It has only been three short years since ‘Sonic Boom’ and Kiss is ready to put out another album. Three years might seem like a long time, but lately in the Kiss World, it is a blip in the radar. The band has actually not had any drama during this time gap and things seem to be going smoothly which is not normal for these guys. The band is unchanged with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley still at the helm and Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer still the hired guns.
The band went back in the studio starting in April 2011 and didn’t finish the album until January 2012. And heck, then it wasn’t even released until October 9, 2012. The guys were in no rush obviously. Kiss wanted to get back to their roots on this one while keeping it sounding like what the band is today. To help accomplish that the band actually recorded the album using analog equipment and a 24 Track Tape and a Trident board. They were going at it old school…no digital. Did it help? Well the album went all the way to #3 on the Billboard Charts, so we will see.
But speaking of old school. There were no outside writers and no outside players (except one on piano, but we will get to that shortly). Tommy gets to sing again and so does Eric. This was a band album, just like ‘Sonic Boom’, and a band album is what the fans want. They started with around 20 songs and ended up with 12 on the vinyl & the CD (13 on iTunes). We are talking the 12 here since my copy is on vinyl. Let’s get started.
The album opens up with a killer riff by Tommy and then a wicked bass line by Gene and Eric comes thundering in on the drums. Paul is on vocals for this and sounding in top form. “Hell or Hallelujah” bombastically opens the album and shows the band is still here and they mean business. Tommy lays down a splendid solo and the guys are tight and slamming. I think it sounds a little heavier than ‘Sonic Boom’ and if that continues this should be a “monster” of an album.
Gene’s up next (as usual) with a great Gene song called “Wall of Sound”. This is one of many songs written by both Gene and Paul and that had become a rarity in the Kiss world. It even has some help from Tommy. Another great guitar riff from Tommy starts it off and Gene sounds in prime form. The song is heavy and very modern sounding. There is a lot of grit and toughness to it. This is Gene being Gene and I’m so good with that.
“Freak” is up next with Paul back on vocals. Paul is right home with this one as Paul has always felt like a freak ever since he was a kid. He has a problem with one of his ears and it was deformed which was the cause of a lot of childhood trauma. Paul has obviously overcome that in a grand way. Now Paul is telling every to let that Freak Flag fly in this rocking track. It is one of the more empowering songs Kiss has written in a long time. This is the only song on the album to feature an outside party. Brian Whelan plays the piano for this. Everything else is pure Kiss.
Now we get to a song with writing credits from every member of the band called “Back to the Stone Age”. It is a Gene song and is very heavy on the bass. Gene comes screaming in with a destruction of drum beats by Eric and the actually end the song the same way. Overall, the song is kind of pedestrian, but Gene’s tough-guy personae keeps the songs head above water. Nothing to write home about but good enough.
We get a twofer from Paul. First up is “Shout Mercy” which has been compared to Humble Pie and I am good with that comparison. It has Paul strutting around with his vocals and Tommy confidently picking those strings. It has been a barrage of sound since the beginning of the album and it doesn’t sound like Kiss is ready to slow things down or just write it in. They are giving it their all.
Next up is “Long Way Down” with Paul bringing his 70’s self in to play. Listen closely and I swear this a Zep vibe in there hiding ready to explode. This was the second single and I will admit I don’t remember hearing this one on the radio at any time. That is never a good sign. However, it isn’t a bad song at all, in fact, musically it is pretty great as Tommy and Eric shine as usual, but the vocals aren’t as clear and up front for me with Paul. Outside of that, Kiss really nails this one and harkens back to days of old.
Side One ended with a twofer from Paul and Side Two kicks off with a twofer from Gene. First up is “Eat Your Heart Out” which starts out the band in a cappella singing the chorus and it ain’t that great. The song comes in with full band and Eric’s cowbell, but this is the weakest Gene song on the album and the only one I’m not a huge fan with as it is very generic.
Luckily, Gene redeems himself with a classic Gene song called “The Devil is Me”. If there was ever a song written for the personae of The Demon, this is it. It is total badass and Gene sounds incredible. He is right at home here with this one as it is in his wheelhouse. He sounds evil, menacing and the music conveys that in spades. This is modern day “God of Thunder”. And let’s not forget to mention Tommy has delivers a solo that is a perfect fit to the song and brings the evil to the forefront.
