The Year Of KISS: Asylum (1985)

“I’m gonna live my life, oh yeah!”

One year and three days after the release of 1984’s Animalize, KISS released their thirteenth studio album, Asylum. As successful as the band was at the time, they were on their third lead guitarist in three albums. Bruce Kulick, who finished out the Animalize tour after Mark St. John was released, was officially brought in as a member of the band and his influence and style are firmly imprinted on Asylum and the rest of KISS’ catalogue until 1996 when the original four members of the group would reunite. Kulick played with amazing speed and intricacy when necessary, but also held his fast fingers in check on slower tracks. As flashy as his playing was, Kulick seemed to be the most reserved member of the band, seemingly happy to take a step back and let Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Eric Carr have all of the glory. In my opinion, Kulick is the most technically gifted guitar player that the band ever had.

The band seemed to mesh quite well on Asylum. Carr gladly pounded his way through the album which was composed almost entirely of hard rock and glam metal tracks. One could argue that Who Wants To Be Lonely and Tears Are Falling bordered upon being power ballads, but they were uptempo tracks with some surprisingly heavy guitar work in my opinion. Paul’s vocals were amazing on this album and improved upon his work on Animalize. He also shared producer credits on the album with Gene but, as many have said over the years (including Gene), Stanley did most of the production work himself. Simmons did an excellent job on bass and as I’ve already stated, Kulick handled lead guitar duties like a champ.

The band also amped up their glam look for the album and its supporting tour. Bright blues, pinks, greens, and reds were all over the place. The band added eyeliner and mascara to their look as well. Oh, there was also a lot of hairspray….so….much….hairspray. This is probably my least favorite look for the band despite being one of my favorite lineups.

Released on September 16, 1985, the album featured ten tracks. Only one single was released. Tears Are Falling was released on the same day as the album and peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. The album itself managed to climb to #20 on the US Billboard 200. It achieved gold status in 1985 and eventually hit platinum status a few years later.

Track Listing:

  1. King Of The Mountain
  2. Any Way You Slice It
  3. Who Wants To Be Lonely
  4. Trial By Fire
  5. I’m Alive
  6. Love’s A Deadly Weapon
  7. Tears Are Falling (Single)
  8. Secretly Cruel
  9. Radar For Love
  10. Uh! All Night

Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, bass on Tears Are Falling), Bruce Kulick (lead guitar, backing vocals), Eric Carr (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Gene Simmons (bass, lead vocals), Jean Beauvoir (bass, backing vocals on Who Wants To Be Lonely and Uh! All Night), Allan Schwartzberg (drum overdubs)

The album featured a lot fewer artists than Animalize and, at least in my opinion, sounded much better. While Asylum kept KISS in the public eye, it failed to capture audiences as well as its predecessor. Paul Stanley co-wrote six songs on the album and was the sole writer on Tears Are Falling. Gene Simmons co-wrote four tracks. Kulick received three co-writing credits. Additional co-writers included Desmond Child, Jean Beauvoir, Howard Rice, and Wes Beech.

The album opens with the blisteringly strong King Of The Mountain. The song showcases Paul Stanley’s vocals and Bruce Kulick’s guitars. From there, Stanley and Gene Simmons alternate on lead vocals with Gene taking over on Any Way You Slice It, another excellent song and Paul following that up with Who Wants To Be Lonely. The album remains consistently strong on all of the tracks until it hits Secretly Cruel (Simmons on lead vocals) and Radar For Love (Stanley on lead vocals). While Secretly Cruel features some excellent guitars, it just sits wrong with me for some reason. Radar For Love is an awkward track with its hard stops and starts. The album finishes off with one of KISS’ best innuendo-laden 80’s tracks, Uh! All Night.

My favorite songs on the album are Tears Are Falling, Who Wants To Be Lonely, King Of The Mountain, and Trial By Fire. In all honesty, I like all but two of the songs (Secretly Cruel, Radar For Love) to some degree. Trial By Fire sounds like a tune you’d hear playing in the background of an 80’s film where kids are preparing for the state basketball game, a BMX race, or some other sporting event. King Of The Mountain is great, period. I wish that it had been released as a single. All of the songs are heavy on lead guitars and when allowed, Eric Carr unleashes a barrage of drums. The band released videos for Tears Are Falling, Who Wants To Be Lonely, and Uh! All Night.

Although it underperformed when compared to other 80’s KISS albums, Asylum is a surprisingly solid album with eight strong tracks and two fillers. It’s one of KISS’ best albums in my opinion and is severely underrated. The band would continue to have decent success for the rest of the decade but wouldn’t catch on fire again until the early 90’s.

Next week I’ll be tackling KISS’ 1987 release, Crazy Nights. Thankfully the band trimmed back the glam look for the album but cranked up their power ballad efforts. Does it work? Find out in my next entry in The Year Of KISS!

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