Review Summary: The Elder is still the worse thing KISS have ever done, but Animalize sure gives it a run for its money.
The story of KISS in the 80”s is a simple one: after a slew of albums that were either misguided, ignored, or both, the group had the “genius idea” of removing their kabuki-style makeup in favour of permed hair and lipstick. Which is to say, they gave up their status as leaders and became followers of the quickly-expanding glam-metal scene, which had been inspired by…KISS themselves!
Confused yet? Good. Because you would need to be confused to enjoy any of KISS’s post-makeup releases. The group’s 1983-1990 output reflected the state of turmoil the group was going through, from formation troubles to a severe decrease in popularity, to an even more severe stylistic confusion. The result of this hurricane of emotions and feelings occasionally produced a decent song, but mostly added up to piss-poor albums even glam completists scoff upon.
Case in point? 1984’s Animalize
. Introducing another one-off guitarist – Mark St. John, who was diagnosed with Reiter’s Syndrome immediately after completion of the album – the album shows no further changes in either formation or musical style in relation to Lick It Up
. The difference is that it’s much, much worse.
Now, Lick It Up
established a pattern which would come into force in the next four or so albums: one genuinely above-average song (usually the single), maybe another decent one or two, and loads of painfully awful filler. This pattern is taken to the extreme in Animalize
, a release which features exactly ONE good song, and maybe two good moments throughout its 40 minutes.
At the beginning of the album, however, it seems like it won’t be so bad. The purely heavy metal riff which opens the album, followed immediately afterwards by a shredding intro lead from St. John, make the listener think that maybe this album will be a little better than the last. Sweet delusion. Not only does the aforementioned intro track – I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)
– soon turn to a perfectly banal, plodding KISS track, that sizzling intro lead is one of only two occasions where St. John is allowed to flex his chops on this album. It is no secret that the guitarist was too technical for Simmons and Stanley’s taste, and with many of his initial tracks having to be re-recorded, it is no surprise that the two head honchos toned down his performance to the point of muffling it.
However, that isn’t the biggest of Animalize
’s problems; after all, simple playing itself does not ruin an album (right, Mötley Crüe? Right, Ramones? Right, Mötörhead?). However, uninspired songwriting does
ruin an album, and here KISS are at their most uninspired since 1981’s The Elder
. The only song that even remotely approaches a good one is the single, Heaven’s On Fire
, a track that puts all the glam-rock tropes and clichés to good use, being a generally fun listen, and benefiting from a gigantic chorus. However, once that song fades out, so do the reasons to go on listening to this album. The only other thing that may – may
– raise your interest for a minute is the chorus on Get All You Can Take
, with its gang vocals intoning a well-dissimulated curse word. However, the song itself is not worthy of standout status, much like everything else on this album.
Apart from the “song and a half” mentioned above, this album has NOTHING. Every other song is a cesspool of hard rock clichés, sugar, and overused choruses which give the listener a feeling that the band is trying too hard. Seldom will your attention be caught, and seldom will you even glance at your MP3 screen to see which song is playing. Mostly, you will be bored, uninterested, and even pained by the thought of having to listen to this again
. (I know I was. If I wasn’t reviewing it, I would have deleted this album within one listen. And because I didn’t, I had to swear off KISS for around three whole days).
So, in the end, what saves this from a fate worse than a 1.0? Well, unlike The Elder
, an album where even the decent songs were only decent in context, this one has one really good song. Besides, there are no overwrought ambitions at writing a metal opera. But make no mistake: I seriously considered taking back my claim of The Elder
being “the worst thing KISS have ever done” while listening to this one. Avoid at all costs.
Heaven’s On Fire