Monday October 8th 2012 will be an important day in KISStory as New York’s finest, almost 40 years since they formed, release their 20th studio album titled Monster and it is an apt word to describe it! Released via the Universal Music Group it’s 13 tracks make up probably their most complete studio album.
I’m not really a massive fan of many of KISS’ studio albums and mostly rely on my KISS fix by blasting out their live albums but even though Sonic Boom was a return to form in 2009, Monster surpasses it with ease. My appetite was whetted when the press release described Monster as “No filler,no ballads. Just full throttle rock ‘n’ roll” . So when i had the opportunity to review Monster, i was looking forward to see if the hype was true and it certainly is!
Even though Monster is KISS’ 20th studio album it is only the 2nd with the current line up. The old guard of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley ably backed up by drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer. Monster was produced by Paul Stanley ( co produced by Greg Collins ) and Paul apparently worked the band hard, only allowing a handful of takes in the studio and most of the songs were put on the album after 1 or 2 performances! It was recorded on analog equipment, not digital thus giving it a live feel.
Lead vocals are mainly handled by Paul and Gene. Paul has 6,Gene 5, which gives Tommy Thayer the chance to shine on his self penned number Outta This World and Eric Singer makes his mark on the Paul Stanley written All For The Love Of Rock And Roll. The band all agree that the songs on Monster are so strong as they wrote the songs together sat in the same room.
Monster opens with the 1st single taken from it, a raging rocker called Hell Or Hallelujah with Paul’s opening line of “I rode the highway to heartache, i took a trip on the ship of fools”. Immediately the crystal clear production is an indication of what is to follow as the band join in on a huge chorus. After the 1st minute Tommy Thayer adds a few guitar lines between Paul’s vocal before he hits his 1st clinical guitar solo after 2 minutes. Wall Of Sound follows, one of 10 songs on Monster that Tommy Thayer co wrote and is Gene’s 1st lead vocal. Eric’s hard hitting drum patterns drive the song with the main riff similar to Spoonman by Soundgarden and some nagging guitar lines bringing to mind Helter Skelter by The Beatles.
Freak is a call to arms about individuality as Paul proves on the chorus of “I got streaks in my hair, people point at me and stare, if they ask me i say yeah, I’m a freak! And i love the clothes i wear, if they don’t like it i don’t care, it’s my cross i have to bear i’m a freak!” Back To The Stone Age has a powerful Gene vocal with another strong performance by Eric. Gene’s opening bass riff is taken over by the rest of the band sounding like a union of God Of Thunder and Kick Out The Jams by MC5.
Strangely enough, the main guitar riff in following number Shout Mercy has the tone of early Motorhead as Gene’s bass weaves in and out of it. Paul takes lead vocals here and is another song with an instantly memorable chorus. Long Way Down begins musically like Shapes Of Things by The Yardbirds but some heavy, rolling riffs take over with some catchy vocal phrasing by Paul and a killer guitar solo comes in at the 2 minute mark.
Eat Your Heart Baby is a Gene written song which is proven by his lascivious vocal and lyrics as his bass rumbles throughout. It starts with a band a cappella of “I wanna eat your heart out baby, won’t you give me something sweet?”. The Devil Is Me is another Gene lead song and maybe the lyrics are autobiographical as he sings “I ran from temptation, i prayed for salvation, i screamed out God save me!”. It is one of the heaviest songs on Monster.
Even though the press release said there were no fillers on Monster, Outta This World, written and sung by Tommy Thayer is the weakest track on the album. It is the most commercial song on it and although there is loads of cowbell and a corking guitar solo, it does not cut it for me. In complete contrast to Outta This World, the Paul Stanley penned track All For The Love Of Rock And Roll is another KISS anthem for the future. Sung by Eric Singer it surges along with a Rolling Stones vibe and some sugar sweet vocal harmonies.
Take Me Down Below, another bass heavy, Gene vocal lead number has more double entendres than a Carry On movie in just 3 and a half minutes! Another contender for heaviest song on the album is Last Chance, again with the bass dominating but this time with Paul on lead vocals. Bonus track Right Here,Right Now is another hard hitter. Reminiscent of early Tesla, with a Crazy Nights style chorus and twin guitar break midway, it is a fine way to close the album.
To summarize Monster in one word……….Monstrous!
KISS band line up :
Paul Stanley – Vocals/guitar.
Gene Simmons – Bass/vocals.
Tommy Thayer – Guitar/vocals.
Eric Singer – Drums/vocals.
Monster album track listing :-
Hell Or Hallelujah.
Wall Of Sound.
Back To The Stone Age.
Long Way Down.
Eat Your Heart Out.
The Devil Is Me.
Outta This World.
All For The Love Of Rock And Roll.
Take Me Down Below.
Right Here,Right Now (bonus track).
I award Monster 9.5/10.