RE-REVIEW: KISS – Asylum (1985)

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 28 

 – Asylum (1985 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

When we last met our heroes, they were a fractured bunch with differing priorities.  Gene Simmons cut his hair and went to Hollywood.  Paul Stanley was steering the Kiss ship singlehandedly.  They were down a guitar player (Mark St. John) but were fortunate to find his replacement in Bruce Kulick.  Not only was Bruce an old acquaintance (his brother Bob played on a number of Kiss tracks) but he was also just what the band needed.  He added a shot of stability and wrote good material.  He has three writing credits on his first album Asylum, and that was just the beginning.

Paul and Gene produced Asylum, in a similar way to how Animalize was recorded.  As had become routine, Gene wasn’t around to record some of the bass parts in Paul’s songs.  Jean Beauvoir returned to fill in, while Paul also played some bass.  Without Gene fully committed, Asylum was the second Kiss album in a row hobbled by his reduced participation.  Animalize was a huge selling album for Kiss having gone platinum.  Asylum sounds like Paul wanted to duplicate that record.

Eric Carr opens the album with a thunderously memorable drum intro.  Carr didn’t have to try to impress anybody; his drumming brought Kiss to a higher level musically.  His double bass work on “King of the Mountain” would make Lars poo his pants.  For Carr fans, “King of the Mountain” surely must be considered one of his brightest moments.  Fortunately the song also kicks ass.  As one of the Kulick co-writes, the new guitarist impresses immediately.  His soloing style was so much smoother than his predecessor Mark St. John.  He had similar speed and ability but better composition when it comes to solos.  Meanwhile, Paul takes this high octane speed rocker and turns it into a rallying call of encouragement.

I’m gonna climb the mountain,
I’m gonna hit the top,
I wanna go where nobody’s ever been,
I’m never gonna stop.

Who needs Shakespeare when you just need a good shake?  “King of the Mountain” is fuel injection for the bloodstream.

Over to Gene.  “Any Way You Slice It” kicks ass.  He had a habit of barking out his lyrics in the 80s, and “Any Way You Slice It” is very bark-y.  The riff really catches air and takes off.  Back to Paul, and a big single.  “Who Wants to Be Lonely” has a chug and a plaintive chorus.  Paul’s vocal abilities were at a peak, but it sounds like Gene was nowhere near the studio when it was recorded.

There are a lot of contributions from outside songwriters on Asylum, from people such as Desmond Child and Jean Beauvoir.  One of the few songs without them is “Trial By Fire” by Gene and Bruce.  Once again the rhythm is a chug, but this simple little rocker is appealing.  There’s nothing wrong with the chorus, but it has never been played live.  Nor has Paul’s “I’m Alive” which just takes the speed thing to an absurd level for this band.  Kiss isn’t a speed metal band and “I’m Alive” isn’t a memorable song.  “I’m hot enough to give you chills.”  I’ll take your word for it, Paul!

Flip the album and you’ll hear “Love’s a Deadly Weapon”, which both Gene and Paul have a credit on.  This is noteworthy, because the pair hadn’t written anything together on Animalize and only one track on Lick it Up and The Elder each.  That’s all the co-writing credits they had together after the infamous Kiss solo albums.  However, “Love’s a Deadly Weapon” isn’t really a co-write.  It’s one of Gene’s songs, with a title and some words taken from a Paul Stanley demo called “Deadly Weapons”.  Again, Kiss takes the speed level to the absurd.  This ironically renders the song powerless.

Fortunately Paul’s big single “Tears are Falling” brings back the quality.  It was one of the few songs from this era to continue to be played live.  It was kept in the set on the Revenge tour, and had been brought back periodically by the current lineup of the band, even appearing on their last album Kiss Rocks Vegas.  That’s because it has a chorus that goes on for days and days.  Bruce’s guitar solo is one his most memorable, which doesn’t hurt either.

Gene’s “Secretly Cruel” shows off his sleazy side, on a likeable but forgettable album track.  He wrote this one solo, just as Paul did for “Tears are Falling”.  And it’s sleazy from there in.  “Radar for Love” is a Paul/Desmond composition with a groove and a chorus that nails it.

And then it’s “Uh! All Night”.  Yes, “Uh! All Night” is the name of a song.

I’ll confess that when I first heard “Uh! All Night” in 1985, I didn’t know what “Uh!” meant.  I figured it meant “partying” or something.  And there was a period when I really liked this song, but that was over 30 years ago and it sure has worn out its welcome.

Kiss went on tour again, never leaving home territory except for one date in Toronto.  This was a step backwards for the so-called “Hottest Band in the World”.  Asylum wasn’t the hit album that Animalize was.  Money was becoming a problem.  These are problems they aimed to solve next time.

The irony is, although Asylum wasn’t as big as Animalize, song for song it’s probably a better album.

Today’s rating:

3.5/5 stars

To be continued…

Original mikeladano.com review:  2012/08/02

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16 comments

  1. Glad to see the Kiss reviews back in action. I am sure you needed a break. I liked Asylum and it was a great tour! The only song I disagree on is I’m Alive. That was a standout for me solely due to the speed of it. I was happy to hear them take it up a notch and it is why I love Bruce in the band.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually it’s more Uncle Meat who I think burned out…80s Kiss isn’t his thing. He wanted to do a zero word review for this but no ideas were surfacing. I think you pretty much took the zero word review to its natural peak. I don’t think it can be topped or even followed!

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  2. I have one bitter memory about this album, I was jipped out of getting a free copy. Fortunately my friend had it so I didn’t have to buy it. I saw KISS on this tour and except for “Tears are Falling” and “Uh All Night,” I don’t remember them playing anything else from it. I share your sentiments though.

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  3. HA..that HMO is one funny dude! I will say that the music to Uh All Night is good….
    Ok now to the task at hand!
    This album is ok.
    One of things is Carr is a beast on some of these tracks as u mentioned. Criss must have shat a brick when he heard the opening intro to King of The Mountain!
    Crazy thing is i ave always had a soft spot for Simmons dumbo rock Neanderthal tracks! Case in point…
    From Lick It Up- Young and Wasted
    From Animalize- Lonely Is The Hunter
    From Asylum-Love Is A Deadly Weapon
    From Hot In The Shade – i gotta back to u on that one….

    This album is like when u bump into someone you haven’t seen in a long time and you make nice as you really couldn’t stand them back in the day..
    Thats Asylum to me…(crap should have used this line when i reviewed Asylum)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know the album, but based on your review, that artwork would easily lift the score to a 5. Even if the album was flaming hot rotten tomatoes, that artwork ensures this album would be a 5.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just started reading Sebastian Bach’s 18 and life on Skid Row. Only 73 pages down and so far Kiss has been mentioned like 100 times. A must read. Pages just fly by.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “The irony is, although Asylum wasn’t as big as Animalize, song for song it’s probably a better album.”

    How much of that was just timing? Were people just not ready for KISS when this came out? Or had news of the tension in the band made people just give up on them, even if they bought the record?

    Liked by 1 person

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