KISS, "Creatures of the Night" (1982) album review

Original album cover (reinstated in 1997)
Original album cover (reinstated in 1997) | Source

KISS - CREATURES OF THE NIGHT (1982)

KISS had been one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970s, but the fearsome foursome's empire was standing on shaky ground as the decade turned. Two consecutive KISS studio albums had failed to reach the lofty multi-platinum sales heights they were accustomed to - 1980's radio-friendly Unmasked briefly cracked the top 40 but then struggled to reach Gold Record status, and 1981's disastrous concept album Music From "The Elder" sank without a trace. The band was also struggling with personnel problems during this time. Drummer Peter Criss was dismissed in 1980 and though the superior drumming skills of his replacement Eric Carr had proved to be a musical shot in the arm, original guitarist Ace Frehley was also looking for the exit door after the Elder debacle. Amidst all this turmoil, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley realized that they'd managed to alienate much of their loyal KISS Army fanbase by flirting with pop, disco, and art-rock on their past few records, and resolved that their next album - to be titled Creatures of the Night - would be a "back to basics" LP filled with the classic loud, raucous hard rock anthems that had been KISS' trademark.

1985 re-release cover
1985 re-release cover | Source

The Album...

KISS began recording Creatures in July of 1982 with producer Michael James Jackson behind the control board. Jackson was not related to the "other" Michael Jackson, but he was a prolific producer and songwriter with a long list of credits (including work for such diverse artists as Little Richard, the Animals, and Paul Williams) dating back to the late 1950s. Due to Ace Frehley's lack of participation in KISS business at the time, the band produced Creatures as a trio, with a number of studio musicians (including Robben Ford and Steve Farris) contributing uncredited guitar leads. One of these fill-in guitarists - Vincent Cusano, a.k.a. Vinnie Vincent - contributed heavily to the songwriting on the album and was eventually chosen to be Ace Frehley's permanent replacement, taking on an Egyptian styled "Ankh" makeup design for the subsequent concert tour. Several tracks were co-written with outside songwriters, including Adam Mitchell, Jim Vallance, and Bryan Adams (yes, that Bryan Adams!). The resulting album was KISS' hardest rocking album since the glory days of the early '70s. Heavy metal was on the rise again at this time, thanks largely to the newly-created MTV network, and KISS certainly seemed poised to take advantage of its resurgence with Creatures.

The title track opens the album and immediately makes a bold "We're BACK!" statement. Catchy and featuring soaring vocals by Paul, this track sets the album's tone and paves the way for Gene's first vocal contribution, the sinister "Saint and Sinner." "Keep Me Comin'" suffers from an irritating chorus but again, Paul is in great voice. Gene's "Rock and Roll Hell" is up next and it's a satisfying slab of fire and brimstone rock with Simmons' growly vocals providing the usual amount of leering menace. "Danger" ends side 1 and is a fast paced rocker with Paul screaming for all he's worth on the chorus.

Side 2 is mainly Gene's show. "I Love It Loud" starts things off and this thumping anthem has gone on to become one of KISS' signature tunes. Yeah, the lyrics are ridiculous but you can't argue with those cannon-fire drums from Eric Carr! Things slow down a bit on the ballad "I Still Love You," which just may be the finest vocal performance of Paul Stanley's career. Listen to the way he wails out the chorus towards the end and see for yourself! "Killer" picks up the pace again with another crunchy riff and more thunderous Carr drumming, before closing with the absolutely awesome "War Machine," which echoes the grandeur of "God of Thunder" (from 1976's Destroyer). When the smoke cleared at the end of the album, the message was obvious - KISS was firing on all cylinders again, and they were packing enough ammunition to kick your ass into next week!

"I Love It Loud" video:

The late, great Eric "The Fox" Carr (1950-1991) in a still from the "I Love It Loud" video
The late, great Eric "The Fox" Carr (1950-1991) in a still from the "I Love It Loud" video | Source

The Reception...

