Review Summary: A solid effort which opens up new roads for KISS. It's a pity they chose not to follow them...
It has been well documented in previous reviews that KISS’s career in the early 80’s was an absolute shambles. The megalomania of “Super KISS” had contributed to destroy the group, for whom the last few years of the “makeup era” represented a desperate, directionless and helpless period. For every decent record (1980’s Unmasked
) there were two drab ones (1979’s Dynasty
and 1981’s atrocious The Elder
); founding members were leaving or drifting away; and ticket sales for shows were quite predictably dwindling, to the extent that arenas where KISS had sold out a couple of years previously now hosted 500 people for one of the group’s shows.
The whole mess came to its zenith in 1982, when Ace Frehley pointedly asked to leave the band. The problem was, his departure would make KISS’s entire contract null and void. The solution? Privately negotiate Frehley’s release from the group, while at the same time pretending he was still there. This practice was anything but unknown to KISS, who had done the exact same thing in 1980, after the departure of Peter Criss. Thus, although Ace didn’t play a single note of the then-upcoming Creatures Of The Night
, he still appeared in videos and other promotional actions up until the release of the album, and still got his face plastered on the cover.
With Ace all but gone, as he had been for a few years, the handling of the guitars on Creatures
fell to a multitude of guest guitarists, a practice which was also well known to the band. Among the musicians who lent a hand were Bob Kulick (obviously), Rick Derringer and one Vincent Cusano, who would soon become KISS’s second permanent guitarist, under the name Vinnie Vincent. More significant among the guest names were those of Bryan Adams – yes, that
Bryan Adams – and Jim Vallance, who helped co-write a couple of tracks.
But what was the final result of this mishmash of guest spots and confusion? Well, surprisingly, a very good album. Sure, Creatures Of The Night
may not be up there with the likes of Destroyer
, but it’s certainly better than the group’s last few opuses.
When trying to fit Creatures
within the group’s discography, one had probably better place it next to Love Gun
. In fact, that’s probably the KISS album with which it shares the most similarities, from the overall sound to the near lack of bad tracks, to the low number of actual standouts. However, the murky production and heavy, edgy guitar sound also throw back to Hotter Than Hell
, while some of the poppier bits wouldn’t have been out of place on Unmasked
. However, most importantly, this album opens up a new sonic possibility for KISS, treading very close to American heavy metal trends of the period.
In fact, the knife-edge riffs and heavy percussion on most of the songs, coupled with the sludgy production and raspier-than-usual vocals, give the album a very heavy aura. Songs like the title track, Rock and Roll Hell, War Machine
and particularly Killer
are rather illustrative of this tendency. Simultaneously, on tracks like I Love It Loud
or Saint and Sinner
, it is possible to hear the groundwork being laid for what would soon become the infamous glam-rock scene of the 80’s. Overall, a rather personal, yet also rather familiar sound.
As for standouts, this is one of those albums where they jump out at you at first listen. The larger-than-life I Love It Loud
is a born single, its larger-than-life drum pattern evoking Judas Priest’s Take On The World
and Joan Jett’s I Love Rock’n’Roll
, while at the same time paving the way for Def Leppard’s Let’s Get Rocked
, a song which certainly “drew a little inspiration” from this track. Following hot on its heels is Killer
, a flat-out heavy metal track the likes of which wasn’t heard since Makin’ Love
, a good six years previously. This song boasts the best guitar riff on the album, as well as a nice, catchy chorus to shout along to. Rounding up the standouts is War Machine
, a slab of sludgy hard rock which evokes something
, although you’re never sure what.
However, the rest of the songs aren’t laid to waste, either. Although Saint and Sinner
borders on boring, and Danger
has a little too much sugar in its chorus, Keep Me Comin’
is an early standout, and probably the biggest throwback to KISS’s early career. The only decidedly bad track is the interminable I Still Love You
, KISS’s first bona-fide ballad in a long while, but a piss-poor representative of the genre, coming across as plodding and at times insufferable.
Still, one song does not an album make, and at the end of the day Creatures Of The Night
is an above-average KISS offering. As noted, it’s not stellar, and there had been better albums in the group’s output even then; but compared to what came before and what would come after, it’s a breath of quality air. It’s a pity that KISS chose not to go down the path laid by this album, for it would by no means have been a bad option.
I Love It Loud