REVIEW/GUEST SHOT: KISS – Monster (2012)

You lucky, lucky boys and girls.  Not only do you get TWO KISS MONSTER reviews for the price of one today, but you are getting a guest review from the scholarly Tommy Morais!  This guy is one of the most fanatic rock fans I know, and one of the top rated reviewers on Amazon.ca.   

And then, after Tommy’s review, I present to you part 52 of my own series of Kiss reviews!  FYI, neither of us had read the others’ review when we did this.  Anything they have in common is coincidental!

TOMMY’S TAKE

Out of all the guest shots Mike “LeBrain” Ladano has had, it seems he knew the contributors for years and they wrote great personal stories. Well, I’ve always been the black sheep at anything I did and this is no exception. I’ve only known Mike since 2010 and we’ve never met in person. However, I know that Mike is one of the most enthusiast fan and a hardcore collector there is and his passion for the website’s content is genuine and largely impressive. Sure I have all the studio and live albums from all my favorite bands, books, magazine, flags etc. but Mike takes it one step further and owns stuff I could only dream to own and afford, his collection is like no other as you’ve probably seen here. I first came to know LeBrain when he read some of my Amazon reviews and e-mailed me about them. He was kind enough to let me know he liked some of my reviewing work, particularly the one I did for Ratt’s Infestation album (2010). I soon discovered we both shared a love for many of the same bands and we’ve been talking Rock N’ Roll since then: albums, musicians, gossips, upcoming releases what we’d like to see etc. Best of all, Mike knows his music and you cannot understate his love for music and those bands that personally, have kept me going and rockin’. What follows is both Mike’s and my review of the new KISS album, Monster. But just before here’s to your host, all his dedication and the time and effort he puts into this website which I admire and visit daily. Cheers!

KISS – Monster (2012)

I think it’s safe to say that even though they’ve truly upset and angered some fans (to the point of leaving the KISS army) Paul and Gene still command a vast KISS army around the world. With Sonic Boom, KISS was back and it was a nice return after 11 years of complete studio silence and lack of a new album. SB was mostly well received as a return to form and a great KISS album. Then there are fans who didn’t buy the album because it’s not KISS and it’s disrespectful to Ace and Peter who were the originals to have Tommy and Eric wear their makeup. I understand both sides completely and agree with both, but I liked Sonic Boom for what it was and three years later it’s follow up (and 20th studio!) album, Monster is I have to say, better. While I was glad that there was a new KISS album and I enjoyed it, SB sounded a little too 80’s rooted at times. However, Monster is heavier, doesn’t feel like 80’s KISS and its edgy and aggressive and did I say heavy? The guitars are turned up LOUD and the drum is almighty, the sound that comes from it is massive, anthemic and fist pumping Hard Rock formula pushing far into Metal territory and as a fan, that’s good. It helps that there are no ballads either. At this point it shouldn’t be about “Fake KISS” and so on like there was a lot of talk on the Sonic Boom Amazon page, the music should stand on its own. Buying the new KISS album was always like an event, an obligation in some way whether it was Love Gun or Dynasty or Crazy Nights and now, Monster.

