October 09, 2012
Metal Express Rating: 9.5/10


With their garish black, white and silver face paint and outrageous costumes with six inch stack heeled platform boots, KISS may just be the most instantly recognizable band on the planet. Hated by the critics yet adored by their fans, almost four decades in the business and 100 million album sales suggests that they've done something right and now they are back with their 20th studio album, Monster.

For a band who only a few years ago proclaimed that their recording days were over only to hit back with Sonic Boom, an album that saw them kept of the top of the US album charts by Michael Buble, KISS are on something of a roll.

In the past KISS have sometimes been guilty of straying too far from their signature sound, with forays into Disco/Pop territory with Dynasty, Hair Metal (Animalize), Grunge (Carnival of Souls) and even Symphonic Rock (the intriguing but ultimately unsuccessful The Elder) but Monster sees KISS heading in a heavier, darker direction while still retaining those classic KISS elements that has seen 28 gold records come their way, a record haul for an American band and second only to The Beatles.

There`s plenty of thumping stop/start Rock `n` Roll riffs, screaming, staccato, Chuck Berry inspired guitar solos, fist pumping anthems and clanking cowbell. It`s all here in abundance, wrapped up with some of the tastiest melodies around.

Lead singer/guitarist Paul Stanley comes up trumps as usual with the hallmark up-tempo, chest beating songs laced with interminably catchy hooks. “Hell or Hallelujah” positively roars out of the stocks in a way not heard since “I Stole Your Love” kicked off Love Gun back in `77. “Freak” and “Last Chance” hit hard but with a melody you`ll be humming for an age.

Gene Simmons (bass/vocals), so often in Stanley's shadow in the song writing stakes is a revelation with “The Devil is Me” and “Eat Your Heart Out” adding the menace and the bite to counter point Stanley`s glitz. Simmons hasn't delivered this consistently since 1982`s Creatures of the Night opus.

While Stanley and Simmons share the bulk of the lead vocals, even trading lines in “Take Me Down Below”, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer have their moment in the spotlight. Singer, with his gravel edged voice, shines on “All For The Love of Rock & Roll”, a song that tips its hat to the early Dressed To Kill days while Thayer`s “Out of this World” is one of many highlights on the album.

Thayer, who at times has received stick for replacing the original Space Man, Ace Frehley, has succeeded in breaking out from the shadows not only co-writing nine of the albums tracks but stamping his own individual style throughout the album rather than closely replicating Frehley`s technique as on Sonic Boom.

A band almost 40 years into their career should by all logic be heading into pipe and slippers territory yet KISS have always lived to break the rules and may just have released their strongest, most consistent and exciting record since their `70`s heyday.