sherman, Dale – Kiss FAQ
As a bonus here are links to other books about Kiss we have previously reviewed. Feel free to enjoy the reviews of these Kiss related titles as well.
Frehley, Ace-No Regrets
Moore, Wendy-Into The Void
Prato, Greg-The Eric Carr Story
Simmons, Gene-Kiss And Make Up
Wow. Almost 40 years and 20 full-length studio albums. Not a bad rate of production! I’m so glad that Kiss is still writing and recording original music. In my mind, the fact that they make music is one of the few things that saves them from becoming a retro-act. In KISS related discussions so many people talk about everything EXCEPT the music. And yet without Gene and Paul and the various members over the years, writing songs, there would be no hype, no profile, no legend. Several years back (Pre-SONIC BOOM) in a few interviews Gene said that he felt that people don’t want new Kiss material, they want to hear the old stuff, hence the decade-plus long gap between PYSCHO CIRCUS and SONIC BOOM. Deep down I knew Gene did not believe that. Again, deep down, after you strip away all the enormous hype that is the Kiss machine, Gene and Paul are a couple of troubadors at heart, two friends still writing simple rock songs. Once again, the people have spoken, they want new Kiss songs. Kiss responded and they are still writing and recording new music for the masses.
MONSTER comes relatively quickly on the heels of SONIC BOOM and they are no longer the world’s largest independent band but have resigned to Universal. In the digital age, the CD itself is fine. It has a nice 18-page booklet with lyrics and pictures of the band. Recorded in three different studios in Los Angeles, the production by Paul is big and bright and the record sounds big and bombastic. Tommy Thayer, who has been in the band almost longer than Ace Frehley or Bruce Kulick, writes or co-writes 10 of the dozen songs and even takes a shot at lead vocals. Eric next year will be the longest standing drummer in the bands history and these four have been the most stable, longest lasting line-up in the history of the band. But does that add up to great music?
Yes and No. I’m biased to Kiss, (obviously because I’m writing a huge feature on them) and ultimately MONSTER is a very solid, if not excellent, Hard Rock/Heavy Metal record. Is it earth-shattering? No. It’s heavier than SONIC BOOM. It’s not as heavy as REVENGE. It’s not as experimental as THE ELDER but more complex than virtually all of the 70’s albums. It’s not as glammy as ASYLUM or CRAZY NIGHTS. It’s not as fast as ANIMALIZE, but has way more punch than DYNASTY and UNMASKED. It’s not as gloomy as CARNIVAL OF SOULS. With a dozen of rockers, MONSTER reminds me of a cross between PYSCHO CIRCUS and HOT IN THE SHADE but a shade heavier, and no ballads. MONSTER can almost be defined by what it is not, in relation to the Kiss catalogue, but MONSTER is a really great, straight-ahead record. Gene roars on ‘Wall of Sound’, Tommy tries his hand at singing on ‘Outta This World’ and does a competent job. The rest of the vocal chores are split pretty evenly between Gene and Paul. The multi-singer format has always added more vocal and depth to a Kiss album than any one-singer band could hope to achieve. Check out the very brief a cappella intro to ‘Eat your Heart Out’ where the guys show their 70’s influence before Gene chews up the scenery with quintessential Kiss lyric, a groovy fuzzed-out bass sound and of course Eric riding the cowbell (and bell of the ride) like there is no tomorrow, plus a huge back-up chorus. In past years Paul has steered the good ship Kiss, but this is as much of a Gene album as ever before with the highlights in my mind being Gene songs like, ‘Back To The Stone Age’, ‘The Devil Is Me’, ‘and the aforementioned ‘Wall Of Sound’. I also loved the Gene/Paul co-vocals of ‘Take Me Down Below’.
Deep in my heart of hearts,(third time I have used that reference in this review) as a writer and critic, I know that MONSTER is probably only rates a three out of five but, God Damn, it’s Kiss! Accordingly, it’s my review and the boys get four out of five.