Opening track and first single “Hell or Hallelujah  is in your face heavy, and I was surprised at how fast it sounded. To me it sounds like something from Love Gun in ’77 like “I Stole Your Love” meets the speed of “Gimme More” from Lick It Up or perhaps another fast 80’s KISS tune. It works really well, it’s anthemic, it’s pure KISS and Paul sings it like he’s on fire and the backing vocals just get it done. “Wall of Sound” is Gene being the real demon Gene Simmons again. He’s menacing and attitude comes throughout, it’s one of the best songs on Monster. “Freak” is a track that I love if not just for the lyrics, they’re representative of KISS in a way and Paul does nicely here, it’s catchy and hits it home. “Back To The Stone Age”, now this is what I’m talking about! The sound is massive, heavy and Gene’s voice, he’s got that angry demon voice we all love. The lyrics are cool and very Gene, there’s even a neat little breakdown and it’s one of the best songs here absolutely. “Shout Mercy” is undeniably catchy and has that classic, quintessential chorus that made their classic songs memorable and radio staples, and the “whoohoos” back vocals add to the catchiness, you’ll see.”All For The Love Of Rock And Roll” is one that I quite like, it’s slower paced and less aggressive and Eric Singer does a wonderful job on the vocals (“All For The Glory” was one of my favorite songs on SB).On an album where pretty much the songs are heavy it’s nice to have something to balance it out, and while not a ballad this song does just that. I could almost see it as a single on radio. “Eat Your Heart Out” starts out with just the band singing and nothing else, those harmonies sound great and you know it’s going to be a cool track. It kicks in and doesn’t let you down, another strong one. “Outta This World” is sung by Tommy Thayer and it fits the Spaceman persona nicely, I much prefer this one to the song he had on Sonic Boom, it’s a good rockin’ track I was impressed by Tommy and he comes off as more of his own this time around. “Take Me Down Below” has obviously sexual innuendo and the reason this one is special is because Gene and Paul share lead. Gene has his story that’s reminiscent of “She’s So European” from the 1980 Unmasked album (talks about a lady, standing there, champagne, perfume, now she’s standing next to me, very Simmons) and Paul comes up with something and then the chorus and it works nicely I wish they did this more often. The only song that didn’t really do it for me was “Last Chance” but while it’s not awful I think the album might have ended stronger without it. I haven’t gone through every song or every little detail but I think you get the idea of my appreciation.

I was initially worried about the album being delayed as usually that’s never a good sign, but the album is excellent and those fears were unfounded it turns out. They’ve been at it for 40 years now (almost) and it doesn’t show, they have that drive and that passion in the sound. I think it shows more of their influences too, in one song I detected a really Zeppelin-ish part and so on which I think was great.

Gene really surprised me on Monster with his lyrics, voice and attitude he really contributed amazing stuff time around that exceeds what he did on the previous album, I think his songs may just be the best ones here. It’s not a retro album, its KISS being KISS and kicking it up a notch and sounding tighter and heavier and it works extremely well. Sonic Boom grew on me, Monster I loved immediately (SB had that extra re-recorded KISS Klassics CD and live DVD but Monster stands proudly on its 12 songs people).

To me Sonic Boom wasn’t a five stars KISS album, while very good it didn’t take it to the next level which is exactly what Monster does. Is it the perfect KISS record? Look at this point it’s better than I could have anticipated, exceeds the last one which was really good and it stands on its own, plus they’re heavier this time around and it’s the record they needed to follow up SB with. To me it’s full marks on this one, Monster really is a Monster and it impressed me! Nicely done and I don’t say just because I’m a die-hard fan with everything they’ve made. Initially the band talked about having another painting as the album cover much like Destroyer or Love Gun and that didn’t happen, a slight let down. Now I’d just love to see KISS play a big chunk of this album in a LIVE setting, they sound made for the stage and I can only imagine how well it would work.

5/5.

I’ll leave you alone and let you read what you came here to read and what we’ve all been anticipating, LeBrain’s review of KISS’ new album, Monster. I’ve been anxious as to what Mike thinks and we haven’t even discussed it yet, I’m anxious to read it myself. Enjoy!

LEBRAIN’S TAKE

CHECK OUT MY QUICKIE VIDEO ON THE 3D COVER ART!

KISS – Monster (2012 3D lenticular cover, iTunes editions)

Right from that opening guitar salvo there’s no question:  it’s Kiss.  And Kiss have made a remarkable album.  Not only is Monster a logical follow-up (and up-ratchet) to Sonic Boom, but it shows that Kiss are not afraid of growth.  Monster succeeds in sounding like new Kiss, where Sonic Boom succeeded in sounding like old Kiss.  Nothing wrong with that, I like Sonic Boom.  But I already bought that album once.

