Kiss – ‘Hotter Than Hell’ (1974) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

After the poor sales of the debut Kiss album and the fact that Casablanca was bleeding money on the tour, Neil Bogart wanted the band to get back in to the studio to record their next album.  While on Los Angeles for a show in August of 1974, Kiss started recording their follow-up.  The band’s line-up was unchanged and the producers were unchanged as Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise were behind the boards again.  And yes, they are to blame for the awful sonics on this record, especially the dull drum sound.

Let me tell you, the band was not thrilled with doing this album in L.A.  These guys are New York guys and this whole new environment was foreign to them and not home.  Put that along side the fact they have had zero time to write new songs, they weren’t being setup to succeed.  They plowed through and by October 22, 1974, the album was released and actually performed worse than the debut album which is no easy feat as that one did poorly.

Before we go in to the music, can we talk about that cover?  Of course we can, it’s my blog.  I remember seeing this cover as kid of maybe 7 or 8 and thinking how cool this was with all the Japanese writing (now not sure I really knew it was Japanese, but it was still cool).  The album concept was done to mimic the look of Japanese comics and if you notice that little character at the bottom…

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That character stands for the word “Chikara” and if you know that then you know that is the name of a greatest hits package by the band that was only released in Japan in 1988.  It is on my grail list to get a copy.  If you are interested, “Chikara” means power. And there were other Japanese lettering on the album cover. The lettering in the top right corner of the album actually means “the shout of hell” which isn’t the same as “hotter than hell”, but not sure if that was the intent or not.

Can we flip that album cover over and see the back? Yes, yes we can.

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The Japanese theme continues with the large Kabuki mask with pieces of everyone’s make-up was really awesome.  But let us not forget about the shots of each band member at some wild and very strange party.  Well strange for Ace and Gene and wild for Paul and Peter.  Now those two were living the rock & roll dream.  As a kid, seeing the half-naked women was something else and Peter’s girl with the little star on her boob was my favorite. Okay, that is enough album cover discussions, it is time for some music.

SIDE ONE:

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The album opens with the song “Got To Choose” which was written and sung by Paul Stanley.  The song opens with darker tone with a lot of bass and a drum sound that felt heavier in a mood sense not in pounding on the drum heavier.  It slowly chugged along.  The guitar riff was something Paul took from the Wilson Pickett song ‘Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)’ and Ace hit on nice solo to open the album.  A great opening track for me.

Then we get to the first of 3 songs written by or with Ace Frehley.  This one, “Parasite” was solely Ace, but he still didn’t have the confidence to sing so Gene is on vocals for this one. That opening guitar riff is so freaking awesome.  This is one of those songs that feels like Gene and the Demon personae.  It is a hard driving, guitar heavy menacing rock song and an early favorite of mine.  It was also Ace’s solo that stuck with me as well and I find to be one of his best.

Next up is a song Gene wrote with his old friend Stephen Coronel back in their Wicked Lester days.  The song is “Goin’ Blind” which is actually about a very old man (93) dating a very young, underage girl (16).  I believe the original title was “Little Lady”.  It is a rather disturbing song, but it works.  And this is actually considered to be one of the band’s very early ballads as it is a slower tempo song and there is an evil little sweetness to it as well.  Another great Gene track for me too.

“Hotter Than Hell”  was written by Paul and another song he stole from somewhere else.  This one is basically a re-write of the Free song “All Right Now” and you can hear that Free influence in it.  The song is about picking up a woman in a bar and having your way and it turns out she’s married which burns you like the midday sun.  Oh, good times.  To keep with the Japanese theme, the song has Peter hitting a giant gong for added affect.

The first single off the album was “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll” which is a Gene and Paul co-write which gets fewer and fewer as time goes on.  Gene sings this one and it is basically a great little rock & roll anthem for the band.  Ace plays some great riffs and Peter keeps the fast tempo going as the song flies by at breakneck speed.  As a single, the song failed to even chart.  It’s a fun song, but not a top rated one so I can see why it didn’t chart. Better songs on here that should’ve been released instead.

SIDE TWO:

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Side Two opens up with the first of two Gene songs in a row.  “All the Way” is a basic song, not very memorable for me and doesn’t usually end up in any of my favorite Kiss playlists that I have going. Not too heavy, not outstanding riffs, no real catchy chorus and Ace’s solo doesn’t blow me over the moon either.

However, “Watchin’ You” is a completely different story.  Now this opens with a cool riff and some heavy bass and rocks out a lot more.  It has a dark edge to it and fits Gene better. And wait until you hear it on Alive!  Damn!  I even like Peter’s drumming on this one.  Those early years, Peter could play the shit out of the drums and he was one of the highlights of this song.

Then we get the first of two Peter sung songs on this side, “Mainline”.  Paul actually wrote the song,  but let Peter sing.  It is not a rock song, lays more in the pop or R&B range as Peter is more comfortable in that area.  It is often overlooked song, but it is really cool.  Believe it or not, there are several Peter sung tracks I like and this is one of them.

