KISS band photo

KISS – Monster

KISS - MonsterI think it’s about time that we all give Kiss’ new line up the credit it deserves. For a while, when Kiss refused to release new music and only travelled around and played their old hits for nostalgic reasons and put new members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer in Ace Frehley’s and Peter Criss’ make up and stage clothes, they were very close to becoming a joke and some kind of tribute band to themselves. But now, when this line up have been together for 10 something years and has just released their second album together and also touring with new stage clothes, Kiss is moving forward as a band and it shines through that they are having the time of their lives doing it. The last time they tried to release new music was back in 1998 when they released the not so successful Psycho Circus. Kiss had just come off their extremely successful reunion tour and they probably thought that it was enough with the Kiss logo on the cover for it to sell like crazy. It didn’t. Probably because it didn’t take long for the news that Peter didn’t play at all on the album and that Ace was just on a few tracks, were revealed. After that Kiss’ refused to release any new music and Gene Simmons told the press frequently that he had no interest in releasing music that the fans would download illegally from the web anyway. So much for creating music for the love of doing just that. On the other hand, everything Gene says should be taken with a pinch of salt, he has said a lot throughout the years. Kiss would never remove the make up, Kiss would never reunite with Ace and Peter, he would never have kids, never get married… So there you go.

In 2009 Kiss broke the news that they would release a new album, the first with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer and Paul said it would take us back to their 70’s roots. No outside writers, no outside producer, no cheesy ballads. Only hard rock ‘n’ roll, Kiss style. And Paul would produce the album himself. While all us fans loved these kind of news, we also knew that messrs. Stanley and Simmans has a tendency to exaggerate a lot, so it was with big excitement we listened through Sonic Boom. It turned out that Paul was right, at least mostly. With that album they had Rock And Roll Over (1976) as a guideline, both musically and for the cover which looked like a 2009 update of that album. The record was superb and easily their best since Creatures Of The Night (1982) with not a weak note in sight, even though you could find traces of their 80’s sound. So how do you follow up such a success? Kiss needed for this album to be at least almost as strong as Sonic Boom to show people they still had it in them and that that album wasn’t a lucky hit. Did they manage to do that?

The answer has to be a big HELL YEAH! Because Monster is a true Kiss killer all the way through. A real, well, monster, actually. This album continues where Sonic Boom left off. But instead of copying their own style and looking back on a specific album, Kiss have gone back to their musical roots further and recorded an album that sounds like a true Kiss album, but here they let their influences shine through a bit more, which is a very good move indeed. First single “Hell Or Hallelujah” is great, but it didn’t hit home on the first spot. It took a while for it to stick. The verses were great directly, but the chorus left me a bit cold a first, although it didn’t take long for me to grasp it. “Wall Of Sound” is a massive Gene-song where the Led Zeppelin influences are all over the place, “Freak” is just amazing, a real killer and hard shit and Paul really kicks this song, Gene’s “Back To The Stone Age” has a title that really says it all, back to basics here, “Shout Mercy” has an attack I really love and I can hear traces of The Who here, unfortunately the chorus is a bit uneven and “Long Way Down” is a good song, but a bit of a filler and Paul’s voice sounds strained here. “Eat Your Heart Out” is real rock ‘n’ roll. It grooves, it’s catchy and it’s great! Gene goes heavy Zeppelin on the brilliant “The Devil is Me” and this, my friends, is brutal stuff. On Sonic Boom, my favourite song was Tommy Thayer’s lead vocal debut “When Lightning Strikes” and with “Outta This World” he has for the first time written a tune for a Kiss album all by himself. And just like on the previous album, Tommy delivers like crazy. Once again Tommy sings on the album’s best track. Eric Singer sings as well, just like on Sonic Boom. This time the song is called “All For The Love Of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and this is rock ‘n’ roll without a doubt, groovy as hell and it reminds me a little of “It’s Alright” from Paul Stanley’s 1978 solo album. “Take Me Down Below” is another favourite, a real party stomper where Gene and Paul shares lead vocals. Very cool and very, very good. “Last Chance” closes the album with a bang and despite it’s the weakest song the album it works brilliantly as an album closer.

Even though Monster isn’t exactly as strong as Sonic Boom, it’s pretty damn close. It’s amazing how a bunch of 60 and 50 – year olds in band that has been around for 40 years can sound so alive, fresh and vital. I guess it must have to do with the fact that they have realised that the dark and hard times with fuck ups like Ace and Peter in the band are no more and never will be again. Today these gentlemen feels relaxed and at ease with who they are and what the band is all about. In Tommy and Eric they have found two guys that puts music first while being first class musicians, which have given Stanley and Simmons a kick up the but and added a spark within the band that was last heard back in 1983 and the underrated Lick It Up album. I don’t believe for a minute that this is the last Kiss album and I find it hard to believe that there’s any Kiss fan out there who won’t enjoy this album as much as I do. Or any rock fan at all, for that matter. Because this hard classic rock and should be enjoyed by anyone who loves their rock ‘n’ roll. I say, once again, hats off!

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

Tracklist:

1. Hell Or Hallelujah
2. Wall Of Sound
3. Freak
4. Back To The Stone Age
5. Shout Mercy
6. Long Way Down
7. Eat Your Heart Out
8. The Devil Is Me
9. Outta This World
10. All For The Love Of Rock & Roll
11. Take Me Down Below
12. Last Chance

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