Immediately you will notice that Monster is heavier, both song-wise and production wise.  It sounds as if Kiss are attempting to scale Mount Zep.  Songs like “Wall of Sound”, “The Devil Is Me” and “Back to the Stone Age” are all classic Gene attitude, totally up his alley and he kicks them in the ass.  Listen to his bass kickin’ it on “The Devil Is Me”!  Actually I want to draw special attention to Gene as a bass player on this album.  Producer Paul Stanley wisely chose to place emphasis on Gene’s bass, and meanwhile Gene decided to throw in some of the tastiest bass-licks from his bag o’ tricks.  Nobody will ever compare Gene Simmons to Geddy Lee, but there is absolutely no question that Gene’s bass playing is perfect for these songs.

Meanwhile, there’s Paul:  yes, his voice is really rough in spots, but he works around it successfully.  Eric Singer and Gene Simmons can be heard backing him on a song like “Freak” (another great tune) creating that classic Kiss sounding harmony.  The combination of all four Kiss singers helps conceal Paul’s roughness.  And besides, every once in a while he goes for the high notes, and using them sparingly makes you appreciate them more.  The first single, “Hell Or Hallelujah”, demonstrates how Paul still manages to kick ass in the studio within the confines of his voice.

At first the only song I wasn’t digging was “Eat Your Heart Out”.  It threw me, right from the a cappella harmony that opens the song.  Now, I’m digging it.  From Gene’s signature slinky bass to Eric’s cowbell and Paul’s sly backing vocals, I love this song.  It’s an upbeat party tune like you want from Kiss.

“Outta This World”, written solely by Tommy Thayer, is his vocal showcase.  It’s another great song, not too different from his previous “When Lightning Strikes”.  It’s a great example of Tommy’s songwriting prowess.  Clearly, this is the right guy right now for Kiss.

Not to be outdone, Eric Singer’s lead vocal, “All For the Love of Rock and Roll” (written by Paul) is my current favourite song.  It’s probably the most “rock & roll” sounding of all these new Kiss songs.  It has a certain guitar jangle that would have been at home on some of the first 6 Kiss albums.  Think “Mr. Speed”.  Eric has always been a great singer and I don’t understand why Kiss didn’t take advantage of this, by having him sing lead on albums back in the 1990’s.

Gene and Paul trade vocals on “Take Me Down Below”, but even better is “Last Chance” which closes the album.  At first, by the opening bass, I’m thinking “Plaster Caster”; but then the riff kicks in.  When Pauls sings the chorus, Gene’s infectious “Ahh, ahh ahh’s” under it seal the deal.  This is a great tune.  Hope it makes the live set.

Best Buy and iTunes have a bonus track:  “Right Here Right Now”.   The beginning is like Kiss meets AC/DC!  Then it slides into an old-school Kiss singalong rocker.  Awesome tune, shame some people won’t get a chance to hear it.

MVP:  Gene Simmons.  Not only did he contribute some great songs, but his bass kicks this whole album in the nuts.  Not to mention he’s singing a lot more backing vocals, which just makes it sound more like Kiss!

Most improved:  Tommy Thayer.  To quote the  Heavy Metal OverloRd himself, Tommy is throwing in fewer “second-hand-Ace-isms”.   I agree heartily!  He sounds less like Ace, and more like Tommy.  Just listen to his solo on “Wall of Sound”.  Ace wouldn’t have played something like that.  Which is fine — Kiss don’t have to keep trying to sound like 1977 anymore.  They should (and did) try to make an album that sounds like one that these four guys — Gene, Paul, Eric and Tommy — would make in 2012.  And that’s just groovy.

5/5 stars

OF NOTE:  I have not yet located the Japanese edition.  Oh, but I will.  Bonus track:  “King of the Night Time World” live.

