In this day and age when they are far too many bands holding on to their glory days, we still have KISS who is still making great music. I know that it is not the cool thing to say in metal though. It is cool to say that KISS’ debut album rocks and everything since has been mediocre at best. I cannot say that because, in my opinion, KISS has not bad a misstep (musically) yet.
Monster was entirely recorded on old analog equipment, which is a mega-ballsy move from a band like KISS. I was curious to see how this would affect their sound (if at all) and if it was a telling sign of what Monster was going to sound like. We did get a rawer sound to the album, but it is still as polished as we would expect from KISS.
Gene Simmons and his fellow remaining Kiss co-founder, Paul Stanley, have said that Monster is meant to be a throwback to their creative peak: 1976’s iconic Destroyer. I can hear a lot of that in Monster, but I also see nods to various other time frames in KISS’ timeline. Gene mentioned a little mix of Destroyer and Revenge. I can definitely hear that.
As far as the members of the band, we are sans Ace Frehley and Peter Criss who are replaced by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer respectively. Not having Criss really does not phase me in any way, but I will always miss Ace. He is one of the most dynamic guitar players of all time. This is not a knock on Tommy Thayer at all because he is a hell of a player and fits in as nicely as anyone could. Of course, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are back to their usual tricks with songwriting and we are eating it up.
The first single off of Monster, Hell or Hallelujah, has a Motorhead slant on things, but that is not a rip in any way because Motorhead and KISS do their own thing and have their own style. I am sure that everyone has, at the very least, heard Hell or Hallelujah, so I will not belabor this one. It is a straight rocker with decent riff work and a great vocal melody.
Wall of Sound is Simmon’s first contribution to the album and you can tell that it is a Gene song right from the opening riff. I will say that most Simmons’ songs lately have been hit or miss, so I was glad to see that Wall of Sound is a very nice effort.
The next track is Freak, and you can really hear the rawness of the recording on this track. This is easily one of the highlights of the album with a sweet chorus. It is also one of the few songs on the album that tries to break the formulaic approach that most of the songs have.
Back to the Stone Age is another typical Gene song, but with one main difference – it really sounds a lot like Deuce.
A lot of the songs sound pretty average with the best of them happening in the beginning of the album. I will not even speak of Thayer’s vocal song. Yikes.
Overall, KISS is back with another solid effort, but I would have liked to have heard some more hooks in their music. Most of the songs were very formulaic and could have been improved upon greatly. The album seemed (almost) rushed. Once again, I am not knocking the album because it is better than 95% of what is out there today. Let’s face it, KISS has nothing left to prove with their albums. They have done it all. They sell out any show that they perform and every show is a big deal. I am just happy that they still have the passion to record music.
Paul Stanley: guitar & vocals
Gene Simmons: bass & vocals
Tommy Thayer: guitar
Eric Singer: drums