Despite the fact that Creatures of the Night was KISS' best album in half a decade, it was met with tepid initial response. MTV only provided minimal support to the music video for "I Love It Loud," and the album stalled after reaching #45 on Billboard's sales chart. Ticket sales for the Creatures U.S. tour were also less than spectacular. Several dates on the tour were played to half empty arenas, while other shows were cancelled outright due to lack of interest. The band's profile may have been suffering in their homeland, but KISS learned that their overseas following was still as fanatical as ever when they traveled to Brazil in early 1983 and packed massive soccer stadiums with crowds that numbered in the hundreds of thousands. These Brazilian shows were the last concerts KISS would play in makeup till the 1996 reunion tour. When they returned home, KISS prepared their next album (Lick It Up), "unmasked" on MTV and spent the next decade and a half rebuilding their brand without the iconic war paint.

The so-called "Brazilian Promo" version of CREATURES with Vinnie Vincent in place of Ace Frehley on the cover is actually a crafty bootleg.
The so-called "Brazilian Promo" version of CREATURES with Vinnie Vincent in place of Ace Frehley on the cover is actually a crafty bootleg. | Source

The Many "Creatures" Covers...

The Creatures album cover has become one of the most iconic images in the KISS catalog, featuring the four band members' faces staring menacingly out at the viewer, bathed in an eerie blue glow. Ironically, that image is totally inaccurate due to the presence of Ace Frehley in the cover photo. Ace had no input whatsoever during the writing or recording of Creatures, yet due to behind-the-scenes contractual wrangling he was still obligated to appear on the album cover and in the music video for "I Love It Loud." Aside from a few promotional appearances when the album was first released, these were Ace's last activities as a member of KISS and he was officially replaced by Vinnie Vincent by the end of 1982.

Adding to the confusion, Mercury/Polygram remixed and reissued Creatures in the mid '80s - after the band had removed their trademark makeup - to capitalize on the band's resurgence in popularity. The original cover was replaced by a new photo that showed the now-barefaced band, including then-new guitarist Bruce Kulick, who didn't play on the album either! (The original cover was re-instated when the album was remastered and reissued along with the rest of the KISS catalog in 1997.)

In the mid-2000s KISS Collectors began salivating over rumors of a recently discovered stash of so-called "Brazilian Promo" copies of the album which featured Vinnie Vincent in Ace Frehley's place on the cover, wearing his "Ankh" makeup. Legend had it that these "ultra rare" editions were only sold in Brazil when KISS performed their final shows in makeup there in early 1983. These LPs quickly began fetching premium prices on eBay and other auction sites, until it was revealed that these so-called "Brazilian" pressings were the creation of a sneaky bootlegger with airbrushing skills.

Summin' it up...

Though Creatures never got its proper due during its initial release, its reputation has slowly grown over the years. KISS fans and band members alike agree today that it ranks as one of the band's finest hours. (Gene Simmons has stated that KISS is best represented by three albums: Destroyer in the '70s, Creatures in the '80s, and Revenge in the '90s.) The album was eventually awarded a Gold Record (for sales of 500,000 copies in the U.S.) in 1994 and several tracks from it still find their way into KISS set lists to this day. This writer feels that it's their most bad-ass record of the 1980s and quite possibly their most bad-ass album overall. Newcomers to the KISS Army (as well as anyone who might have passed on it the first time) are well advised to give this underrated classic a spin. As for everyone else... well, if it's too loud, you're too old!!

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Comments 19 comments

theJOKERiv profile image

theJOKERiv 4 years ago

Another great hub!!!!! Excellent review of an EXCELLENT album!!!! I remember picking it up on cassette as a new release and being blow away at how great of an album it was! I wore out the cassette and replaced it with vinyl. And bought the re-mastered CD. I never bought the make-up less cover since I already had bought the album twice at the point! The album should have been a much bigger hit than it was, but KISS had turned away so many fans with the previous 3 releases that it hadn't repaired the damage. On a side note, I was really pissed that my parents wouldn't let me go to concert (Dad didn't want me to go because of "drugs" at concerts) - I had a bunch of friends that went. Night Ranger opened that gig. And I missed it.....


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Joker... thanx for stopping by as always... I had a vinyl LP of this album forever, I refused to buy that no-makeup version (with Paul Stanley's ass on the back cover!) so I didn't have it on CD till the remasters came out in the late 90s. Haha.