Tommy Thayer gets his turn to shine on his own with his self-penned song “Outta this World”. It is not a bad song at all, Tommy sounds great. But is it me or are there elements that lean towards what Ace would do. There are space references (I know, he is the Spaceman now…but seriously) and the sound seems like something Ace would do. I would prefer to see Tommy be Tommy and not Ace. He is talented enough. I feel though, it is a step up from ‘Sonic Boom’ as I feel Tommy sounds a lot more comfortable in his shoes now and those are some big shoes to fill.
It is Eric’s turn and this time we get an old-school rocker with “All for the Love of Rock & Roll” which sounds like 70’s kiss…a la “Mr. Speed”. And where I saw Tommy sounds like Ace, is it me or does this sound like something Peter would sing? Listen to the grittiness of Eric’s vocals (and I mean that in a good way). I know, I’m crazy, but I hear it. The thing is it still sounds great. I love the nostalgic vibe of the song and it makes me feel good and that is always a good thing. I love this type of song and Eric really shines.
“Take Me Down Below” actually sees Gene and Paul sharing vocals…hell yeah!! Now usually when that happens we get a massive rock anthem, but sadly not this time. It feels like a sleazy rocker and the lyrics are plain awful. I was hoping they were long past that, but boys will be boys I guess. This is easily the most skippable track on the album.
A bass riff kicks off the song “Last Chance” as the album comes to a close. Paul’s started off the album and finishes it too. This song is a competent enough closer, but it isn’t anything special. It doesn’t make me want to flip the album over though and that is what I like in a closer. The album started out so strong and faded towards the end. Or is that more than 10 songs on a Kiss album is too many? That is an interesting thought.
- Hell or Hallelujah – Keeper
- Wall of Sound – Keeper
- Freak – Keeper
- Back to the Stone Age – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Shout Mercy – Keeper
- Long Way Down – Keeper
- Eat Your Heart Out – Delete
- The Devil is Me – Keeper
- Outta This World – Keeper
- All for the Love of Rock & Roll – Keeper
- Take Me Down Below – Delete
- Last Chance – Keeper (1/2 Point)
The Track Score is 9 out of 12 Tracks or 75%. This is a solid score. I don’t know if it is a step up from ‘Sonic Boom’, but it is at least its equal. This one is a little heavier sounding, but I think I liked more songs on ‘Sonic Boom’. However, there are some songs on here I like more than the last album. I am really torn. I do know that the fact they kept it a band album is a plus. Tommy seems more comfortable in his role and Gene was way more involved and one of my favorite Gene songs is on here. I still feel this is a very solid effort and I am digging this era of Kiss, I just wish they did more albums. My overall view is still a 4.0 out 5.0 Stars. With only two real clunkers, you can’t go wrong with this release. It is modern day Kiss and it is great!! For this to probably be there very last Studio album, it is nice way to go out. They went out on their terms and doing it their own way. What more could you want.
Next Up: Kiss – The Casablanca Singles 1974–1982 (2012)
Check out the rest of the series if you have time!!
