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Rock Music Review - KISS - Monster
The rock group “KISS” recently released their 20th studio album titled “Monster,” and said that the members of the “KISS Army” would not be disappointed. They stated that the sound was a throwback to their early albums like “Rock and Roll Over” and “Destroyer.” I for one have to agree with this statement. “Monster” earns a well-deserved place in the KISS discography, and is a record the group should be proud of.
At it’s most basic level, the album follows the standard KISS “formula” of hot guitar riffs, driving drums, and silly lyrics with endless sexual innuendo. Why do they use this formula year after year and album after album? Because it works, that’s why.
The band currently features original members Paul Stanley on vocals and guitar, and Gene Simmons on vocals and bass. They are joined by Eric Singer on the drums, and Tommy Thayer on lead guitar. They also provide lead vocals on one album track each, and Thayer also contributed his songwriting to a number of the album’s tracks. “Monster” is the second album by this “version” of KISS, and follows their 2009 release “Sonic Boom.” While some old-school KISS fans do not approve of Singer and Thayer’s wearing of the make-up made famous by their predecessors Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, it is hard to dispute the fact that they are as talented (if not more so) than the original KISS line up.
Another complaint that is often heard with KISS these days is that Paul Stanley's voice is "shot." This of course is up to the listener, as there were equal amounts of people saying Stanley's voice was at the top of its game on "Boom." Arguments are sure to follow with this subject after listening to "Monster" as well.
Below is a track-by-track listing of the album's songs, and a brief synopsis of each one.
Hell or Hallelujah
The album’s first track (and single) is called “Hell or Hallelujah.” It is a fast moving rocker that shows that the band means business from the get-go. Paul Stanley takes the lead singer duties on this one and totally shreds it as the rest of the band fills in wonderfully on the background vocals. One of my favorite aspects of the song is being able to pick out Gene Simmons’ trademark growly voice during the chorus while they yell “LAY DOWN!” “STAY DOWN!” and “PAY NOW!” The rest of the band is musically tight (or as tight as KISS can be) with Eric Singer’s driving drums and Tommy Thayer’s hot guitar licks. This one definitely belongs in an eventual “greatest hits” package.
Wall of Sound
The second song, the Gene Simmons led “Wall of Sound” has a driving bass and drum beat that carries the song from start to end. While it is not what one would call a hit song, it is definitely not something you could call album "filler" either. Simmons' trademark growl is front and center, and it does not disappoint.
Paul Stanley returns to the lead vocals on the third track titled “Freak.” While the song could be considered a great anthem for society’s “alternative” population, the lyrics just come across as “cheesy.” (Example: “I pledge allegiance, to the state of, independence"). Additionally, the vocals and sound as a whole are quite messy and sound like everyone is just shouting. The chorus is almost like a rhythmic and shouted chant, and each time the word “freak” is annoyingly echoed. This is by far my least favorite song on the entire album.
Back to the Stone Age
Track four is the Simmons led “Back To The Stone Age.” Like most of Simmons’ previous songs, the lyrics are dark and silly. However, because this is KISS we are talking about, it totally works. Tommy Thayer’s guitar solo part-way through the song is easily one of the highlights of the entire album. This is followed by Gene growling “I like it!” Classic KISS.
The song “Shout Mercy” has the possibility to be a concert favorite if the band were to head out on tour in full support of this album. It features Stanley on lead vocals, and the band backs him wonderfully on the chorus and added “woo hooo”s after the title is repeated. It is a solid addition to the album.
Long Way Down
Easily one of the most solid and rocking songs on the album is track 6, titled “Long Way Down.” I've heard some people compare it to something similar to a classic Led Zeppelin riff, which may not be far off. The band rocks this one to full KISS potential, and it shows. Definitely check this one out.
Eat Your Heart Out
"Eat Your Heart Out" starts out with the band singing the chorus acapella: "Eat your heart out baby. A won't you give me something sweet. Eat your heart out baby. A hot mess is justa what I need." Gene is singing this one, so you probably get the idea of what he is singing about.
The Devil Is Me
The Gene Simmons fronted "The Devil is Me" is simply a song that one would expect from the self-proclaimed "God of Thunder." Perhaps Simmons was inspired by this one by taking a look back at his years of skirt chasing, and lifestyle of fame and fortune. While he is living the much tamer married life these days, the growling lyrics definitely show that "The Demon" isn't far beneath his skin.
Outta This World
Guitarist Tommy Thayer got a track to show his vocal chops on the previous release “Sonic Boom,” and he gets another shot here on “Monster” with the song titled “Outta of This World.” Lyrically the song is pure cheese, and is akin to something you would hear from some “bubblegum” group on top-40 radio. However I have to admit it is one of my favorites, because darn it….it’s catchy. The song is also written by Thayer, so that somewhat explains why it does not fit the normal lyrical formula that KISS has been churning out for 40 years.
All For The Love Of Rock and Roll
Not to be left out, drummer Eric Singer also got a shot singing a song on this album and in my opinion….it is awesome. The song titled “All For The Love Of Rock and Roll” - which was written by Paul Stanley - has a bluesy swing that features catchy riffs and a great cowbell. You can never have too much cowbell. My favorite verse includes the classic line “That’s when you notice there’s a ring on her finger. That’s when she tells you that she’s single tonight.” It pretty much sums up the rock star ego.
Take Me Down Below
Gene and Paul take turns trading verses on the rocker “Take Me Down Below,” and in following the classic KISS-song-formula, the double-entendres fly. “She took my finger, here’s the button to press. I raised my flag and she dropped her dress.” They are not going to win any humanitarian awards with lyrics like this, but that is what makes KISS so fun to begin with. I think the KISS Army would agree, and it is part of the reason KISS has been in business for over 40 years.
The album’s last song, “Last Chance” is definitely “listenable,” but does not serve as a solid album closer. It borders on being considered “filler," and probably should have been replaced with something else. It also gives ammo to those that say Stanley's voice is shot, as his vocals are scratchy and sound rough. The song's saving grace is Tommy Thayer's shredding solo, and Simmons' driving bass.
While I am definitely biased as I have always considered myself a KISS fan, I am going to go ahead and give MONSTER a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. I definitely recommend this one, especially if you consider yourself part of the KISS Army.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Let me know what you think.