KISS unleashes a Monster: the Album, the Tour, the Merchandise!
"You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!"
KISS is back, followed as always by the customary tidal wave of merchandising and hype. The legendary hard rock band - still fronted by Gene Simmons (bass/vocals) and Paul Stanley (guitar/vocals) after all these years - had a very busy 2012. Having recently completed a triumphant Summer concert tour across the U.S. with fellow hard rock survivors Motley Crue, the stage is now set for Monster, the latest KISS studio album, which hit stores via Universal Music Enterprises on October 9th in the United States. The KISS/Crue tour pairing was a reunion of sorts for the two bands, as Motley once opened for KISS on their Creatures of the Night tour way back in 1982, when the young Crue were supporting their debut album!!
Monster is the follow up to KISS' last studio album, 2009's Sonic Boom, which debuted on the U.S. Billboard charts at #2. Sonic Boom was the first new KISS studio album since 1998's Psycho Circus, and also the first to be recorded by the current lineup of KISS - Simmons, Stanley, guitarist Tommy Thayer (in the "Spaceman" position formerly held by Ace Frehley) and drummer Eric Singer (taking over the "Catman" role from Peter Criss), which has been performing together since Criss and Frehley left the band in the early 2000s. The first single from Monster, "Hell or Hallelujah," was released on July 2nd (July 3rd in the U.S.) and it immediately topped the Amazon UK and iTunes International singles charts as the KISS Army came out in droves to snap up the new song.
Official "Hell or Hallelujah" Lyric Video:
The members of KISS began tracking the songs for Monster in April of 2011, and recording was completed in January of 2012. Gene Simmons described Monster's sound as "a mix of Destroyer and Revenge" - a comparison that should make the loyal KISS Army members happy, as those are two of the band's benchmark records. Simmons says that Monster would be "the next step to Sonic Boom - very similar, no ballads, no keyboards, no nothing - just straight-ahead rock." Like Sonic Boom, Monster was recorded on old-school, analog studio equipment as the band wanted to try to recapture the vibe of KISS' classic early records. No outside songwriters were employed; all of the tracks were written solely by the band members. To anyone who's followed KISS over the years, this was welcome news, as towards the end of the '70s and throughout the '80s the band was well known for bringing in "song doctors" to punch up their compositions, which led to a dilution of the trademark, classic KISS sound. On Sonic Boom, the band was back to doing what they do best - making good ol' fashioned loud rock and roll!
Of course, no new KISS album release would be complete without an accompanying barrage of new KISS collectibles. KISS is well known for their mastery of merchandising, and the band has numerous goodies in the pipeline for 2012. The biggest and most ambitious of these is without a doubt the KISS Monster Book, a massive coffee table volume that even dwarfs their last foray into self-publishing, 1995's KISSTORY, which was a lavishly illustrated, 440 page hardcover that detailed the band's entire history up to that point. Limited to a printing of just 1000 copies worldwide, The KISS Monster Book (released in early July) promises to out-do Kisstory in size and scope. The website for the book promises that it's "Three Feet Tall and Two and a Half Feet Wide," "As Tall As a Guitar," and that it's packed with tons of never-before-seen photos from throughout KISS' history. Each hand-bound copy will be individually numbered and signed by all four band members and will feature the KISS "Monster" logo on the front accompanied by various flags of the world, representing the global reach of the KISS Army. The price tag for such a massive volume is equally massive - one of these babies will set you back a cool $4250. That is not a misprint, folks - that's FOUR THOUSAND, TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS. Wow, and here I thought the $158.95 price tag for KISSTORY was steep!!
On a slightly more affordable note, KISS and the makers of the animated TV hit "Family Guy" have recently announced a partnership that will result in a variety of KISS-branded "Family Guy" merchandise. KISS has made several appearances (in animated form) on the show in the past and this deal will produce everything from t-shirts to bobble head dolls and "fine art" featuring the "Family Guy" cast in KISS makeup. I wonder if there'll be a Gene Simmons/"Loose Lois" action figure playset?
Don't have a spare four grand to drop for the coffee table book? Not a "Family Guy" fan? Fear not, KISS still has you covered! Fangoria magazine, the #1 source for horror and science-fiction related fan publications, released the official Monster tour magazine in July, just in time for the band's road jaunt with the Crue. As you might expect, the Monster tour mag is packed with tons of full color photos, exclusive interviews and other info. The mag was made available on newsstands nationwide, as well as at the merchandise stand at each stop on the KISS/Crue tour. With a cover price of $10.99, it's cheaper than a t-shirt!
"Monster Book" Hype Video:
To further stoke the flames of hype, KISS released an all new, remastered edition of their classic 1976 breakthrough album Destroyer on August 21 via Universal Music. Repackaged and re-titled Destroyer Resurrected, this all new edition was painstakingly remixed by the album's original producer, Bob Ezrin, and features an alternate cover painting. This artwork by renowned fantasy artist Ken Kelly was intended for the original Destroyer release but was rejected by the record company for being "too controversial" at the time. This "new" cover still shows the band members in the familiar Destroyer pose, but against a different background and wearing different costumes than in the image that has become iconic to KISS fans over the years.
Extra goodies on this reissue include an alternate take of the album track "Sweet Pain" that features a different guitar solo, and a newly discovered rendition of the classic hit "Beth" with an extra "forgotten vocal piece" that was cut from the final album version. This writer honestly was hoping that we might get a few extra non-album tracks (like the long-lost Peter Criss song "Ain't None Of Your Business," which was demo'd for Destroyer in 1976 but didn't make the cut for the album) but fans will want to add this piece of KISStory to their collections nonetheless.
Bring on the Monster!!
Obviously KISS fans have much to look forward to over the next few months - with the band continuing to destroy concert venues worldwide on a nightly basis, to the new album, to tons of new, cool KISS junk to decorate their living rooms. This long time fanboy will have to pass on the Monster Book (if I spent four grand on that, my wife would divorce me in a heartbeat!) but I definitely will not be missing out on the new album. To my fellow members of the KISS Army, here's to ya, and to the detractors - if it's too loud, then you're too old!
Git some KISS!
KISS Select discography:
KISS - Casablanca, 1974
Hotter Than Hell - Casablanca, 1974
Dressed To Kill - Casablanca, 1975
Alive! - Casablanca, 1975
Destroyer - Casablanca, 1976
Rock and Roll Over - Casablanca, 1976
Love Gun - Casablanca, 1977
Alive II - Casablanca, 1977
Peter Criss (solo album) - Casablanca, 1978
Ace Frehley (solo album) - Casablanca, 1978
Gene Simmons (solo album) - Casablanca, 1978
Paul Stanley (solo album) - Casablanca, 1978
Double Platinum - Casablanca, 1978
Dynasty - Casablanca, 1979
Unmasked - Casablanca, 1980
Music From "The Elder" - Casablanca, 1981
Killers - Mercury, 1982
Creatures of the Night - Mercury, 1982
Lick It Up - Mercury, 1983
Animalize - Mercury, 1984
Asylum - Mercury, 1985
Crazy Nights - Mercury, 1987
Smashes, Thrashes & Hits - Mercury, 1988
Hot in the Shade - Mercury, 1989
Revenge - Mercury, 1992
Alive III - Mercury, 1993
MTV Unplugged - Mercury, 1996
You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best! - Mercury, 1996
Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions - Mercury, 1997
Psycho Circus - Mercury, 1998
KISS Symphony: Alive IV - Sanctuary, 2003
Sonic Boom - KISS Records, 2009
Destroyer Resurrected - Universal, 2012
Monster - Universal, 2012
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