originally posted on Saturday, 6 April 2013
Long gone are the days that classic rock mammothsKISS were a relevant rock band that were taken (to an extent) seriously. They went from being revolutionary shock-rockers with their then never before seen rock shows, to recording many anthems that are still listened to religiously by rock fans to this day, to taking off the make-up and letting their music do the talking. Then in the late 90’s when the make-up came back on, that changed everything. Ever since, KISS have been pretty much just a novelty act.
Long gone are also the days when a new KISS album was filled with music that the band wanted to record, now it just feels like the band is trying to stay relevant while really just pleasing the fans that they already have and not really gaining any more. With the release of their most recent studio album Monster(released in October of 2012), the band has succeeded in making a modernized classic rock styled album, but not one that has any true relevance in the rock world. Much like their previous effort, 2009’sSonic Boom (which was at the time their first new album in 11 years), the band just seems to be recording music to prove a point that they can, rather than showing that they want to. It should be noted however that Monster IS in fact an improvement from its predecessor.
Before getting to the album itself, to clarify the career of the band a little more I’ll put it in a nutshell. As many know, they came on to the music scene in 1973, make-up and all, releasing hard rock music to a calibre that hadn’t really been heard of, eventually lucking out with the anthem that we all know, Rock and Roll All Night. After remaining a successful act throughout the 70’s, the 80’s saw a shift in the form of replacing Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, as well as a shift in sound. With the 80’s came 80’s music, andKiss took advantage of the era by putting their own spin on the matter, eventually taking off their make-up for the public to see. This remained until 1997, when all four original members re-grouped, put the make-up back on and started playing almost exclusively the songs they recorded together in the 70’s that fans know, maybe throwing in a surprise track like Forever or I Love It Loud. They released Psycho Circus in ’98.
Eventually, one after the other Ace and Peter left again, and have since been replaced by roadie Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer who drummed for them in the early 90’s. In turn, rather than taking off their make-up or at least giving the two members their own identities,KISS main men Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons opted to let the two members wear the same make-up and same personas as the members they replaced, further proving the band to be a novelty act. Now it should not be said that Tommy and Eric are not tremendous musicians, but they are now limited to playing as though they are Ace and Peter rather than themselves.
Now moving on to Monster, the album starts off with its first single; the Paul Stanley sung Hell or Hallelujah, which is a nice a fierce track with a lot of high energy; its relatively fast pace and hard rocking sound make it a really great album opener. The unfortunate fact is that there is only one other song off of this album with similarly high energy, and that is the albums second last track, Take Me Down Below. This track is sung by both Paul and Gene, something that the band has done many times before. The pace is not as fast, but it has a similar amount of energy, and a very well sung chorus.
Songs such as Wall of Sound, Back to the Stone Age and Shout Mercy have a good heavy bashing beat to them, and are nice heavy tracks, but lack hooks, and are louder than they are musical. Not much else can be said about these tracks. Eat Your Heart Out is a bit less heavy, and sounds more like something that a “hair metal” band would have released in the 80’s. The song has a good feel to it, but musically it is just as uninspiring, as well as the singing.
Freak, while also having a slower pace, seems to be the main song that the band thought about when writing. What I mean by this is that it is probably the only song on the album that, for the most part, all the way though sounds like the band paid attention to detail and made sure that it was filled with hooks. Like many songs on the album, it has a singable chorus that isn’t hard to memorize. It also sounds like something that could have been off of their 90’s albums such asPsycho Circus or Revenge. The albums second single,Long Way Down, also has its appealing hooks, but what could lose its listeners is its somewhat boring chorus.
The Devil Is Me is a good heavy song. For the listener looking for a hard rock song that is more aggressive than anything, this is their song. It’s slow pace but it’s easy to find yourself head banging to. It is definitely the best of the Gene Simmons sung songs on the album, but it is not quite enough to save the album.
One thing the band has only done three times previously to this album is have all four members of the band sing at least one song on the album. This was done on 1979’s Dynasty and Psycho Circus (though not all four members appeared on every song for these albums, as studio musicians filled in for much of the drums and guitars), as well as on Sonic Boom, which did have all four members appear on every track. This trend was continued on this album, though it is merely for bragging rights rather than something to be proud of.
The Tommy Thayer sung track Outta This World really just sees Tommy trying to find a way to sing about his “Spaceman” persona that he adopted from replacing Ace. It is highly uninspiring and I’m positive he could have done much better had he written a song which lyrically was more true to himself than to the “spaceman”. The Eric Singer sung song on the album is the Paul Stanley penned All For The Love of Rock & Roll, which as you can tell by the song title, is lyrically lame. Musically, the song is not much better, with a guitar riff that is very recycled (sounding awfully similar to the 1976 KISS track Mr. Speed at points). This track just feels like Paul either just tried too hard to write a song for Eric to sing, or he just didn’t like the song much so he thought he’d throw Eric on vocals to throw the track away, either way there is really nothing special to the song. It should be noted that Tommy and Eric both have very listenable voices, and their voices have absolutely nothing to do with both songs lack of punch.
The last song on the album Last Chance, has a good amount of energy to it; it would fall third on the album in terms of energy and pace. This makes the song more listenable than most other songs on the album. It features some hooks as well, but just is not enough to save the album.
The result of this album is, as mentioned before, just the band showing that they still can record music. Rather than recording an album of music that they wanted to make, they recorded an album of music they figured the fans wanted. To be fair, with 20 studio albums under the bands belt, they are sure not to please everyone. Especially with a band that has had as much style changes as KISS throughout their 40 year career.
I would recommend this to any KISS fan that already has all, or almost all of their albums. It is a good collector’s item and for fans (such as myself) that already have a dedication to the band, you’re sure to see the light in the album. For first time, or unfamiliar listeners to the band, I would do myself a favour and try a different album to listen to. Maybe their debut album, or Destroyer, or if you’re a fan of the 80’s, try Creatures of the Night or Crazy Nights. Revenge is also a must for fans of hard rock/metal.
“Hell or Hallelujah” Being the fiercest song on the album, this is the main song that will do this best job at pumping up its listener. It lacks a good hook, but when a song is set at the right pace, the adrenaline of the song IS the hook. It’s not incredibly fast or anything. If Metallica were to make a song of this pace it would be considered a mid-range pace for them. The song also doesn’t try to be anything more than just a simple hard rock song that could have fit well in any era that the band has made music in.
6 (Out of 10)
Track List: Lead Singer
|“Hell or Hallelujah”||Stanley||4:07|
|“Wall of Sound”||Simmons||2:55|
|“Back to the Stone Age”||Simmons||3:01|
|“Long Way Down”||Stanley||3:51|
|“Eat Your Heart Out”||Simmons||4:06|
|“The Devil Is Me”||Simmons||3:40|
|“Outta This World”||Thayer||4:29|
|“All for the Love of Rock & Roll”||Singer||3:21|
|“Take Me Down Below”||Simmons, Stanley||3:24|