REVIEW- KISS: MONSTER

KISS released their long anticipated 20th studio album on October 9, 2012. With Paul Stanley again steering the ship as producer, would the band be able to strike a balance between recapturing the classic KISS sound, while also maintaining a modern edge? Check out my track by track breakdown to find out, rated on my special “Devil Horns” system!

 

“Hell or Hallelujah”

This was a perfect choice for a first single and lead-off track. Paul delivers a powerful vocal performance throughout this stomping, up-tempo tune, complete with a riff sort of reminiscent to “Any Way You Slice It” off the KISS Asylum record. There is some cool interplay between Paul’s vocals and Tommy’s guitar. Gene and Eric are really locked in throughout the song, providing a strong backbone throughout.

Devil Horns: 7/10

 

“Wall Of Sound”

Awesome track. Great lead vocal by Gene, punctuated by snaking guitar that at a few points reminds me a bit of “Helter Skelter.” I especially love how Gene’s bass is mirroring the guitar riffs at some points. Tommy also really shines on this one. This could potentially be another single. Very solid beginning to end.

Devil Horns: 9/10

 

“Freak”

I want to like this track, I really do. Musically, I love the track. Lyrically, I think it is a bit of a stretch. In my opinion, there is a very good chance the lyrics were specifically written around a potential vocal duet with Lady Gaga. Considering the lyrics revolve around self-empowerment and being comfortable in your own skin, which are things close to Gaga’s heart, I think the band had this collaboration in mind the whole time. Gene recently confirmed this collaboration was on track to happen, then got derailed. Having said that, it does not seem 100% genuine in terms of the overall Kiss sound. Also, it is not one of Paul’s strongest vocal performances on the record. The whole thing feels a bit misguided.

Devil Horns: 5/10

 

“Back to the Stone Age”

This is a track written by the whole band, sung by Gene. I really like the music, but the lyrics are just not doing it for me. Eric is pounding throughout, and Gene is doing some cool stuff on bass. That is not enough to make up for the lyrics, though.

Devil Horns: 6/10

 

“Shout Mercy”

Decent track overall, good vocal performance by Paul. For some reason, the track starts of slow to me, making it hard for me to get into the rest of the track. The “whoo-hoo’s” are unnecessary throughout. However, I really like the bridge prior to the chorus where the intensity picks up, but then the chorus is a bit of a letdown.

Devil Horns: 6/10

 

“Long Way Down”

This is where things start picking back up for me. Great choice for a single. Nice vocal performance by Paul. Absolutely love the chorus, highlighted by Eric’s cowbell. Another cool bass performance by Gene, as well as a searing Tommy solo. The lyrics are solid and sincere, and that comes through in the performance.

Devil Horns: 8/10

 

“Eat Your Heart Out”

Pure, unadulterated Gene here. The harmonized, a capella intro is awesome. Lyrics are fun (“a hot mess is just what I need!”), and Gene’s bass is all over the place (in a good way). Tommy puts in another great performance throughout, plus more cowbell from Eric (I can never get enough)!

Devil Horns: 8/10

 

“The Devil Is Me”

This song completes the one-two punch that “Eat Your Heart Out” starts. Tribal guitar and drums underneath snarling Gene vocals, not to mention another killer bass performance. Is that more Eric cowbell I hear?Speaking of Eric, one of the best drum fills on the record happens around the 2:15 mark.

Devil Horns: 8/10

 

“Outta This World”

This time around, I feel like Tommy is showing more of his personality in this song, rather than just playing the “Spaceman” character. Yes, the lyrics are a bit silly, but the song has a fun vibe, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. *cough-more cowbell-cough*

Devil Horns: 6/10

 

“All For the Love Of Rock & Roll”

I absolutely love this track. Written by Paul, Eric takes over lead vocal duties, and knocks it out of the park. The song has a laid back, “Mr. Speed” type riff and vibe. Overall, it sounds pretty timeless, like something you could have heard on the radio in the mid-70’s, all the way up to present day.

Devil Horns: 8/10

 

“Take Me Down Below”

This track, featuring Gene and Paul trading off lead vocals, is full of old-school double entendre lyrics. Gene starts out with his up-to-no-good speaking voice, then kicks into Demon mode at the drop of a hat. Paul sounds strong vocally throughout. Gene and Eric pounding out the rhythm is a highlight, along with the gang vocal chorus. Cool solo by Tommy, fun track overall.

Devil Horns: 7/10

 

“Last Chance”

The Demon starts this one off with a signature bass lick. Up-tempo track with a great vocal performance by Paul, featuring lots of bashing from Eric. The little nod to “Unholy” from Revenge around the 1:12 mark (at least I hear it anyway) earns the song a bonus Devil Horn.

Devil Horns: 8/10

 

In closing, I want to reiterate that I am absolutely not one of the Tommy/Eric bashers which seem to be deeply woven into the thread of the Kiss Army these days. My thoughts are, as long as the band can put out a solid record, and still perform at a pretty high level, I am all for whatever it takes to get to that point. I loved the original lineup from the time I was 3 years old in 1977, on through to this day, but that lineup could not do the job in 2012. Having said all that, I am very pleased with Monster as a whole, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds as far as recording is concerned. This record is definitely a step in a positive direction.

Horns Up!

Mike