I've been a huge KISS fan for quite a few years now, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that I've been eagerly waiting for the release of Monster. After the release of Sonic Boom (which I waited over a decade for) and the highly successful world tour in support of it, KISS announced that they would be releasing their next album some time in late 2011 (November if memory serves me correctly). When I heard this news, I became ecstatic.
KISS would leak tidbits of information about the writing and recording process (which baited fans even more) but as November drew near, the band became somewhat quiet. Soon enough, they announced that there new album wouldn't hit shelves until February of 2012. "Okay," I thought, "it's just a few more months." As February drew closer, however, KISS announced the date would be "sometime in the spring." I became discouraged and even a tad angry. I wanted something new from the band.
Finally, KISS announced the release date of October 9 here in the good ol' U.S. of A. They released the first single, Hell Or Hallelujah in July and the media onslaught began. Just a few months before the release of the single, KISS released info on their Monster book and also leaked out pictures for what would eventually be known as the album's photoshoot. They also toured with Motley Crue (which I took in at The Woodlands, TX).
Finally, October 9 arrived and I picked up my copy of the album. I can honestly say that it is the first album from KISS that immediately grabbed me. Despite being a loyal soldier in the KISS Army, it has always taken me at least a few months (or in the case of Music From The Elder, years) to warm up to each KISS album. Monster chewed me up and spit me out from the first time I heard Hell Or Hallelujah.
The lead single opens the album with an assault on the ears. It beats the listener down and sets them up for the pounding Wall Of Sound. The track (as well as the entire album) is string heavy, and Gene Simmons' thudding and plodding bass hits you hard. Following Wall Of Sound is the Paul Stanley fronted Freak. It's one of my favorite tunes on the album, an anthemic track for weirdos and outsiders like myself.
Back To The Stone Age finds Gene on the mic once again and Eric Singers pounding drums really drive this tune. It's quickly followed up by Long Way Down and Shout Mercy, two steady rockers that kept my fists in the air.
It's after these three rockers that KISS does something that threw me for a loop at first. Eat Your Heart Out opens with the band singing acapella. The complete lack of instruments after six loud, screaming, and electrified tracks is a bit of a shock, but somehow it works extremely well, as Eat Your Heart Out uses its humble opening to set you up for a slap in the face from the Demon! It's one of the best tracks on the album, and its unique opening sets it apart from the rest of the tracks on the album.
Next up is another Gene tune, The Devil Is Me. Much like Wall Of Sound, it consistently dashes listeners on the rocks. It's followed by the Tommy Thayer fronted Outta This World. Despite the title referencing the old Space Ace moniker originally worn by Ace Frehley, Thayer makes this track all about him. It does remind me a bit of Lightning Strikes from Sonic Boom, but I think that is primarily due to Thayer's voice.
Following the Space Man's tune is the track that I personally believe is the best on the entire album. Gene and Paul might not like me saying this, but Eric Singer's All For The Love Rock & Roll is brilliant. It manages to harness the soul of classic KISS tracks that were inspired by bands from the 50's and 60's. It's a metallized version of boogie soul, if that makes any sense. It's not the hardest track on the album, but it is definitely my favorite.
Take Me Down Below is next, and it finds Gene and Paul swapping lead vocals. It's a token dirty track from the band, but it sounds new and fresh.
Last Chance tops it all off with a fast and steady rock beat, and draws KISS' best album (in my opinion) since Revenge to a close.
Overall, the main points I feel should be highlighted about this album is the fact that it's a rock n' roll record and nothing else. KISS didn't try to make it the next Destroyer or go off an an experimental tangent as they did with Music From The Elder. There are no slow songs, power ballads, or overly complicated tracks as the band did on many of their albums (particularly during the 80's). Nope, there's nothing but a beatdown waiting for the listener here.
Also, Gene's vocals are amazing on this album! I've always believed that he had the best voice in the band over the years, despite not having the range of Paul Stanley. He melds his voice to the "wall of sound" created by the instruments and doesn't sound like he's forcing anything. Stanley does an excellent job as well, but I believe his best work came from putting this album together and producing it with Greg Collins. While Gene might be the branding god of the group, Paul is the heart of the band, and his use of old fashioned analog recording equipment made the album sound ten times better than any polished digital music cranked out by today's bands. Eric Singer established himself as KISS' drummer many moons ago, so it's no surprise that he handles his duties perfectly on Monster. I really do wish he would get more lead vocal opportunities, though, as I believe he has a great voice.
I'm going to single out Tommy Thayer in his own paragraph here. Why? Because with Monster, Thayer is finally given breathing room to play in his own style. He was made to mimic Ace Frehley's style of playing on Sonic Boom to a degree and has often been criticized for being nothing more than a Frehley clone. Those arguments should be null and void with the release of this album. Thayer's chops are awesome on this album, and I found no "cloning" of the Space Ace in Thayer's work on this album. He contributed writing to nine of the albums tracks, and it's very noticeable.
Monster is a grinding, fierce album that lets everybody know that despite knocking hard on the door of their fourth decade of rock and roll, KISS has no plans to stop any time soon.
This Monster is a beast!
What did you think of this review?