QuothTheRaven 4 years ago

Hey Freddy!

Just recently started reading your hub. Great stuff! "Creatures" is one of my favorite KISS albums and I agree with your statement that "I Still Love You" might be Paul's best vocal of his career. The performance of that tune on "Unplugged" is absolutely stellar!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi QTR! Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad you dig!


mannyalice 4 years ago

My favorite KISS album of all time, and the first KISS album I bought as a new release, when I brought into car, my dad just rolled as his eyes at the cover and my older sister sneered, 'God please tell me you don't like that heavy metal shit!'


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Manny. I experienced a similar reaction from my Dad many times when he'd pick me up at the Mall and I'd show him my latest LP or cassette acquisition -- "THIS is what you spend your money on? Good Lord." Haha.


Brett 4 years ago

Great review! I love the hard edge that KISS gave to this album. I didn't get into KISS until 1985, but in contrast to several of the other people here, whose dads disapproved of their taste in music, I was able to boost my KISS collection by borrowing albums from my dad and taping them.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Thanx Brett. Sounds like you had a cool Dad!


ScurvySkalliwag profile image

ScurvySkalliwag 4 years ago from Judith River, Montana

The drum sound was "MONSTER" on this lp. I was privledged to see an ampitheater show this tour in So. Cal with Motley Crue opening up. It was a pleasant surprise when I heard the first sample of this lp on the radio. A DJ on KCAL FM in Redlands, Calif. played "Danger" on his late night show. I went down to GrooveTime Records the net day and bought it. Like Freddy stated, the opening tune made a statement. The KISS albums have always been trios to me. The first three studios. Destroyer, R n R over, and Love Gun. Then ya got Dynasty, Unmasked and (Music From) The Elder. All of which I dug on, by the way. Which then brings us to this trio of lps. Creatures, Lick it Up and Animalize. The "tres metallis" as I call them. I will also add that KISS would be smart to include some tunes from Creatures onthis upcoming "The Tour". They probably won't. KISS has unfortunately became calculated and pretty far removed from what fans would like to hear.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Last I checked, "I Love It Loud" from this LP still makes it into KISS set lists on occasion... no idea if they'll be playin' it on their upcoming tour though.


OldWitchcraft profile image

OldWitchcraft 4 years ago from The Atmosphere

Wow! Great info. on a great band - one of the first concerts I ever saw. Love these guys!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 4 years ago from The Garden State Author

Cool man, glad you liked it. KISS geeks unite!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Updated!


Keith Ham profile image

Keith Ham 3 years ago from Niagara Falls, Ontario

I'm going to bite my tongue as to the fact of if KISS was anymore then Rock, if that. But hey, good article and lots of information. You love your music.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi Keith - the debate on whether or not KISS is "metal" depends on which fan you talk to, haha. However you want to classify them, CREATURES was definitely their most METAL sounding record, if you know what I mean. Thanks for reading.


BlackDiamondCheesehead 3 years ago

I had the "non-makeup" cover cassette back in day - it was all you could get in the late '80's - lol.

One of KISS's most solid albums, for sure - and a great showcase for Eric Carr's power drumming skills. Most fans think this album saved their career - this or "Lick It Up" - so thanks, Vinnie Vincent - you earned your paycheck!

You Creatures fans will be happy to know "I Love It Loud" and "War Machine" feature on the latest Monster tour - saw it this week and these two songs were phenomenal!


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 3 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi again, BlackDiamondCheesehead - thanks for your comments. Glad to hear "I Love It Loud" and "War Machine" are getting airtime on the current tour!!


shramiac 2 years ago

Bob Kulick didn't play on the album! Danger and Keep Me Comin were often credited to Bob but were in fact played by Vinnie. Bob in a 2011 interview confirmed none of his playing is on the finished album.


FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 2 years ago from The Garden State Author

Hi shramiac - you're probably right, since I wrote this piece I have learned that Bob Kulick worked with them on the four new songs that were added to the "Killers" compilation, which were recorded prior to the "Creatures" sessions.

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