Review Summary: Just about what you'd expect from Kiss
Kiss: love them or hate them, spark a reaction in people. Whether its astonishment that they are still trying to make music after having at least two separate “farewell” tours or the never ending ego of Gene Simmons, Kiss are a polarizing band. In 2008 they released their first album of new material, after 11 years between studio albums; a solid, if repetitive album, it’s best moments harkened back to the good days of Kiss, with solid riffs, bass, and fairly strong vocals from Stanley and Simmons, despite the completely laughable lyrics that really should have stopped at this point in their lives and career. Suddenly, out of the blue, Kiss has another album on the market: atrocious cover art aside, how does Kiss fare? About as well as we’d expect.
One thing Kiss have done right is at least start off their albums with some of their stronger work; Sonic Boom had Modern Day Delilah
and Russian Roulette
to give us a great dose of new Stanley and Simmons, and nothing changes on Monster
. The first single released, Hell or Hallelujah
, surprises with an extremely solid main riff from Tommy Thayer and excellent vocals from Stanley, despite the fact that he’s now hit the ripe age of 60. He doesn’t sound as strong as Sammy Hagar, but after how many albums and years of touring, he sounds damn good considering. Hell or Hallelujah
is a great first single, as it’s up-tempo, catchy, and further solidifies that Thayer is one hell of a guitarist, Frehley comparison or not. As was a welcome surprise on Sonic Boom
, Thayer caps off the song with nice guitar solo, though it sounds strikingly similar to any and all of the tracks he’s recorded thus far. This is not a knock on Thayer, either; he knows what he is good at, and what works best with Kiss, so with that in mind, the solo is a great addition to what would have otherwise been just another typical Kiss single.
What follows is a very strong Gene Simmons track, complete with pounding drums and a great performance from the Demon both on the bass and the mic. It’s the shortest song on the album, and why is a mystery, as Wall of Sound
is a fantastic rock song, with a sound almost reminiscent of the Animalize days; panned as that album may have been, this song is great and sounds as though it would have fit quite well in that era. Despite terrible lyrical content, as is typical, Gene sounds like he put forth a great deal of effort here and despite being predominantly Gene’s song, Thayer lays down an even better solo this go round, with a nice bluesy intro and a quick, technical outro that solidifies this song the best on the album.
The album is not simply good because of the first two tracks, either: there are a few more songs on this album that are nice additions to Kiss’ discography, as well. Shout Mercy
, despite a surprisingly weak chorus, sees each member performing their part very well; Stanley and Thayer play off each other well, Gene lays down a strong bass line throughout, and Singer keeps up the great work behind the kit, reaffirming why he’s been with the band for so long. Furthermore, Long Way Down
harkens back to the Lick It Up
and Creatures of the Night
days, slowing down the music to be darker and a bit reminiscent of songs like Rock and Roll Hell
and Not for the Innocent
, though not as heavy or as good as either of those two. Morevoer, All for the Love of Rock and Roll
is a groovy, guitar driven song that sees Singer take over the vocals and succeed in spades. He really does need more songs like these, to give us a bit of a break from the Paul and Gene show, as he’s more than competent on the mic.
Unfortunately, despite some strong tracks, Kiss tend to regress back to their mediocre other side, where the music, strong as it may be, cannot overcome the atrocious lyrics and lack of creativity. Back to the Stone Age
begins with an incredibly heavy bass and drum intro, followed by a shrill but welcome scream from Gene; however, lyrics like In the beginning there was dark and there was light
and At the dawn of creation there was fear in the dead of night
are so laughably awful that despite the stellar outing from the entire group, it just can’t overcome the lyrical content that could be written better by a child. Outta This World
is more a pop-rock song that, despite a great solo, contains bland music and a boring vocal performance that would get lost amongst the hundreds of other Kiss duds, while Freak
, despite sounding a bit more serious, is just plain boring on all fronts.
As a whole, as already mentioned, the musical side is no issue for these guys: Singer has been a great drummer for Kiss throughout his tenure with them, and nothing has changed. It’s a workmanlike performance that puts anything Peter Criss did to shame, and keeps the rhythm and tempo strong and steady. Thayer lays down some very solid main riffs and guitar solos that, despite not being overly technical or original, fit very well with the Kiss blueprint and make him a great fit for the band. Paul may not be the greatest rhythm guitarist out there, but he’s been steady for over forty years, knows what he’s good at, and doesn’t stray outside of his comfort zone. Finally, Gene, excessively huge ego aside, can play a solid bass and really has a great performance here, both musically and vocally.
Still, the guys really can’t get out of their own way; the lyrics are just so terrible that it’s difficult to not laugh at points during some of these songs, virtually ruining any enjoyment that they may have brought to rock fans otherwise. Even the better songs on the album fall prey to their lack of creative writing. Nonetheless, there are some great songs on this album, meaning that Kiss have essentially done what they do best: release a good, not great album, with some real clunkers but some solid songs to add to their discography. No more, no less. Expect the same from Kiss should they decide to forego another farewell tour and make new music in another few years.