Review Summary: An exercise in pointlessness.
After a successful 1990s decade, KISS saw their popularity start to dwindle in the 2000’s. Mostly, this was because of the lack of new releases, as well as the formation woes ailing the once awesome foursome. Part of the momentum was recaptured with the Detroit Rock City
movie and with 2003’s KISS Symphony: Alive IV
, a timely and successful coalition with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. However, because good things never last, Peter Criss was to leave the band for the last time shortly afterwards. Undeterred, Simmons and Stanley called back ousted drummer Eric Singer and, alongside guitarist Tommy Thayer, gave birth to the umpteenth iteration of KISS.
After a few more tours and individual shows, the two head honchos decided this formation was ready to make its recording debut. However, perhaps as a preventive measure, said debut was made in the shape of a Japan-only re-recordings album, 2008’s Jigoku-Retsuden
With a title which translates to “Intense Transmission From Hell” (seriously, check Wikipedia!) and subtitled “New Recording Best”, this CD sounds like it will have some spark to it. However, what we are faced with is an irrelevant, often limp collection of old songs that did not really need a re-vamp. Japanese fans, who will collect anything
, must certainly have liked it; us Westerners, however, are a little more discerning, and it’s no wonder KISS had to shill this off as the “bonus disc” in the special edition of Sonic Boom
– not many people aside from hardcore fans would have bought it otherwise.
Basically, what we have here is a slightly random collection of songs which stretch the concept of “hit” as far as it will go. Nobody will contest the classic status of songs like Deuce, Detroit Rock City, Love Gun
or Rock And Roll All Night
, but the line is stretched thin with stuff like Hotter Than Hell, Black Diamond, Do You Love Me"
or Heaven’s On Fire
. However, none of that would be so bad if these songs weren’t taking up the space of real
classics like Strutter
and I Stole Your Love
. As it stands, however, the tracklist is one gigantic haphazard failure.
Worse, however, is the fact that the new recordings added very little to the original songs, apart from a glossier production. Guitarist Tommy Thayer never really asserts itself, mostly playing it close to the hilt; Eric Singer does likewise; and Gene Simmons’ voice is completely shot, ruining most of the songs where he has lead duties. It’s seriously painful to watch him croak his way through the material, and it makes the line ”they’re too old to really understand”
(from Shout It Out Loud
) even more hilarious. Dude, you’re fifty; who are you calling old"
But the most unforgivable sin committed by Chaim Witz on this album is to destroy I Love It Loud
. The song is exactly as great as it always was, and Singer’s drumming is larger than life, as was Carr’s in the original. But the sheer lack of emotion with which Simmons sings the first verse completely turns the listener off from this usually fun, riveting song. Later, the mistake is corrected, but the damage is done.
Elsewhere, it’s the production that brings the songs down. Detroit Rock City
sounds too squeaky-clean for its own good, with none of the grit which was a big part of the original’s charm; Forever
drowns in unnecessary string additions, playing up the already considerable cheese on the song; and the execrable I Was Made For Lovin’ You
only has its flaws heightened by a better sound quality. The only songs that really benefit from the face-lift are Hotter Than Hell
, whose original was buried in murky production, and Love Gun
, which is finally presented in a format close to the original. After all the butchering I’ve seen this song withstand, it’s a relief to see its dignity restored. Other than it, the only standout is a semi-lively-sounding Deuce
, which opens the album making us hope for something better.
However, as soon as the chronological order is abandoned in favor of a haphazard collection of pseudo-hits, we lose what faith we had in this album and see it for what it is: an exercise in pointlessness. Much like a 90-year-old woman given a face-lift and a perm, this attempt to inject life into old songs only wrecks something which was aging naturally and didn’t really need any outside help. If you’re Japanese, don’t bother; if you’re not, you can get this with Sonic Boom
. But I would advise you buy the regular edition and just save the extra money. Hookers and blow are a-beckoning.