Hotter Than Hell
After just a few months of intense touring following the release of KISS, the tireless band returned to the studio in July to hammer out and release Hotter Than Hell on October 22, 1974. The first thing that many listeners will notice about this sophomore effort is the recording; it sounds gritty, scratchy, less than perfect. This wasn’t a mistake as KISS was intend on capturing their live sound.
Despite some of KISS’ best material and displays of their best musicianship, Hotter Than Hell didn’t capture the public’s attention as they had hoped – in fact, the album was a bigger flop than their debut. Many owe this to the fact that their label, Casablanca, lost its distribution deal with Warner Bros. and, thus, lost out on backing.
Some say that KISS hadn’t grown musically, and that may be true, or that Hotter Than Hell doesn’t offer anything that hadn’t already been heard on KISS, but this is decidedly a darker, gloomier, heavier, grittier, raunchier album than its predecessor. However, the “outro” provided at the end of KISS’ final track, “Black Diamond,” does seem to foretell the vibe that would appear on Hotter.
Why the slight shift in sound? It might be because KISS had to relocate to California to record it and though you might think that would give them a sunny disposition, they were New Yorkers and pissed to be out of their element. Sure, there are some lighter-and-roll-feel-good tracks (“Got To Choose,” “Hotter Than Hell,” Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “All The Way,” and “Comin’ Home”), but many of these tracks feel slower than they should be, deal with less-than-honorable subject matter, and sound tuned down.
Also, a good listen to the rest of the album will show an attentive ear that a number of the tracks served as precursors for speed metal (“Parasite”), the glam-metal ballad (“Goin’ Blind”), goth metal (“Strange Ways”), and grunge (“Watching’ You” – though that might be a stretch).
Anthrax – Parasite
Much of the material on Hotter Than Hell was written while in the studio or shortly before sessions began. Only a few of the tracks – namely, “Goin’ Blind” and “Watchin’ You” were carry overs from the Wicked Lester days. Unlike the preceding album, there are no throw-aways on Hotter Than Hell, but here’s a rundown of some of the more memorable gems:
“Got To Chose” is a nice opener to the album; it’s the one that sounds a bit too slow, but the harmony and bass line are fantastic, and Gene truly carries this number that sets the stage for the ferocity that is “Parasite.”
“Parasite” is by far the heaviest track on the album and is quite possibly the heaviest track KISS ever recorded (excluding the majority of what appears on Carnival of Souls). The main riff is so simple that any hack on the guitar can play it, but it’s powerful. Peter Criss also peaks as a drummer on this one and Gene’s vocals are nothing short of fierce.
The title track, “Hotter Than Hell,” is one of those that gets into your bones. Great riffs, great solos, great back beat, great vocals, great story. Pure KISS. Pure genius.
“Watchin’ You” is a groovy number with precursor Iron Maiden-esque dueling guitars, question and answer solos between Ace and Paul, some required ‘70s era cowbell, and great bass fills from Gene.
“Strange Ways,” written by Frehley and sung by Criss, is another heavy track. Slow and methodic, it’s the type of song that’ll make you change the way you walk. It also features one of Ace’s best guitar solos.
The final album in our KISS Holy Trinity is up next…