The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 22:
The internal problems with Kiss continued full-bore into their next album, the surprisingly powerful Creatures of the Night. Ace Frehley was on the cover, and in the music video, but like Peter Criss before him, he didn’t play a note. In the midst of recording with new producer Michael James Jackson (Red Rider), they were also auditioning new guitarists to replace the Ace.
As a result of the embarrassing failure of their concept album fiasco Music From the Elder, Kiss had little choice in what to do next. If they had any hope of survival as a musical entity, they had to return to rock. What may have come as a surprise given their recent history including two pop “Kissco” albums was that their new music was really, really heavy. Kiss were unleashed and went full-bore heavy metal.
Aiding and abetting this: drummer Eric Carr was unchained on Creatures of the Night. His drum sound, inspired by the massive slam of Zeppelin’s John Bonham, was completely off the hook. These are by far the biggest sounding drums on any Kiss album. Also helping the band get heavier: a new songwriting partner. Vincent Cusano wrote and played on several tracks on Creatures. His talent was evident to all.
In fact there is a school of thought today regarding Mr. Cusano, later redubbed “Vinnie Vincent”. A large vocal group of fans proclaim today that “Vinnie Saved Kiss”. And that theory does hold some water.
Other contributors to the LP included Canadian writing team Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. Adam Mitchell and Mikel Japp also wrote with Paul and Gene. Guitarists Robben Ford, Steve Farris and Adam Mitchell lent chops and solos to the album. One guy who Gene claims came to the studio, but did not play, was one Eddie Van Halen. According to Gene Simmons, Eddie came down and poured his heart out complaining how miserable he was in Van Halen…and then asked to join Kiss. Believe it…or not?
The incendiary title track “Creatures of the Night” is powerful and instantaneous enough to be used as a concert opener. The metallic chug was new to Kiss, but not alien to them. This anthemic Paul Stanley rocker had the goods. Kiss were back, and in a big way. Just listen to those opening drums! It’s as if Kiss knew that Eric Carr still needed a more suitable introduction, and they gave it to him.
Creatures is notable for one major “first”. It was the first of many Kiss studio albums to only feature two lead singers, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Gene’s debut on Creatures is the incredible “Saint and Sinner”, heavy but low-key and based on a killer verse melody. “Get me off this carousel, you can do as you please…you can go to hell,” sings an angry Demon. And that’s Vinnie, absolutely smoking with a brilliantly melodic guitar solo. What a player…but only when he can control his instincts to play too fast.
Paul turns up the sex on “Keep Me Comin’” (har-de-har har!), a sleazy Kiss rocker with a heavy Zeppelin groove. While not quite filler material, “Keep Me Comin’” and another Paul track called “Danger” are definitely on the lower rungs of this album. “Danger” is the prototype for a kind of speed metal Kiss rocker that Paul threw on all the albums from this point to 1985.
One of Paul’s best songs, and longest lasting in concert, was the ballad “I Still Love You”. This is one heavy ballad, but Paul’s singing is completely over the top. Again, it’s more like a heavy Zeppelin blues ballad. A track like this proves why Paul is considered one of the greatest hard rock singers of all time. Not too many can do it like Paul on “I Still Love You”…and that’s Eric Carr on bass, by the way. Gene doesn’t play bass on most of Paul’s songs. Jimmy Haslip (ex-Blackjack featuring Michael Bolton and future Kiss member Bruce Kulick) and Mike Porcaro took over bass duties on “Danger” and “Creatures” respectfully.
As for Gene, Creatures really sounds up his alley, with tunes like “Rock and Roll Hell”, “Killer”, and “War Machine” suiting his dark persona. And what tunes these are, particularly “Rock and Roll Hell” which simmers with a midnight intensity. The song rides the basic bassline with not much in the way of additional crunch, into chorus time. The interesting thing is the song is actually a thorough re-working of an old Bachman-Turner Overdrive song written by Jim Valance. In fact, Valance claimed that Simmons only insisted on reworking the song in order to get writing royalties. Either way, “Rock and Roll Hell” just burns like an ember. Then in another interesting twist, the song was later covered by Ace Frehley (Origins Vol. 1)! A Kiss cover of a Kiss song he never played on.
“Killer” reeks of Vinnie Vincent. One of the key guitar riffs sounds quintessentially Vinnie, and kind of similar to his later solo track “Boyz Are Gonna Rock”. It’s a brilliant track, right up Gene’s alley, with intense speed and hooks. The female backing vocals in the outro are a surprise. “War Machine” on the other hand sounds purely Gene, even though it’s a co-write with Valance and Bryan Adams. Something about it personifies the “monster plod” sound that Gene specializes in. It’s apocalyptic Kiss metal for your nightmares. It’s strong and relentless.
The single was, of course, the overplayed “I Love it Loud”, which in turn was transformed into a killer music video featuring Ace Frehley miming Vinnie Vincent’s guitar. “I Love it Loud” is insanely catchy and unshakeable during its first several listens. After that, it’s too simple to maintain interest too long. It’s kind of baffling how this song has remained in set lists well past its sell-by date, especially when tracks like “Killer” and “Saint and Sinner” are not.
In 1985 this album was reissued with new non-makeup cover art. On the cover they replaced Ace Frehley, who never played on the album, with Bruce Kulick…who never played on the album. Three songs were remixed: “Creatures of the Night”, “War Machine”, and “I Love it Loud”, but only “Creatures” was included on the 1985 album. The remixed “I Love it Loud” was later issued on a compilation, and the remixed “War Machine” has yet to be released. The remixes by Dave Wittman generally toned down the awesome drum sound, weakening the experience overall.
Vinnie Vincent joined the band officially after Creatures was recorded, and was given his own makeup design: The “Ankh Warrior”. A strange choice for a new character; perhaps Kiss were plain out of ideas or just didn’t care. It’s the only Kiss makeup design to never be seen on an album cover. Then, Kiss embarked on their first American tour in years, the 10th Anniversary Tour. It featured a stage with a tank for a drum riser. “Killer” indeed!
Uncle Meat’s rating:
Meat’s slice: When Creatures of the Night was released in 1982, Kiss had been on the back burner for me for a couple years. Obviously still loved the classics, but 12 year old Meat was starting to become a huge fan of Heavy Metal music. Two different friends of mine and I were discovering new music together. Albums like Ace of Spades, Maiden Japan and Saxon’s Denim and Leather were the gateway drug for me on my way to being addicted to Heavy Metal. So when Creatures came out I recall being so into it, primarily because this was a “Heavy Metal” Kiss record. What’s not to like? The video for “I Love it Loud” was awesome and renewed my love for the band at the time.
So I listened to Creatures from stem to stern the other day, 35 years after it was released, and my take on this album is now quite a different story. I am expecting that many will disagree with my slice on this one, but circumstances dictate my review. Metal music just doesn’t inspire me the way it used to. The love is still there but the lust is gone. Obviously there are staples that I will always love, and new exceptions pop up all time time, but the truth is I would rather put on stuff like Steely Dan, Sly and the Family Stone, Grand Funk Railroad, Yes, Steve Earle, Drive by Truckers etc etc.
If I would have done these Meat Slices let’s say…20 years ago?…I probably would have panned Unmasked and praised this album. But now it is the opposite. The album’s title track, “I Still Love You” and “I Love it Loud” are still enjoyable to me, but pretty much every other song sounds very forced and downright boring to me. This is what happens when a band, who was used to ruling the world, tries to regain said status by joining the new Heavy Metal revolution. Trying to be something they are not. The albums previous (with maybe the exception of the song “The Oath”) and the albums that followed were not Metal albums. The following albums have some heavy songs, but are definitely not Heavy Metal records. You have to fast forward a decade until they released Revenge, and even that album had some different styles within it. It’s so strange to me that a Kiss record that sees Kiss trying SO HARD to be a heavy metal band, turns to Bryan Adams for inspiration? What’s Metal about that? Hello. McFly?
Rating this album was tough for me. I had to consider how much I loved it when it came out, and that the Creatures of the Night tour was my first Toronto arena concert. I can’t say I dislike the album, but I can say that of all the Kiss records I have revisited doing these slices, it’s this album that truly disappointed me because I went into the listen looking forward to hearing it again.
My final thoughts are this. Would diehard Alice Cooper fans consider Flush the Fashion a classic Alice Cooper record? It’s an album I owned on vinyl and I like the album, but it’s a blatant grab at the New Wave market and sounds nothing like the rest of his career. Celtic Frost has done everything possible to erase the memory of the deplorable Cold Lake, since it is a very un-Celtic Frost like record for the band. Creatures of the Night is not genuine to me. Most of the album sounds like the inspiration for Spinal Tap’s album, Smell the Glove. Especially the song “Heavy Duty”, and not surprisingly it was released not long after this in 1984. So, to end this slice I will refer to the immortal Derek Smalls and put it like this. Creatures of the Night is a disingenuous collection of head banging bullshit that to me is forgettable. It sounds square, clunky and has way too many forgettable songs on it. I would rather listen to Bryan Adams’ 1983 album Cuts Like a Knife. But Kiss…I still love you.
Favorite Tracks: “I Love it Loud”, “Creatures of the Night”, “I Still Love You”
Forgettable Tracks: The rest
LeBrain’s rebuttal: You’re Wrong on Creatures
For this Kiss Re-Review series, I have purposely avoided reading Uncle Meat’s reviews, and vice-versa, until they are ready to post. We wanted to avoid influencing each other. Creatures is an exception. Meat sent this to me a couple weeks ago, long before I even started my review. And now that I have read it…I feel like crying a single solitary tear of sadness, just like the one Gene shed in the video for “A World Without Heroes”.
Uncle Meat has a point about the switch to heavy metal music seeming like an act of desperation. I don’t doubt that if The Elder had been a hit instead of an abject nearly career-ending failure, Kiss would have continued in that direction. But we are talking about Kiss here. This is a band that have usually been followers, not leaders. Were they the first to wear makeup and heels? No. Did they invent disco with “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”? No. Going forward into the future, you will see Kiss continuing to chase other people’s sounds, such as Jon Bon Jovi and Alice in Chains. Even Revenge, which Meat mentioned above, seemed like an effort to bring things in line with what was happening in rock and roll.
Having listened to Creatures again for what must be the 30,000th time, my love for it is still strong. I’ve bought Creatures five times over the years. Every time I play it, I’m a 13 year old again. I sink into the guitar tones, which Vinnie just nailed on this album, and enjoy the booming echo of the drums. “I Love it Loud” no longer pitches my pup tent, but mostly due to overexposure.
On this, the Meatmaster General and I will have to agree to disagree. It’s something we often do when it comes to music, but the benefit is that it generates rich discussions, just like this one. — LeBrain
To be continued…
Original mikeladano.com review: 2012/07/28