October 16, 2009
KISS is alive and 35 at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville

BY DAN ARMONAITIS, Spartanburg Herald-Journal

A strange thing has happened with the release of "Sonic Boom," the new album by rock legends KISS.
In the week-and-a-half since it hit the shelves as a Wal-Mart exclusive, "Sonic Boom" has earned KISS something it has lacked throughout much of its 35-year career --critical respect.

While dedicated fans have always shown absolute adoration for the band, music industry insiders have not been so kind, often ridiculing KISS as little more than a novelty act. Despite its huge influence on the contemporary music scene, KISS still remains a non-Rock and Hall of Fame member even though it has been eligible for an entire decade.

But even the harshest KISS critics have toned down the negativity in their reviews of "Sonic Boom," with many hailing it as the best album the band has produced in more than 30 years.

Recorded entirely in analog, "Sonic Boom" is a throwback to another era, often recapturing the unbridled energy and catchy, hook-laden sound of such legendary early KISS efforts as "Hotter Than Hell," "Dressed to Kill," "Destroyer" and "Love Gun."

KISS has always been about giving its fans exactly what they want, and, in the case of "Sonic Boom," the makeup-sporting quartet -- headed by co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley -- has once again delivered the goods.

In the 1970s, KISS was a larger-than-life phenomenon with an air of mystique surrounding its members' superhero-like identities.

The instantly recognizable images of Simmons as "The Demon," Stanley as "The Starchild," Ace Frehley as "The Spaceman" and Peter Criss as the "The Catman" are now ingrained in the consciousness of rock fans worldwide and are displayed on merchandise ranging from lunchboxes to Mr. Potato Head figures.

Guitarist Tommy Thayer has replaced Frehley in the band, and Eric Singer is now the drummer in place of Criss. On "Sonic Boom," each contributes in a major way.

The release of "Sonic Boom" assures that KISS' current "Alive/35" tour -- which makes a stop Saturday at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville -- will be more than a triumphant nostalgia ride.

But, don't think for a moment that such staples as "Detroit Rock City," "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Deuce," "Love Gun," "Strutter" and "God of Thunder" won't echo from the rafters. After all, it's the classic KISS material that made the back-to-roots nature of "Sonic Boom" possible.