Released by: Universal Music Group
Release Date: Out Now!!!
Genre: Hard Rock
Paul Stanley – rhythm guitar, lead vocals
Gene Simmons – bass guitar, lead vocals
Tommy Thayer – lead guitar, vocals
Eric Singer – drums, percussion, vocals
1. ‘Hell or Hallelujah’
2. ‘Wall of Sound’
4. ‘Back to the Stone Age’
5. ‘Shout Mercy’
6. ‘Long Way Down’
7. ‘Eat Your Heart Out’
8. ‘The Devil Is Me’
9. ‘Outta This World’
10. ‘All for the Love of Rock & Roll’
11. ‘Take Me Down Below’
12. ‘Last Chance’
13. ‘Right Here Right Now’
KISS is a band that I have logged in more hours and more money on than any other over my 40 years of life. No band has brought me more joy or more turmoil over the years either. From lost opportunities of seeing them live back in the day to break ups to less than enjoyable albums I have been a proud member (if not officially) of the KISS Army for nearly my entire life. I’m sure there are fans that one would consider more die hard than I, but I’m pretty hardcore into this band. I realize there are plenty of other bands that I might like more and there are definitely bands that are superior musically to them, but it’s their keep it simple stupid mentality that has always been something that has appealed to me. The basic song structures and straight ahead sounds are what compel them to me. They’ve always had a knack for writing catchy, hooky songs about sex and debauchery or just rocking out that define the terms rock and roll anthem.
However, I’m not such a blind fan that I can’t see/hear when a band makes a misstep or two musically. I’ve been pretty clear on the fact that I’ve not entirely loved a KISS album since Hot In the Shade, though Carnival of Souls was a pretty good album in that it was a different sound for them. Revenge I found to be pretty good, but there was enough on there to make me not love it entirely (I’m sorry, but I hate the song “Domino,” among others on it) that it’s just not held in high regards as it is for so many other fans. Psycho Circus is a joke of an album where the only song truly stamped with that classic KISS sound is “Into the Void,” the sole Ace Frehley song on the album. The rest was a complete fabrication and can barely constitute as a KISS album (I think it should have an * beside its name with the footnote that it’s as much an actual KISS album as the four solo albums were.) When the band pared down to only being Paul and Gene they started talking about going back to their roots and releasing an album more true to KISS and would feature only the members of the band. That album was Sonic Boom. There are things on that album that I enjoyed, but so much of it I didn’t that I still can’t completely enjoy the album. I will admit that a couple songs worked live (“I’m An Animal” and “Modern Day Delilah,”) but beyond that I can’t say I love it.
Then they announced another new album, and I really wasn’t excited about it. That is until I heard the first single “Hell Or Hallelujah.” That song alone gave me some hope that finally after waiting two decades for some badass KISS music it just might happen. Once I had the new album Monster in my hands I couldn’t wait to see if the rest of it was just as good as that one song. For the first three tracks I was in absolute KISS nirvana (the state of mind and not the hideous overrated grunge band,) after that though I kind of lost interest. Typically, when I get new KISS music (and this actually applies to every album) I have a blind few moments of just loving the hell out of it because it’s new KISS which comes so infrequently these days. It usually takes me a few listens before the “new” wears off and I start listening with my real ears and not the fan one’s. I was blindsided that I actually lost interest in a KISS album. Since that initial listen I have played it at least 20 times hoping to jump start something for me. As far as the album is concerned, the short answer is: whatever you thought about Sonic Boom you will likely feel the same about Monster, though chances are good if you hated Sonic you might like Monster a little bit more about than this one.
It’s not that it’s a bad album per se. Perhaps being such a long time fan I’m longing for their past greatness to return, but maybe this is as good as it gets. At least the songs are rocking and they’re not delving into adult contemporary territory so that’s a major plus. My major issues with Monster are that they still insist on Tommy and Eric (Eric to a lesser degree) to emulate the character they’re pretending to be. My animosity for Thayer in the role of Ace is well-known (teetering on legendary in my circle of friends,) but it goes beyond that. I’m not a fan of Tommy even during his Black ‘N’ Blue days, for total disclosure. I enjoy a fair wealth of their music, but little of that has to do with his guitar work as much as the songs I enjoy are really pretty good. The fact still remains; Tommy Thayer is not Ace Frehley and no matter what facade Gene and Paul are attempting to pull off should accept that fact and let these two play the way that is true to them. Even Singer, an incredible drummer that can play circles around Peter Criss even in the original Catman’s heyday, seems to hold back and be reserved, though not as obviously as on the last album, and certainly not live. His one song he performs on Monster is “All For the Love of Rock & Roll,” and it’s a great track on the album, but it’s clear that he’s doing a Peter Criss song (well, he’s doing a song Peter Criss wishes he could do, but sadly couldn’t ) Like Sonic Boom Thayer is given a track to sing on, “Outta This World,” again obviously intended to be a Frehley-esque song, but unlike Singer’s track, it falls flat. It’s so bland and forgettable. Of course I’d much rather him perform either of his songs instead of “Shock Me” any day of the week. Beyond the first three tracks and Singer’s song, the only other ones on the album I like are “Long Way Down” and “Last Chance.” Other songs have moments, but miss the mark for one reason or another. For me the album is a bit heavy on Gene songs and that doesn’t work for me as Stanley has always been the better singer and songwriter in the group.
Other than some nitpicking about some things from a musical standpoint, like the hand claps and “ooo ooo’s” on “Shout Mercy” really dating an otherwise decent track, the Ace-ism’s solo wise I touched on briefly, and the fact that just like Sonic Boom there are licks in individual songs I can point to another classic KISS song and say, “See, they’re doing this song.” On a positive note, Paul sounds fantastic on the album and Eric Singer does an incredible job on background vocals, and is very underrated in that department I feel. He’s got a strong voice for doing lead on a song or two, but not strong enough to be a lead singer, yet his high range accentuates even the weakest of songs on Monster. If you’re looking for the album to break any new ground compared to its predecessor, then you might as well leave Monster on the shelf. If you love the current direction KISS is in by all means get this album. Perhaps in 20 more listens I’ll hold a different opinion about it, but right now I give it 7 out of 10.
Written by Chris
Ratings Chris 7/10