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10 comments

  1. Hard to top 2 5/5 reviews as they cover all the bases so kudos to u both on doing a fine write up on both!
    The only thing I can really say is the pre hype on Monster was huge and it’s good to see they backed it up and finally using Thayer as a springboard of ideas.
    The first 2 Black n Blue albums are classics so the guy can write,but I think the last time I saw any kind of hype for a Kiss album was Revenge back in 92’but that was a easy hype if u ask me due to the fact that I thought Hot In The Shade was kinda weak.
    But yeah Kiss is alive and well in 2012.
    Good for them!

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    1. I find the pre-hype with a lot of Kiss albums can be huge…Sonic Boom was huge. I think BW&BK gave it 9/10 stars, the Toronto Sun gave it 9/10 stars. Yes Revenge was also super hyped. Anytime they start comparing the albums to Destroyer!

      Just glad that Kiss are backing kicking ass, taking it seriously! This album sounds like KISS! There’s no other way to explain it, they’ve grown and yet sound like the same guys (even though only two are)!

      Like

  2. 2 excellent reviews for the price of one! Nice. And thanks for the credit! Haha

    Really pleased with the album, much better than I expected and a vast improvement on Sonic Boom. It’s tempting to compare it former glories but I’m really pleased that they are actually carving a whole new musical identity for themselves. There are hints of earlier KISS but also a lot of stuff that hasn’t been done on a KISS album before. I love that their going back to their roots to find new directions. Bit of Zep, a bit of the Stones and some Mott the Hoople! Paul Stanley used to say if you’re going to copy someone, copy the best! Quite right. I think Paul deserves high praise as he seems to be the mastermind and catalyst for pulling the best performances out of everyone, especially Gene and Tommy as you noted.

    Just one more though too. Tommy, you also mention that Monster doesn’t sound like 80s KISS but I thought there were quite a few moments here that brought Creatures… to mind. In fact, I think if they were aiming at any past glories here they had that album in mind. The aggression, heaviness and drums you mentioned are all hallmarks of that period.

    Both great reviews… you know I’ve enjoyed them when I ramble on! Can’t wait for post 53! …as long as it’s not another bloody compilation…

    Like

    1. I would agree with the Creatures moments. I can’t speak on behalf of Tommy but maybe he was referring to the “later 80’s” sounds that many of us think about when we talk about 80’s Kiss.

      Regardless I’ve played this album maybe a dozen times now, and I don’t if I’ve been this happy with a new Kiss album since Revenge. I think when Revenge came out, I would have preferred “no ballads” then and Monster delivers.

      If Kiss stick around to make more albums that’s great. If not, this a good one to go out on.

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      1. Yeah, I thought that was what he was probably referring to. I just wanted to throw the Creatures… point in as that is a classic album that sometimes gets overlooked because it’s stuck between eras. It’s not quite “classic era” and it’s not “unmasked KISS”. I hope Tommy doesn’t think I was being too critical, I just wanted to point out the similarities.

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      2. Oh I think you’re totally right…Creatures is sort of an odd duck in that way. It’s clearly not a 70’s album but it also doesn’t sound like stereotypical 80’s. Gene’s got that same character on Monster, this would have been a worthy successor to Creatures.

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  3. Exactly! Gene’s got the War Machine character back which is just great to hear. He had a bit of an identity crisis for many years… such a pleasure to hear him on top-form here. I love that Monster sounds totally new but has got some nods to the past without being “retro”. It kind of does for KISS what Angel of Retribution did for Priest… I would be happy for KISS to go out on a high with this but I’d also love to hear what they might do next. It’s a great line-up and I love it to have a bigger chapter in KISStory.

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  4. Geez guys, I feel like I need to go wash my computer screen after reading all that lovin’! It got a little sweaty in there.

    Excellent 2-fer, both the guest shot and LeBrain’s takes are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Now all I have to do is hear this album.

    I did enjoy watching Gene lick Letterman, though. That was funny.

    Like

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