The Kiss Review Series:
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
- Kiss – Kiss (1974)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
- Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)
- Kiss – Alive! (1975)
- Kiss – Destroyer (1976)
- Kiss – “Flaming Youth” 45 Promo Single – Bonus Edition (1976)
- Kiss – Special Kiss Album For Their Summer Tour (1976)
- Kiss – The Originals (1976)
- Kiss – Rock & Roll Over (1976)
- Kiss – Love Gun (1977)
- Kiss – Alive II (1977)
- Kiss – Double Platinum (1978)
- Kiss – Paul Stanley (1978)
- Kiss – Gene Simmons (1978)
- Kiss – Peter Criss (1978)
- Kiss – Ace Frehley (1978)
- Kiss – Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park Movie (1978)
- Kiss – Dynasty (1979)
- Kiss – “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” (1979) – 12″ & 7″ Singles (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Unmasked (1980)
- Peter Criss – Out of Control (1980)
- Kiss – Music From The Elder (1981)
- Kiss – Killers (1982)
- Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1982)
- Kiss – Lick It Up (1983)
- Kiss – Animalize (1984)
- Wendy O. Williams – WOW (1984) (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Animalize Live Uncensored (1985)
- Kiss – Asylum (1985)
- Kiss – “Tears Are Falling” 7″ Single (Bonus Edition) (1985)
- Kiss – Creatures of the Night (1985 Re-Issue)
- Vinnie Vincent Invasion – Vinnie Vincent Invasion (1986)
- Black N’ Blue – Nasty Nasty (1986)
- Ace Frehley – Frehley’s Comet (1987)
- Kiss – Exposed VHS (1987)
- Kiss – Crazy Nights (1987)
- Kiss – “Crazy Crazy Nights” – 12″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – “Reason To Live” – 12″ Picture Disc (Bonus Edition)
- Kiss – Chikara (1988)
- Kiss – Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988)
- Kiss – Hot In The Shade (1989)
- Kiss – “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II” (1991) – 12″ Picture Disc
- Kiss – Revenge (1992)
- Kiss – Alive III (1993)
- Kiss – Konfidential VHS (1993)
- Kiss – Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved (1994)
- Kiss – MTV Unplugged (1996)
- Kiss – You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! (1996)
- Kiss – Greatest Kiss (1997)
- Kiss – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions (1997)
- Kiss – Psycho Circus (1998)
- Kiss – The Second Coming Documentary (1998)
- Eric Carr – Rockology (1999)
- Mark St. John – Mark St. John Project (1999)
- Eric Singer Project – ESP (1999)
- Bruce Kulick – Audiodog (2001)
- Kiss – Kiss Symphony: Alive IV (2003)
- Gene Simmons – Asshole (2004)
- Kiss – Rock the Nation Live! DVD (2005)
- Kiss – Alive! The Millennium Concert (2006)
- Paul Stanley – Live to Win (2006)
- Kiss – Kissology: Volumes 1 to 3 (2006-2007)
- Kiss – Jigoku-Retsuden (2008)
- Kiss – Sonic Boom (2009)
- Kiss – Monster (2012)
The Bootleg Series:
- Kiss – ‘Accept No Imitations’ (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ASYLUM TOUR)
- Kiss – Look Wot You Dun to Me (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (CRAZY NIGHTS TOUR)
- Kiss – The Summer of Satan: The Devils Ride Out! (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DESTROYER TOUR)
- Kiss – Return to Capital Center (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DYNASTY TOUR)
- Kiss – With Fire & Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (HOTTER THAN HELL TOUR)
- Kiss – Northhampton PA March 19th, 1975 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (DRESSED TO KILL TOUR)
- Kiss – The Hottest Show On Earth (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE HOTTEST SHOW ON EARTH TOUR 2010)
- Kiss – All the Way to the Ball Room (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (Australian Tour 1995)
- Kiss – Kiss of Thunder (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (The Rising Sun Tour 2006)
- Kiss – Agora Ballroom 1974: The Cleveland Broadcast plus Bonus Cuts (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (THE KISS TOUR)
- Kiss – Hotter Than Hell: Radio Broadcast 1976 (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ROCK & ROLL OVER TOUR)
- Kiss – The Tickler (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (LICK IT UP TOUR 1983)
- Kiss – Barbarize (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – North American Tour)
- Kiss – They Only Come Out At Night (Bootleg Series) – Album Review (ANIMALIZE WORLD TOUR 1984 – EUROPEAN TOUR)
- Wicked Lester and the Progeny Demo Sessions (Bootleg)
Kiss – The Box Set:
- The Box Set (Part 1 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc One 1966-1975 (Part 2 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Two 1975-1977 (Part 3 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Three 1976-1982 (Part 4 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Four 1983-1989 (Part 5 of 6)
- The Box Set – Disc Five 1992-1999 (Part 6 of 6)
Gene Simmons – The Vault:
- Part 1 – The Grand Opening
- Part 2 – Disk 1
- Part 3 – Disk 2
- Part 4 – Disk 3
- Part 5 – Disk 4
- Part 6 – Disk 5
- Part 7 – Disk 6
- Part 8 – Disk 7
- Part 9 – Disk 8
- Part 10 – Disk 9
- Part 11 – Disk 10
- Part 12 – The Bonus Disk
- Part 13 – The Best Songs of the Vault
- Part 14 – The Worst Songs of the Vault
- Part 15 – The Final Verdict