After nearly 40 years of putting on black-and-white makeup, nine-inch platform boots and studded codpieces, KISS have released their 20th record to date, Monster, a 43-minute throwback to their classic ’70s sound.
Despite numerous talkshow appearances, press conferences and various reality television endeavours, the four facepainted rockstars somehow find time to rock. As the follow-up to 2009’s Sonic Boom, this album strives to create new, popular KISS songs the same way “I Love It Loud” became a setlist regular in the early ’90s. “Modern Day Delilah” isn’t necessarily in the fans’ collective conscious, but maybe the next single to hit the radio will be more memorable.
- “Hell or Hallelujah”
- “Wall of Sound”
- “Back to the Stone Age”
- “Shout Mercy”
- “Long Way Down”
- “Eat Your Heart Out”
- “The Devil is Me”
- “Outta This World”
- “All for Love of Rock & Roll”
- “Take Me Down Below”
- “Last Chance”
“Hell or Hallelujah”, the opening track and first single, tries to pump up the atmosphere of the album and set the tone, but falls flat. Paul Stanley’s voice comes on, but the song doesn’t have the same energy one would expect – certainly not the same level of energy the band brings to its live show.
Similarly, the Gene Simmons-sung “Wall of Sound” comes up short, save for a cool riff and solo from lead axeman Tommy Thayer. “Freak” brings back to Stanley in a joking ode to the band’s look. It’s not superb, but it’s kinda catchy.
Four songs in, “Back to the Stone Age” stands out as the best track on the album – it’s anthemic, it’s powerful, it’s KISS. It holds the reign as “Shout Mercy” is a solid track, but not stellar.
KISS’ influences may have reached bands a few generations ahead of them: “Long Way Down” starts with what sounds like Green Day’s “Brain Stew”, but with double the notes at the same pace, until pickslides into part ballad, part rock ‘n’ roll. Again, solid, not stellar.
I’m not sure why “Eat Your Heart Out” wasn’t the album’s first single (with the exception of the song’s odd, Motown-style, a cappella intro). Once the electric guitars and signature vocal harmonics kick in, the excited feeling of being a newly enlisted KISS Army veteran takes over. Plus, there’s a bitchin’ solo true to the band’s ’70s and ’80s heyday.
“The Devil is Me” is surprisingly underwhelming for such a heavy metal title. On “Outta This World”, Thayer takes vocal and writing duties in what seems like a C-grade Space Ace song.
“All for Love of Rock & Roll” has a country twang to it, but seems uninspired, like a half-hearted “God Gave Rock and Roll to You”.
Fear not, KISS fans! The band doesn’t close the album on a low note. “Take Me Down Below” has a stomping kick drum that commands the song, and “Last Chance” features a chant-along chorus. Both of which are sure to become instant crowd favourites on the band’s upcoming South American and European dates.
It’s no Destroyer. None of the songs 30-some years from now will have left the same impact as “Love Gun” or “Detroit Rock City”. But if putting out an okay album gives Stanley, Simmons, Thayer and Singer a reason to go out on tour and bring their explosive stage show across the country, fans can put up with a few new tracks to hear all the old ones.