Now we get a rare treat, a song co-written by Ace and Paul.  I can’t think of too many of those. Paul takes the vocals on this one, “Comin’ Home”.  It is a very upbeat almost cheery little diddy.  Considering most of the album has a little darker edge to it, this one almost feels out of place, but doesn’t mean it isn’t a good song.  It is just different.

The final tracks is “Strange Ways” which is the 3rd song with Ace on the writing credits.  Peter sings this one and he hits it out of the park.  One of my favorite Peter songs.  It has a darker, edgier really heavy feel to it.  And the Ace solo, hello!!  Done in one take, Ace simply nails it and you need to hear this one.  You know I said the “Parasite” solo was one of my favorites, this beats that one.

Track Listing:

  1. Got To Choose – Keeper
  2. Parasite – Keeper
  3. Goin’ Blind – Keeper
  4. Hotter Than Hell – Keeper
  5. Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll – Keeper
  6. All the Way – Delete
  7. Watchin’ You – Keeper
  8. Mainline – Keeper
  9. Comin’ Home – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  10. Strange Ways – Keeper

As far as a track score goes, there is only one that I would delete and another that is so-so and I will deduct a 1/2 point for.  That leaves a Track Score of 8.5 out of 10 or 85% which is really great…however…

There are some issues with this album.  The sonics are terrible.  I didn’t want to beat the dead horse with it in each song discussion, but it is horrible.  It has a very muddied sound and the drums don’t even sound right.  Overall a very poor production. I does detract from the album at times, but I still love this album as well.  Production aside, this is still a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars.  Let me know what you think.

Next Up: Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)

Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!

The Kiss Review Series:

  1. Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
  2. Kiss – Kiss (1974)
  3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)

The Bootleg Series:

  1. Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
  2. Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
  3. Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
  4. Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
  5. Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
  6. Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
  7. Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
  8. Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
  9. Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
  10. Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
  11. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
  12. Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
  13. Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
  14. Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)
  15. Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)

Kiss – The Box Set:

Gene Simmons – The Vault:

32 thoughts on “Kiss – ‘Hotter Than Hell’ (1974) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

  1. Okay I just played against some albums which came out in 1974 to compare.
    And The Brit’s had the production down during this period. When you play the albums from the British bands the mixes are so much better. They basically knew their shit.
    Overall there are some good songs with awesome riffs. Parasite, Watchin You and Strange Ways are heavy..

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Song wise these tracks are stellar. All The Way is actually one of my favs of this album John! lol. None of that delete stuff here for me fella.
    Ace really stepped up creatively on this record. That solo in Strange Ways is wicked. Criss singing the two tracks as well suited his voice.
    A really great album and yeah the production ugh… Least the songs hold up.

    Great Back cover feature John. I never knew about the Chikara symbol as well but it makes sense.

    Bravo Sir!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As someone who’s been mixing since he was 13, and who has helped to build professional studio equipment, operated it, produced, performed, engineered, mixed, and mastered released material, I can say this recording astounds me. I literally cannot think of a way that it would be even possible to make an album that sounds this fucking awful in a recording studio nonetheless. They could have set Peter Criss up in a closet with nothing but two SM-57s as overhead mics and still gotten a better drum sound than what they got here. And the lead guitars sound like they have lossy piss poor early day MP3 compression on them decades before that existed.

      Almost sounds like a mixing issue for the most part. Definitely some bad engineering (especially the guitars), but it also sounds like they made every wrong EQ move possible to make it sound like a shrill muddy mess. Even before I knew anything about production I thought this thing was almost unlistenable. Let me take a swing at remixing it Gene and Paul! Destroyer sounded fine, it didn’t need a remix. This one does!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Ha! Oh well, we can’t all like every song.

      Thanks. I forgot how good Peter really was in these early years. And yeah, Ace was finding his groove. His confidence slowly building. They were both crucial to this era of Kiss.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Things that sound like shit.
    1. This album.
    2. My Italian steak induced bowel explosion toilet rim reverberation from earlier tonight.
    The latter was alarming. My stool was really pale light brown, almost sand colored. That burger joint fucks me up every time, but it’s too damn tasty.

    As for the album, I agree “All the Way” is the only stinker. “Parasite” is so sweet, and shows Criss really is a good drummer. Just listen to those ghost notes, the thing just swings, but the riff is thrashtastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I rated this about the same. The ploddy pace bugs me more than the sound. Comin’ Home would have been so much better if it was in the next album… with that pace and sound. Here it sounds like it’s been played at half speed or something!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep. I am sure we will have more. Now, I don’t hate it, not by any means, I just enjoy the first two more. But you will read what I find wrong with it and hopefully it will make sense (at least a little).

          Like

  5. Is this the first time you’ve awarded/deducted half points for an individual track? I can’t think of another example – but it makes sense here as ‘delete’ would be too harsh & ‘keeper’ wouldn’t really be right either due to its incongruity with the rest of the album!

    Liked by 1 person

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