“Cause money makes the rules!”
KISS pulled their way back into the mainstream spotlight with Sonic Boom. Despite constant criticism from “fans” upset with the fact that Ace and Peter had been replaced by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, makeup and all, the group continued to tour successfully, selling out multiple shows and putting out more and more merchandise for KISS Army members and others to scoop up for their collections. While Sonic Boom was definitely worth the wait, fans wanted more. KISS appeared eager to comply. Gene Simmons constantly hinted at and teased at the notion that a new album was in the works. After a three year and three day wait and multiple delays, Monster was released on October 9, 2012.
Unlike Sonic Boom, Monster was not released exclusively by one retailer. Advertising was relatively limited to television, radio, and magazine interviews although the band did publish a literal “monster” book that stood three feet tall by two and a half feet wide that featured 127 pictures from the band’s long history. In true KISS fashion, only one thousand copies of each version of the book were released. There were ten country flag covers to choose from and each book featured a signature page with autographs from the current members of the band.
The album featured twelve songs with a bonus track, Right Here Right Now, on the Tour edition of the album and a live version of King Of The Night Time World added to the Japanese release. A deluxe edition was also made available that featured a sixty-four page booklet. Two singles were released for the album. The first single, Hell Or Hallelujah, was released in July of 2012 nearly three months before the album’s release. It peaked at #36 on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart. The second single, Long Way Down, crawled to #26 on the Billboard Heritage Rock Chart. The album itself performed extremely well, debuting at #3 on the Billboard 200 Chart. It was the third consecutive album to reach the top three on that particular chart, joining Psycho Circus (peaked at #3) and Sonic Boom (peaked at #2).
- Hell Or Hallelujah (Single)
- Wall Of Sound
- Back To The Stone Age
- Shout Mercy
- Long Way Down
- Eat Your Heart Out
- The Devil Is Me
- Outta This World
- All For The Love Of Rock & Roll
- Take Me Down Below
- Last Chance
Personnel: Paul Stanley (lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (lead and backing vocals, bass), Tommy Thayer (lead and backing vocals, lead guitar), Eric Singer (lead and backing vocals, drums), Brian Whelan (piano on Freak)
As they did with Sonic Boom, KISS limited input from outside sources and players, with only Brian Whelan and a choir on All For The Love Of Rock & Roll contributing on the album. All songs were written by the four members of the band with Paul Stanley penning or co-writing ten of the album’s twelve tracks. Tommy Thayer wrote or co-wrote nine tracks on the album. Gene Simmons wrote or co-wrote six tracks. Eric Singer co-wrote Back To The Stone Age with the rest of the band. Paul Stanley and Greg Collins handled the album’s stripped down production, all of which was done on analogue equipment that gave the album a much meatier, thicker sound than Sonic Boom. The album truly does have a full sound that is both sludgy and crisp at the same time. Of all of KISS’ latter albums, it’s probably my favorite sounding album of the bunch.
The album was touted by the group to be a “meat and potatoes” rock album with no ballads or filler. They definitely delivered that with Monster. The album is loaded with straight ahead rockers. It feels a lot like many of AC/DC’s 1980’s releases, a true hard rock album that’s simple, loud, and fun to listen to at home or on the road. I believe that this 80’s feel is primarily due to the contributions of Tommy Thayer who did the same thing on Sonic Boom. He’s definitely got an ear for meaty rock tracks.
My favorite track on the album is Hell Or Hallelujah. It’s a fast-paced rocker with amazing guitar work by Thayer and solid vocals from Stanley. Last Chance is another hard rocker that I really enjoy. Wall Of Sound is probably Gene’s strongest track on Monster. It’s a pounding track that punches at you and I really enjoy it. The Devil Is Me is another solid Gene track as is Back To The Stone Age. Eric Singer slows things down a bit with his lone lead vocal track, All For The Love Of Rock & Roll. It has a boogie-woogie, almost 1950’s vibe to it. It’s one of my favorite tracks on Monster and it’s also the most unique song on the album. For some reason Paul Stanley’s Freak speaks to me. The lyrics aren’t necessarily groundbreaking and it’s outsider subject that has been visited by numerous bands over the years, but I really do enjoy listening to this song. Tommy Thayer’s lead vocal beast, Outta This World, is really fun. While I think that When Lightning Strikes from Sonic Boom is the better of his two vocal performances, Outta This World is definitely a very close second.The only track that I’m not totally cool with is Take Me Down Below. Lyrically it’s the weakest track on the album and feels like a weak attempt to recapture some of KISS’ cheesy glory found on songs like Love Gun and Read My Body. Musically, it’s just as solid as everything else on this album.
The music is excellent on this album. Stanley, Simmons, Singer, and Thayer are definitely synced together well and it shows. Gene’s bass is plodding, thick, and murky when necessary and it provides a great backbone for the entire album. Singer is as Singer does, providing perfect timing on each track with his drum work. Paul’s vocals are good andd work well with the overall sound of Monster. His rhythm guitar keeps provides a nice layer of sound on each track. Thayer’s guitar work is amazing. Of all of his work with the band, he sounds his best on this album. In my opinion this is the first album where Thayer gets to really show off a little bit of himself on solos. Overall, Monster can be played end to end without the need to skip a track.
October of this year marked the ten year anniversary of the release of Monster. As it stands, this will most likely be the band’s final studio album. Both Gene and Paul have talked about their reasoning for not releasing new music over the last decade. When recently asked about the possibility of new music from the group, Paul Stanley said, “I came to the conclusion that it (new music) can never compete with the past….it hasn’t the connection to important times in your life.” Simmons, as usual, took a more financial view on releasing new material stating, “KISS is not a charity. Working your ass off to have somebody download or stream your music for free is not my idea of how things should be. When you don’t put a value on music, it doesn’t have value.” Tommy Thayer said similar things in recent interviews when asked if he will release new music after KISS’ End Of The Road Tour finally draws to a close. He said that he’ll continue doing things musically but will most likely not release a solo album. No stranger to playing for numerous bands at the same time, Eric Singer will probably keep rolling along, picking up jobs from whatever bands want him. He and Paul Stanley have worked on Stanley’s solo projects before, so maybe they’ll work together in the future. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: KISS has definitely left their mark on rock n’ roll and the music industry as a whole.
Thanks to each and every person that has been along for the ride during The Year Of KISS. I hope that you’ve all enjoyed my look at the studio albums, band members, and memorabilia over the course of this year. While I may never do another year-long series on a band I will definitely continue reviewing the occasional album, old and new, when I see fit. Keep on rockin’!