Monster is a good album. Is it the best that KISS ever put out? No, but it’s better than the largely lauded The Elder is (which is an album that I actually like). As a fan, however, I’m going to find something that I like on every album. But my being a KISS fan doesn’t give the band a free pass.
Like I said, Monster is a good album, and it might have been great if it had come out in the ‘70s. As it is, however, it’s a retro-sounding album (KISS’ second consecutive attempt) and these types of endeavors usually fail. I’m not saying that KISS’ Monster is a failure, but it feels a little like hooking up with an ex-girlfriend (or ex-boyfriend) at a 20-year high school reunion – exciting, but not nearly as fresh or fulfilling as it was the first time around.
Monster has 12 tracks (10 of which have Paul Stanley’s handiwork on them) and clocks in at just under 44 minutes. The lead single, “Hell or Hallelujah“ is obviously the strongest track and sounds like it could have been pulled off of Love Gun. “Freak” is another solid track, but lyrically it isn’t really suitable for a 60-year-old man to be singing. “Long Way Down” has a great ‘70s-era groove and Tommy Thayer’s guitar work is spot on, if he’s going for an Ace clone. “Eat Your Heart Out” is yet another song that harkens back to old-school KISS, I’ll even say that it predates KISS and echoes Wicked Lester. Thayer has a wicked solo, and Eric Singer’s drumming is impeccable as usual (you really gotta love his use of cowbell on this one, though). The Gene Simmons-led track, “The Devil Is Me,” might very well be Monster’s second strongest. From the riff to the chorus to the solo, it’s the best example on the album of what Gene promised to be a blend of Destroyer, Revenge, and Sonic Boom.
Thayer and Singer were also given the chance to take the lead on vocals. Thayer does a great job on “Outta This World,” which sounds like leftover material from Psycho Circus. Being an Ace fan, I feel a bit violated with the space metaphor on this. I get that Thayer is just playing a character, but it still feels like KISS is trying to pull a fast one over on us. The same could be said of Singer’s track, “All for the Love of Rock & Roll,” which has a Peter Criss-like soulful street vibe to it, but it’s Eric Singer, who’s not only awesome but has essentially been in the band since 1991 and has earned the right to be the Catman (even if that wig looks horrible).
One major credit to KISS’ Monster is its sound. As the 20th studio album, there’s no excuse for KISS to put out a substandard-sounding album, but the band went beyond just great sound; they captured fullness of sound, that old united and live feeling, and combined it with today’s production value. It worked well to KISS’ advantage as they attempted to recapture their retro sound. As Gene put it:
“Technology is a seductive bitch, she will seduce you. You press this button, you don’t have to do anything. But analog is the love of your life. You can push real hard and it always gives back. For the new album, the actual recording process was 24-track tape and an old Trident board. And as many tubes as possible. You need tubes, electricity and thick wood to make that thick sound.”
The Verdict: [rating:3.5]
KISS’ Monster successfully recaptures the band’s vibe from the late ‘70s, especially that established sound that was offered on Destroyer. What it doesn’t have is the hunger of a lot of their earlier work. Does it need to? Certainly KISS doesn’t need to prove themselves as they once had to, but it was that hunger that made many of us love them. Monster also lacks a rawness of sound. Yes, the analog recording makes it organic sounding, but you can tell that it’s a carefully crafted album designed to emulate an older KISS (or should I say a “younger KISS”?).
Monster has at least three solid tracks that I, as a fan, could revisit on a regular basis – and that’s enough for me. At this point I’m not looking for new KISS material to fit into my top 10 of favorite KISS songs, but I do find it satisfying to know that my favorite band still has it in them to create some of the best‘n’ roll on the planet.
However, Monster is an album for fans, an album that can only be enjoyed by fans (for the most part), and by that constraint alone the final score will suffer. On the whole, this album won’t attract new fans and it’s not the best KISS has ever done, but it’s a good album.
Rock Hard \m/
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Year Released:
- 9 October 2012
- Universal Music Group
- Hard Rock
- Official URL: