Part 2 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!
KISS – Hotter Than Hell (1974)
Hotter Than Hell was my first Kiss album. I had it on a scratched up piece of vinyl that I don’t have anymore. Because of the condition of the record and my turntable at the time, I had no idea just how bad Hotter Than Hell sounds. And it does sound bad. Kids these days, used to ProTools and gloss, are gonna find it unlistenable.
Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise produced once again, two guys who didn’t know how to achieve the heavy rock that Kiss wanted, but tried anyway. The result is a murky impenetrable sound with drums that sound like Peter’s banging away on wooden blocks. The cymbals are nearly impossible to hear. Yet this white noise serves only to make the album heavier and darker to these nostalgic ears.
“Got To Choose” kicks off the album, a Kiss classic. I remember playing it to my 8th grade class much to the teacher’s dismay. Gene and Paul sing harmonies together, but this is a Paul song. The acoustic version from MTV Unplugged is also quite excellent. “Parasite” follows, an Ace song that Gene sings and one of the fastest tunes Kiss were to do in the early days. The Alive! version is more fully realized. A ballad of sorts, “Goin’ Blind” follows. This is a Gene song from his pre-Kiss days, previously known as “Little Lady” and co-written by his Wicked Lester bandmate Steve Coronel. This version doesn’t do it justice, but lines like “I’m 93, you’re 16” hint at territory that Gene would revisit later in other songs. The title track, “Hotter Than Hell” is a Paul song and one of the best on the album if not in Kisstory. The riff and coda are both so memorable. (I miss the days when Kiss used to tack on these extra riffs as codas, they were always so heavy and cool.) Side 1 ends with “Let Me Go, Rock And Roll”, a fast rock n’ roll Chuck Berry guitar number which I always found comical due to Gene high voice at the beginning. The Alive! version has become a classic today.
Side 2 begins with a “lost” album cut called “All The Way”. It’s not played live often but it has one of my favourite choruses. You just can’t get the melody out of your head. Plus it has cowbell! “Watchin’ You”, a Sabbathy Gene song, follows. This song was even revisited for Kiss Alive III in a funkier guise. “Mainline” is a Paul song, sung by Peter Criss. It’s a little more rock n’ roll again, but with that great chrous melody. “Comin’ Home” is another Paul song that ended up on MTV Unplugged. Strange how many of these songs sounded great acoustically! It was always an album favourite of mine with great lyrics. The album ends with the dirgey “Strange Ways”, an Ace Frehley written song, but sung by Peter Criss. This is probably the only song on the album I don’t like very much, even though it is so heavy and Sabbathy.
Rumour has it that Peter recorded a lengthy drum solo, and demanded that it be included in the song, or he was going to quit the band. (This is according to Gene Simmons.) The solo was not included, and Peter stayed.
Given the upcoming deluxe remixed edition of Destroyer coming this year (remixed by Ezrin!), I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hold hope for a remix of Hotter Than Hell. Maybe, though, it should never be remixed. Maybe the shite sound is part of the charm?
If that sound issue doesn’t bother you, then delve in and discover a true Kiss classic. Just look at how many songs keep popping up on setlists to this day. That’s the sign of a classic album.