October 06, 2009

Gene Simmons doesn't give a damn whether people buy the new KISS album.

Sure, it would be great for the Wal-Mart exclusive Sonic Boom to sell a couple hundred thousand copies and go No. 1 on the Billboard charts, but at this point in the band's career, touring is all KISS needs to fuel the Gene machine's quest for money.

The last album KISS put out was 1998's Psycho Circus, which was mostly ghostwritten by former members and other musicians and only had about two or three memorable tracks. This time around, the music is all KISS-written and -produced, which gives it more of an old-school feel.

Sonic Boom isn't exactly a direct throwback to the '70s heyday of the band, but rather a combination of sounds ranging from 1976's Rock 'n' Roll Over to 1992's Revenge. The album has enough solid moments to make die-hard fans happy, while showing the rest of the world that the band can still rock 'n' roll all night long.

The original KISS sound is hinted at throughout the album - most impressively on the raw opening track "Modern Day Delilah." The song has a warm production that is a testament to the greatness of analog sound that the popular performance-enhancing Pro Tools recording software cannot touch.

Surprisingly enough, Simmons steals the show on Sonic Boom. The blood-spewing demon has always been an underrated bass player, with awesome stage presence and a killer tone. "Russian Roulette" and "Hot and Cold" both feature Simmon's rumbling bass and trademark sexual innuendo-laden vocals.

"I'm an Animal" is one of the finest moments on the album. On the track Simmons boasts, "I'm alive / in the street / made of fire, made of heat / I'm an animal, and I'm free."

Frontman Paul Stanley's voice may have gotten a bit raspier over the years, but his singing still oozes with charisma. Tracks such as "Never Enough" and "Danger Us" contain powerful arena-rock anthem choruses, which prove why Stanley is one of the greatest vocalists of all time.

Even the so-called "new guys" - guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer, who have actually been in the band for years - get a chance to prove themselves on the recording.

On "All For the Glory," Singer takes over on lead vocals, singing "We're all for one and we’re all for the glory / When it's all said and done / they're gonna know the story / because we're all for one and we're all for the glory now." The song's chorus may be cheesy, but it works excellently for KISS, and it's catchy as hell.

Thayer definitely proves his worth in his lead guitar work throughout Sonic Boom. The man can play some smokin' licks and also has a powerful set of pipes.

On "When Lightning Strikes," he sings, "It's my move the ground shaking / this time I'm gonna knock you down / I'm coming through, no more waiting / I'm on the move at the speed of sound."

The song features prominent use of cowbell and competes with the best of the '80s KISS material.

"Sonic Boom" is everything that rock 'n' roll should be - over-the-top lyrics filled with sexual innuendoes, loud guitars, and catchy hooks. Whether you like it, KISS is here to stay.

Eric's Picks: "Modern Day Delilah," "Never Enough," "I'm an Animal"