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After an 11-year gap between albums last time out, KISS stomped on the heads of the naysayers and showed the world they were once again (or always were) a relevant band in rock and roll with love guns at the ready. Realizing they were on to something good, they wasted little time in releasing the appropriately titled Monster.
KISS teased us with “Hell Or Hallelujah” way before the release and it gets Monster off to a flier with its infectious guitar riff and superb Paul Stanley lead vocal. We all know the life story of Gene Simmons’ monster, but he has thankfully put it away long enough to put his mind to better use. “The Devil Is Me” and “Eat Your Heart Out” bounce along on that trademark groin-rumbling bass sound and he is up to his usual tricks on the gloriously filthy “Take Me Down Below.”
It could be argued there are a couple of side-steps in “Freak” and “Back To The Stone Age”; teenage lust sung through old man loins. But it could also be argued that if you were looking for music that didn’t come with a hard two-fingered poke in the eye of the face of subtlety, well, you’ve come to the wrong party, Mister/Missus. It’s KISS! And this could be the best album of their career.
Take any track and it could easily stand up against just about any of their previous lead tracks; the guitar licks are loud and proud, plenty of rock with the roll. It might not be much to boast about, but it gives a handful of albums (I’m looking at you, unmasked-‘80s) a good long-tongued licking.
Thanks to 2009′s Sonic Boom album it became apparent for those who had not seen KISS in a live capacity in recent years that those known as ‘hired guns’ were pretty good. But maybe there was still a suspicion that Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer were let out of their cages a little, but were told to go straight back before people started to realize. This time Thayer and Singer prove their worth to KISS. Thayer co-wrote most of the album, much of it with Stanley, and the double-tap of “Outta This World” and “All for the Love of Rock & Roll” with Thayer and Singer’s lead vocals stand proud on the record.
- O. Dan, Geeks of Doom
For one glorious sixty-second span near the end of their new album ‘Monster,’ Kiss once again (and finally) earn the title of “the hottest band in the land.”
The magic moment happens during the album’s penultimate track, ‘Take Me Down Below,’ which features a primal, rhythmic riff that sounds more like early AC/DC than anything in the Kiss catalog.
Smack dab in the middle of a typically outlandish Gene Simmons-sung tale of sexual conquest on the high seas (set during last year’s Kiss Kruise, perhaps?), his longtime bandmate Paul Stanley suddenly jumps in to take the lead for a spell.
Now the two have shared vocals on a few tracks in the past, most notably on ‘Shout it Out Loud.’ But for some reason this appearance comes as a particularly exciting surprise, and shows that time hasn’t left the band behind. In fact, the “Starchild” comes off a bit like a hip-hop star who’s just chomping at the bit to spit a verse on a hot beat one of his peers cooked up.
Stanley makes the most of his time, strutting like a peacock over Eric Singer’s thunderous drum rolls while gleefully dropping elevator-and cruise-related double-entendres that would make even a young David Lee Roth blush.
It’s outlandishly fun... the second single, ‘Long Way Down,’ which finds Stanley confidently treading into swirling, almost psychedelic territory. The song may be more of a kick for existing fans than something that will create new ones. But its clever use of T-Rex and Led Zeppelin riffs shows the often-forgotten depth of the band’s influences and suggests that more sophisticated music may yet be coming from our facepainted heroes in the future.
Other highlights on ‘Monster’ — which could most simply be described as a heavier, slightly more complex sequel to their 2009 retro-leaning studio comeback ‘Sonic Boom’ — include the a capella opening segment of the cowbell-heavy ‘Eat Your Heart Out’ and the Stones-ish “whoo whoo”s in the chorus of the soulful ‘Shout Mercy.’
All four members are in fine form throughout; with Simmons in particularly nasty spirits on ‘The Devil is Me,’ lead guitarist Tommy Thayer perfectly in “Spaceman” character on ‘Outta This World,’ and Singer channeling his inner cat on ‘All For the Love of Rock and Roll,’ which, if you’re feeling generous, could be imagined as the 11th track on 1976′s ‘Rock and Roll Over.’
- Matthew Wilkening, Ultimate Classic Rock