“I wanna put my log in your fireplace….”
Hot on the heels of their Lick It Up Tour, KISS headed back into the studio to record their next album, 1984’s Animalize. The band’s popularity was growing once again and they needed to put out an album that could keep their name in the magazines, their faces on television, and, perhaps most important of all, their music on the radio and the charts. There was a problem, however, because Vinnie Vincent was gone and the group needed a strong lead guitarist to replace him as quickly as possible. Luckily for the group, Mark St. John was ready to take Vinnie’s place and he did so with blisteringly fast playing ability.
Much like Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John apparently didn’t mesh very well with the rest of the group. According to St. John, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons didn’t trust his playing. In numerous articles over the years, St. John mentioned how Stanley and Simmons would insist on being at the studio while he was recording his parts for Animalize. Stanley even accused him of being unable to duplicate or replay solos and other parts of songs.
Another source of aggravation for the band was Gene Simmons. Surprisingly, he had become more focused on his own film career and his work as a band manager at the time. Over the years, Simmons has admitted that he “lost his way” with the band when he removed his makeup. Paul Stanley called out Simmons as well during this time and ultimately Simmons praised Stanley for not only being honest with him, but for keeping the band alive while Simmons found himself. Despite all of the issues with St. John and Simmons, the album was recorded and eventually released on September 13, 1984.
The album featured nine tracks. It was a huge success. It outperformed Lick It Up and became the band’s biggest-selling album since Dynasty. That being said, only one of its two singles, Heaven’s On Fire, managed to chart. That song peaked at #11 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and #49 on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart. The other single, Thrills In The Night, failed to chart. Heaven’s On Fire is the only song from the album that has remained in the band’s live show over the years.
- I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)
- Heaven’s On Fire (Single)
- Burn Bitch Burn
- Get All You Can Take
- Lonely Is The Hunter
- Under The Gun
- Thrills In The Night (Single)
- While The City Sleeps
- Murder In High-Heels
Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, Mark St. John (lead guitar), Eric Carr (backing vocals, drums, percussion), Gene Simmons (lead and backing vocals, bass), Bruce Kulick (guitar solos on Murder In High-Heels and Lonely Is The Hunter), Jean Beauvoir (bass on Get All You Can Take, Under The Gun, and Thrills In The Night) Mitch Weissman (additional guitars), Desmond Child (backing vocals), and Allan Schwartzberg (drum overdubs)
As you can see from the personnel list, producer Paul Stanley brought in a number of outside players to get the album’s sound just right. In standard KISS fashion, no one has ever said just how much of the actual band’s input was kept on the album. Five of the album’s tracks were co-written by Paul Stanley. Eric Carr received one co-writing credit. Gene Simmons wrote Lonely Is The Hunter and Burn Bitch Burn. He also co-wrote two other tracks. Jean Beauvoir, Desmond Child, and Mitch Weissman co-wrote many of the tracks as well.
While the album was a financial success and kept KISS reasonably close to the upper echelon of pop culture, the album is about fifty-fifty for me. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) is one of the best album openers that KISS has ever cranked out in my opinion. It’s followed up by two great songs, Heaven’s On Fire and the surprisingly fun-to-sing-along-with Burn Bitch Burn. Then the quality drops off considerably in my opinion. Of the remaining tracks, Under The Gun is pretty decent and Thrills In The Night deserves more attention than it has received over the years. The rest of the songs are forgettable. In particular, Get All You Can Take is easily one of my least favorite songs by KISS overall. Paul’s voice grates my ears in that song and that’s rare for me as I quite like Paul’s vocals on most tracks.
Mark St. John’s guitar work is ridiculously fast. It’s so fast that it sort of sounds like it’s falling off of the rails at times during songs. His style to me is essentially Vinnie Vincent at 2X speed and with slightly less talent. St. John just never clicked with me. He could obviously play the guitar very well, but of all of KISS’ axe men over the years, he’s my least favorite. I hate saying that considering how tough his life was after exiting the band, but it’s the truth.
Speaking of St. John’s exit, he didn’t even finish the Animalize tour with the group. Roughly two months after the album’s release, St. John was fired from the group and replaced by Bruce Kulick (pictured above with Stanley and Simmons). Suffering from reactive arthritis, St. John’s arms and fingers would swell to the point that he could not play his guitar. According to St. John, his arthritis was used as the public excuse for his firing but in reality, it was the fact that he couldn’t get along with the rest of the group. He only managed to play two full shows on the tour. Kulick was brought along and waited backstage in case he was needed to finish a show. Kulick would remain with the band until the eventual reunion of the original lineup in 1996.
My favorite songs on this album are the two singles, with Heaven’s On Fire being one of my favorite KISS songs overall. I know that that might not make much sense due to the fact that I am not big on St. John’s style, but it was perfect on that track to me. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) is another track that occasionally makes it into my rotation. It’s a brutally powerful track.
Overall, Animalize just doesn’t register with me like a lot of KISS’ other albums have done over the years. It’s one of the albums that I listen to the least and I rarely talk about it. I believe that it would be a lot more memorable if the band had taken a step back for just a few more months, hired a guitarist that they could work with instead of one out of necessity and due to time constraints, and spent more time on the songs. The band’s next album, 1985’s Asylum, is, in my opinion, a much better album. I’ll be reviewing it next month. It’s the first album to feature Bruce Kulick as an official member of the band.
Thanks for reading my post. Did Animalize work for you? Do you wish that Mark St. John would have had more time with the band? Let me know in the comments.