Kiss – ‘Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions’ (1997) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

Shortly after the MTV Unplugged Show, the current line-up of the band, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer, went back in to the studio to record what would become the band’s 17th studio album. The album was recorded between November 1995 and February 1996, however, the album was scrapped and pushed aside. Why would they do such a thing, was it that bad? No, not exactly. The problem was that after the MTV Unplugged Show, the buzz about the Ace Frehley and Peter Criss playing with the band again was reaching a fever pitch. Would they get back together and do a reunion tour? Would they put the make-up back on? And the answer to both of those questions was a resounding, YES!!

The album was set aside for the time being. Somehow though, bootleg copies of the album got out and were being distributed around in certain circles (I wasn’t in that certain circle). As a result, the band decided to finally release the album and they called it ‘Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions’. It actually didn’t have all the same songs as the bootleg, but at least it was out.

The album was a complete departure for the band. It saw them go darker and more grunge because as usual, the band were followers and trying to follow the trend. They didn’t care in the least anymore to be trend setters and set the bar high. Nope, they pandered to what was big in music. There is a problem with that as Grunge was fading by this time. A lot of the sound was actually a result of Bruce Kulick’s doing as he helped co-write 9 of the 12 songs. I am not saying it is his fault, I am only saying that it was because of Bruce they were able to do that sound as he was versatile enough and technically savy enough to play anything.

The album did not do well, at all. It has been lauded as possibly one of the worst albums they have done. It never went Gold, it never charted on the Billboard 200 albums chart, there was only one single and it didn’t do that well. The album was not received well by the public. It would also turn out to be the last studio album featuring Bruce Kulick and the last Non-Make Up era albums. That is right, the make-up came back on and has never come off again.

Is it the band’s worst album? I don’t know, you will have to be the judge of that thought. I will let you know what I think about it and we will see where it falls at the album rankings when this series is over in a few months.

SIDE A:

The opening track was a song called “Hate” which was written by Gene, Bruce and Scott Van Zen. It is a pretty dark and heavy song and could quite possibly be the heaviest song they have ever done. It is the second time they have led with a Gene song and it works really well. I love the distorted guitar sounds, the heavy drums and the wicked bass line. This feels like a grittier “Unholy” and you know, I am okay with that. The original demo of this is on Gene Simmons ‘The Vault’ on Disk 2. That version is even more raw and rough and just as good.

Paul is up next with “Rain” written by Paul with Curtis Coumo and of course Bruce. It is another heavy song and for Paul, that is not usually a thing. It is a little moody and foreboding sound. Paul is not really singing all out like he normally does. He is more deliberate and even a little lacking in feeling. It is Soundgarden lite, but without the wickedly good Chris Cornell vocals. But I actually like the song and think it was one of his better songs on the album. I’m not hating things at this point.

Then Paul is back again with “Master & Slave”. Gene’s bass on this is slick and groovetastic. It is the driving force to the song. The song might be my favorite Paul performance on the whole album. He seems to be in to this song a lot more and the driving beat of the song is a little more upbeat despite the subject matter. The Bruce solo is so distorted and dirty that it stands out and really takes the song to the next level. Everyone killed it on this album especially Paul’s scream towards the end of the song.

Next up is “Childhood’s End” which was written by Gene, Bruce and Tommy Thayer. Gene takes on vocals for this one and it is more of a ballad. It is clunky, Gene sounds horrible and this is a big pile of a flaming turd for me. If you want to a much more palatable version of the song, got to Disk 3 of Gene Simmons ‘The Vault’ and you will get a more raw, rocking version of the song with the 1993 demo.

Paul, Curtis and Bruce bring us the next track, “I Will Be There” which is a ballad about Paul’s son Evan. The only song Paul says he felt a connection to which makes sense as it is more personal for him. The song is acoustic and has Bruce playing bass rather than Gene. It is the least grungy song on the album and musically sounds nice and is a touching song, but it feels like it is trying to go somewhere yet never reaches that destination.

The final track on Side A is the only single off the album, “Jungle”. The same trio that wrote the last song wrote this one as well. The bass riff on this one is killer which is played by Bruce which was accompanied by Eric’s powerful drum beat. And to top it off, Bruce also laid down a great solo for this too. It is a more upbeat track and a little more radio friendly then the rest which is probably why it was the single. The song goes on for over 6 minutes which is long for Kiss. There is a cool instrumental ending that goes on for awhile with Bruce throwing in all sorts of riffs and notes with Eric keeping pace. I actually enjoy this one a lot, not as much as “Master & Slave”, but it is another favorite of mine. The song did got to #8 on the Mainstream Rock Track charts in the U.S., so at least it got played a little.

