Studio album #16, "Revenge," saw KISS roaring back to an edgier, harder form of rock n' roll after a fairly light string of albums throughout the 1980's. It came on the heels of the death of drummer Eric Carr, who is featured posthumously on two tracks on the album. It also features the return of Vinnie Vincent (at least as a songwriter), Bob Ezrin as the producer, and hinted at things to come with Tommy Thayer (who would eventually become the band's lead guitarist) on backing vocals.
The brutal "Unholy" opens the album, and it tells the listener that the Demon is back, and the lost soul that was Gene Simmons in the 80's was long gone. It sets the bar high for the rest of the album, and for the most part "Revenge" manages to hit that bar with success.
Two Paul Stanley tracks follow "Unholy," bringing a bit more of his signature pop sound back to the album, particularly with "Take It Off." "Tough Love," while a bit harder, is also pop-tinged.
The next tune shows us that the evil side of the Demon also brought the raunchy side with it. "Spit" talks of the virtues of plus-sized lovers and how "what you are is what you eat." It's pretty disgusting, even by KISS' standards, but it works perfectly on this album.
Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons swap lead vocals on the next track, a cover of an old Argent track that KISS entitled "God Gave Rock N' Roll To You I." The song was originally featured on the soundtrack to "Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey" and proved to be very popular. I've personally heard it played live, and it sounds great. The track is one of if not the first tune recorded by KISS with Eric Carr's replacement, Eric Singer. Carr provided backing vocals, but was too sick to actually play on the track.
After the cover tune comes another one of the Demon's raunchy tunes, a bluesy track entitled "Domino." I personally prefer the acoustic version featured on "MTV Unplugged," but this version is very good as well.
After that comes "Heart of Chrome" and "Thou Shalt Not." While there is nothing particularly bad about these tunes, I have never felt that they were stand out tracks, especially on an album like "Revenge." In my opinion, they weigh the album down and sound too generic.
The next track is the Stanley penned and performed "Every Time I Look At You." It's a ballad that is a bit more restrained than the full-on glam ballad "Forever" from KISS' previous album, "Hot In The Shade." It was released as a single but failed to match the success of "Forever" despite being a solid track in my opinion.
When the ballad comes to a close, "Paralyzed" hits the listener with more mediocre hard rock similar to that of "Heart of Chrome" and "Thou Shalt Not." It's not bad, but nothing stands out about this track. In fact, I'd say it's the weakest track on the entire album.
"I've go a body built for sin and an appetite for passion" opens up the next tune, "I Just Wanna," which gives us a perfect blend of Paul Stanley's songwriting from the 70's and his power pop sound developed during the 80's. It's a dirty track that reminded me a lot of "Read My Body" from "Hot In The Shade" and "Love Gun" from the album of the same name. It's a fun, silly, nasty tune that was a token of KISS during the 80's. It's the perfect counter-tune to "Unholy."
The album closes with "Carr Jam 1981." It's an instrumental demo that Eric Carr recorded along with Ace Frehley not long after he became the band's drummer. It's also a source of controversy for fans of the band. Why? Because Frehley's guitar tracks are replaced with Bruce Kulick's work, and many fans saw that as a snub towards Frehley and Carr as well. Carr was a brilliant drummer, and his death was a huge blow to fans of KISS. Despite replacing the much loved Peter Criss, Carr went out of his way to make himself accessible to fans, often staying much longer than the rest of his bandmates to sign autographs and take photos. Couple the appreciation of Carr with the devotion to Frehley from many fans, and "Carr Jam 1981" became a sour spot on the album for many. Personally, I enjoy the Carr/Kulick dubbed version, but it would have been very cool of KISS to have let Frehley's original work remain on the track.
Overall, "Revenge" was the heaviest and best album put out by KISS in the 1990's. That's not saying much considering the fact that the only competition was "Carnival of Souls" and "Psycho Circus," but when stacked up against the group's legendary works like "Destroyer" and "Love Gun," "Revenge" can hold its own.