Release date: October 9, 2012
The mighty masked legends are back with another studio: Their second since the idea of new studio albums was nixed. Fortunately, 2009’s Sonic Boom proved there was more gas in the tank and more great tunes up their collective sleeves. The decision to let co-founder, guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley produce (with Greg Collins) has created a strong new dynamic for Kiss. In an era of cut and paste digital, Kiss went back to analog for a richer, warmer sound.
If one asks Gene Simmons (co-founder, bass, vocals) he’ll tell you, as he does an every album, that this is Kiss’ best work to date. Of course he’d be wrong, but that doesn’t mean Monster is a bust by any measure. What Kiss has come up with here is a fine dozen new songs, written entirely by Paul, Gene, and Tommy Thayer (guitar, vocals). Even drummer Eric Singer gets in the mix. The album manages to blend elements of Rock and Roll Over, Animalize and Revenge, to create a blend of the various shades of sonic KISStory.
Monster starts out with a wallop on the album’s first single, “Hell or Hallelujah”. This is one of two tracks penned solely by Stanley, who also co-wrote all but two tracks on the record. This song could have fit brilliantly with their early-to-mid-80s signature. Add another hit to the arsenal.
Simmons is up next on the track, “Wall of Sound”. There’s a nice groove here, and Gene sounds better than he has in a while. Meanwhile “Freak” sounds tailored for Simmons, who has some nice bass work here, is actually a Stanley/Thayer tune, and Paul sings it. Great chorus, and a strong statement about standing proud for who you are. While it’s not intended to be an anti-bullying tune, it certainly could be. Embrace your freakness, brethren.
“Back To The Stone Age” was a song title that had me worried, and as I suspected, it’s a track that doesn’t belong on the record. It sounds like a b-movie comedy soundtrack outtake. Pauly Shore anyone? Ironically the whole band penned this one.
The guys waste no time getting back to the good stuff, and “Shout Mercy” has a real old school Kiss vibe. Paul takes this one as well as, “Long Way Down” which has a bit of a psychedelic tint to it.
“Eat Your Heart Out” has a retro feel, with a very mature touch from the band. Classic Kiss in any genre, but you can really feel they are comfortable in their skin on this one. A real band effort. Gene’s best song since, “Domino”. “Take Me Down Below” also taps into that Revenge groove, with a track that seems like “Take It Off” meets “Spit”. Thayer’s solo on this one is tasty.
More great groove on “The Devil Is Me”. With a song title like that, you have to know Gene’s going to helm the mic. Not the strongest track on the album, but a solid song.
Thayer sends his own tribute to his hero, Ace Frehley with “Outta This World”. The band’s new Spaceman carries the torch forward. Great homage without turning it into Schlock Me.
Eric Singer gets his voice out for the Rock and Roll Over throwback, “All For The Love of Rock & Roll”. The second of Stanley’s solo-penned tunes, and perhaps the album’s best. Eric’s voice recalls Peter Criss in a feel good way that keeps his memory alive and well in Kiss’ music. Thayer’s solo is true old school Frehley.
Closing it out is “Last Chance”, and if you get the iTunes version of the album, you’ll also pick up the bonus track, “Right Here, Right Now”. Great song, unfortunately old school fans who buy the real disc get hosed unless they want to ante up another $10 for that one track. Fans should be rewarded for buying the real disc, not for buying digital. That’s insulting to fans.
In all, Monster is a top-notch affair from Kiss. While it certainly won’t make anyone forget Destroyer, it stands tall with many great albums in the Kiss catalog.
Let they naysayers start their rants now…