When KISS released Creatures of the Night back in 1982, it was an attempt by the band to reclaim their proper place in the rock hierarchy after a string of lukewarm and disastrous album performances. The album itself was excellent and extremely heavy, but suffered due to the fact that many fans had just given up on KISS or were still licking their wounds due to the departure of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss.
Their next release, 1983's Lick It Up, turned out to be one of the band's biggest albums and re-ignited their popularity, particularly helping the band pick up more mainstream fans. The album found the group without makeup, with another lead guitarist in Vinnie Vincent, and with Eric Carr very comfortable in his role as the band's permanent drummer.
Of course, egos will collide, and Vincent split from the band. He was replaced by Mark St. John, who joined the group for the release of 1984's Animalize. This album bested the success of Lick It Up and KISS seemed to finally be back on track.
Well, as it is in the rollercoaster world of rock n' roll, St. John had to leave the band due to his suffering with Reiter's Syndrome. KISS found themselves without a lead guitarist for the third time in just a few short years.
Thankfully, Bruce Kulick (who toured with the group when St. John was unable to play) came along and KISS was a solid unit once again. Kulick outshined the entire group with his performance on his debut album with the group, 1985's Asylum.
Asylum is one of those albums that doesn't sound that good when you run through the tracks for the first time. I find this to be true of all of KISS' releases in the 1980's. Only after multiple listens did I come to appreciate this album for what it really is, a glam rock gem.
Opening with the punchy rocker King of the Mountain and then followed up by the Gene Simmons' tune Any Way You Slice It, fans of the group noticed that KISS was finally beginning to meld their raunchy past with the current sounds of the 80's. The next track on the album, Who Wants To Be Lonely, is an excellent blend of equal parts anthemic rock and power ballad.
Arena rocker Trial By Fire and pop rock tune I'm Alive follow up Who Wants To Be Lonely. These tracks lead up to the rapid-fire of Love's A Deadly Weapon.
The next track eventually became one of KISS' biggest hits. I'm talking about the power ballad Tears Are Falling. This particular song, despite being a ballad, is very heavy. It's also one of the most flamboyant videos for the band.
Secretly Cruel comes up next, and is a fairly standard glam rocker for the 1980's. It, along with the next track, a very forgettable Radar For Love, are the only reasons I am not giving this album five stars. While Secretly Cruel isn't a bad song, it suffers from the mediocrity that I found on many of the non-single tracks throughout KISS' 80's projects. Radar For Love is just plain bad. It sounds forced, and is only saved by Kulick's strings.
The final track on the album is one of my favorites from the 80's from KISS. While I wouldn't put it in my top ten favorite KISS tunes, it's definitely knocking on my top fifteen. Uh! All Night really needs no explanation. If you don't know what KISS is singing about on this blunt anthem, you have lived a very, very sheltered life. The video for this song is one of their best as well.
Asylum is one of KISS' strongest offerings from the 80's. While it does contain a couple of misfires, the album as a whole is pretty good. Paul Stanley turns in another solid performance and took part in production duties for this album. Gene Simmons, despite being listed as one of the producers, was losing a grip on his role in the band, but you can't hear it on this album. As stated before, Kulick's performance is brilliant, and he solidifies the argument that he is possibly KISS' best guitarist. Eric Carr keeps things moving at an always wonderful pace, and his rock n' roll credentials bleed through best on King Of The Mountain.
1987 would bring on an even more mainstream sounding KISS album with Crazy Nights, and the group would sustain its popularity into the very early 1990's.