SIDE B:

Gene kicks off Side B as well with the song “In My Head” which is another dark, brooding song. The song was written by Gene, Scott and Jamie St. James from the band Black & Blue. Again, Kiss is really highlighting the heavy bass riffs. They seem to feel that is what Grunge songs are all about as I don’t think the bass has ever been this heavy on any other album. Gene does a good job with the vocals and the guitars are real crunchy, but I am little bored with it. There is no real chorus, or at least a catchy chorus and I would only keep if for the music, not for the singing. The demo is on Disk 1 of ‘The Vault’.

“It Never Goes away” has Paul back on vocals. Musically you would think it is a Gene track with how heavy it is, but its Paul’s. The song is too long at over 5 minutes as Paul sounds so bored singing. No heart or connection to the lyrics at all. If there was a picture of “Filler” in the dictionary, it would be of this song.

“Seduction of the Innocent” is another Gene track and this one has some heavy Beatles influences to it. It is a little more laid back, they laid off the heavy bass with this one. It is a pleasant sounding song and Gene gives a softer vocal performance and doesn’t over sing. There is some more awesome playing by Bruce that gives the song a boost towards the end. One of the better songs on Side B. Now, there is a demo on Disk 7 of the ‘The Vault’ that is a lot more rocking and raw, but not as good as this one.

Then we get the final Gene song with “I Confess” written by Gene and Ken Tamplin. It has a whole ‘Music From the Elder’ vibe even though it was written in the 90’s. It is another filler track as there isn’t really anything interesting going on with it. It has no real direction. The demo for this is on Disk 1 of ‘The Vault’ and I didn’t like that version much either.

The final Paul track on the album is “In the Mirror” and another boring track. I have to say the second half of this album is pretty bad compared to the first half which is quite good. I don’t really have anything good to say about this one, so I won’t say anything else.

The final track on here is a band first. It is the first song that is sung by Bruce Kulick. Sadly, it is also the last since this was his last album with the band. “I Walk Alone” has Bruce singing, playing lead guitar and playing bass. I guess Eric wouldn’t let him play the drums. Now Bruce isn’t the best singer, but the song is pretty good. I enjoy it at least. I feel this is a less grunge sounding song and more a straight up rocker. A good beat, a decent chorus and overall solid track. I think I like the novelty of it that Bruce is actually getting to sing.

Track Listing:

  1. Hate – Keeper
  2. Rain – Keeper
  3. Master & Slave – Keeper
  4. Childhood’s End – Delete
  5. I Will Be There – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  6. Jungle – Keeper
  7. In My Head – Delete
  8. It Never Goes Away – Delete
  9. Seduction of the Innocent – Keeper
  10. I Confess – Delete
  11. In the Mirror – Delete
  12. I Walk Alone – Keeper

The Track Score is 6.5 out of 12 songs or 54%. I will be honest, I liked more tracks than I remembered as I hadn’t listened to this in a while. But let’s also be honest with that fact even if there are some tracks I like, this is still a horrid album. Kiss is not grunge, ever!! To make an album that follows the trend is always a recipe for disaster and that is what this is. I think I can only give this album a 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars which is 1 star more than I expected from what I remembered. If I spent another week or two with it, maybe I could get up to a 2.5, but for now, the 2.0 is the best I can do. The first half of the album is pretty good, but the back half is awful. The only cool thing about it is that so many demos of this album were on ‘The Vault’ and which was so much fun to explore.

Next Up: Kiss – Pyscho Circus (1998)

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)
  4. Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
  5. Kiss – Alive! (1975)
  6. Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
  7. Kiss – “Flaming Youth” 45 Promo Single – Bonus Edition (1976)
  8. Kiss – Special Kiss Album For Their Summer Tour (1976)
  9. Kiss – The Originals (1976)
  10. Kiss – Rock & Roll Over (1976)
  11. Kiss – Love Gun (1977)
  12. Kiss – Alive II (1977)
  13. Kiss – Double Platinum (1978)
  14. Kiss – Paul Stanley (1978)
  15. Kiss – Gene Simmons (1978)
  16. Kiss – Peter Criss (1978)
  17. Kiss – Ace Frehley (1978)
  18. Kiss – Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park Movie (1978)
  19. Kiss – Dynasty (1979)
  20. Kiss – “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (1979) – 12″ & 7″ Singles (Bonus Edition)
  21. Kiss – Unmasked (1980)
  22. Peter Criss – Out of Control (1980)
  23. Kiss – Music From The Elder (1981)
  24. Kiss – Killers (1982)
  25. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982)
  26. Kiss – Lick It Up (1983)
  27. Kiss – Animalize (1984)
  28. Wendy O. Williams – WOW (1984) (Bonus Edition)
  29. Kiss – Animalize Live Uncensored (1985)
  30. Kiss – Asylum (1985)
  31. Kiss – “Tears Are Falling” 7″ Single (Bonus Edition) (1985)
  32. Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1985 Re-Issue)
  33. Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)
  34. Black N’ Blue – Nasty Nasty (1986)
  35. Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet (1987)
  36. Kiss – Exposed VHS (1987)
  37. Kiss – Crazy Nights (1987)
  38. Kiss – “Crazy Crazy Nights” – 12″ Single (Bonus Edition)
  39. Kiss – “Reason To Live” – 12″ Picture Disc (Bonus Edition)
  40. Kiss – Chikara (1988)
  41. Kiss – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
  42. Kiss – Hot In The Shade (1989)
  43. Kiss – “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” (1991) – 12″ Picture Disc
  44. Kiss – Revenge (1992)
  45. Kiss – Alive III (1993)
  46. Kiss – Konfidential VHS (1993)
  47. Kiss – Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved (1994)
  48. Kiss – MTV Unplugged (1996)
  49. Kiss – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996)
  50. Kiss – Greatest Kiss (1997)
  51. Kiss – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (1997)

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:

  1. The Box Set (Part 1 of 6)
  2. The Box Set – Disc One 1966-1975 (Part 2 of 6)
  3. The Box Set – Disc Two 1975-1977 (Part 3 of 6)
  4. The Box Set – Disc Three 1976-1982 (Part 4 of 6)
  5. The Box Set – Disc Four 1983-1989 (Part 5 of 6)
  6. The Box Set – Disc Five 1992-1999 (Part 6 of 6)

Gene Simmons – The Vault:

  1. Part 1 – The Grand Opening
  2. Part 2 – Disk 1
  3. Part 3 – Disk 2
  4. Part 4 – Disk 3
  5. Part 5 – Disk 4
  6. Part 6 – Disk 5
  7. Part 7 – Disk 6
  8. Part 8 – Disk 7
  9. Part 9 – Disk 8
  10. Part 10 – Disk 9
  11. Part 11 – Disk 10
  12. Part 12 – The Bonus Disk
  13. Part 13 – The Best Songs of the Vault
  14. Part 14 – The Worst Songs of the Vault
  15. Part 15 – The Final Verdict

44 thoughts on “Kiss – ‘Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions’ (1997) – Album Review (The Kiss Review Series)

  1. Carnival of Buttholes has some good riffs, but it was passé even when they recorded it. Stale grunge. Here’s my take.

    1. Hate Our Music Now That We’re Angst-Ridden Grunge – Keeper 1/2 point
    2. Drizzle – Delete
    3. The Confederacy Lost, KISS – Keeper
    4. Pediatric Hospice Care – Delete
    5. I Will Be There When I’m Not Banging Groupies on Tour – Delete
    6. Not a Forest, Not the Woods, But the… – Keeper
    7. In My Hope Chest – Delete
    8. HPV Never Goes Away – Delete
    9. Pretentious ’90s Song Title Critiquing Religion – Delete
    10. I Confess (I Peed on the Toilet Seat Without Cleaning it Up) – Delete
    11. Jacking Off in the Mirror – Delete
    12. I Walk Alone Because My Girlfriend Won’t Hold My Hand in Public – Keeper

    4.5/12 Buttholes = sucks. But I’ve heard far worse.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I thought it up the same time I was commenting Carnival of Souls. My friends and I used to do that with albums back in high school. I just don’t want you to think I have a journal somewhere and spend my free time making fun of every album in existence. It’s a spur of the moment thing, which is why the quality is so low. “Pediatric Hospice Care” was a stroke of brilliance though. Make no apologies for that one.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Even after reading this review there is a part of me that wants this on vinyl for cheap though. I would have to cue it up on Apple Music first to make sure. lol. Sure it’s KISS chasing the 1995 trend but man isn’t there something loveable about Demon going all grunge writing a tune called ‘Hate’ and firing Dr. Love at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Demon going grunge is one thing…Paul is a totally different story. For me though, the songs just weren’t that good overall so it was lacking a lot. Not as much as the album I am working on this week, Oh goodness is it bad!!

      Like

    1. It’s like Frampton Comes Alive. If you were ever a Kiss fan at some point before or during the ’90s, you were issued this album. I too have this CD, and I don’t remember where I got it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow I would have guessed this was a solid release. The title is great. I wonder if it had been released a few years earlier instead of after the grunge fact if that would have been a factor.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just love to pick nits…I can’t believe you’d delete In My Head! Yes I get what you mean, but man that song just hammers! It’s one of my favourites. I remember writing the lyrics on the marker board we had in an old apartment I shared with T-Rev. I think he was somewhat concerns with my mental health, reading lines like “Nest of termites growing red, in my head, in my head.” But I looooved that imagery!

    Anyway I actually pretty much agree with you otherwise, so we can still be friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How ironic that Bruce’s last song is “I Walk Alone” and he never played with Kiss again! I read that he helped out with the Psycho Circus album though right? Correct me if I’m wrong. I haven’t heard the whole album, but I quite like “Childhood’s End” and I liked the raw sound they were going for, at least with that track.

    Liked by 1 person

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