COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Paul Stanley - guitar, vocals * Tommy Thayer - guitar, vocals * Gene Simmons - bass, vocals * Eric Singer - drums, vocals
TRACK LISTING: 01 Hell Or Hallelujah * 02 Wall Of Sound * 03 Freak * 04 Back To The Stone Age * 05 Shout Mercy * 06 Long Way Down * 07 Eat Your Heart Out * 08 The Devil Is Me * 09 Outta This World * 10 All For The Love Of Rock & Roll * 11 Take Me Down Below * 12 Last Chance * 13 Right Here Right Now
Inevitably before the release of any new Kiss studio album, both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley will declare it to be a return to the raw sound of the bands early albums in the 70's. 2009's 'Sonic Boom' was no exception, although that album was more rooted in the bands melodic 80's years, which was better than anything they'd created since the 80's itself. But for Simmons and Stanley the mantle they seek to emulate is 'Revenge' apparently, not one of the better Kiss albums in my opinion. Therefore the result is 'Monster,' the second album with Thayer and Singer, both still ridiculously wearing makeup that wasn't created for them. I suppose we should be grateful for new Kiss material some 40 plus years into their career, but after listening repeatedly to 'Monster' I keep asking myself is this really any good?
Released way back in July, 'Hell Or Hallelujah' was the perfect choice for a single. Fast and determined this taster gave me high hopes for the album. It's almost a throwback to the 'Animalize' era and suits the bands current style, not the forced 70's direction. That it's the only song with a semblance of speed is somewhat off-putting. Simmons follows up with 'Wall Of Sound' which again has melodic traces of the 80's, this time his material from 'Lick It Up'. It's straightforward hard rock with a simple hook, but is hardly breathless in execution. Described in the press releases as 'Who like' the Stanley fronted 'Freak' is nothing of the sort, but is a quality track that seeps into the consciousness after several hearings. This sounds far more palatable. At barely over three minutes 'Back To The Stone Age' is another harmless Simmons anthem, with a massive chorus designed to work in a live capacity, but will probably never see the light of day in that area. It's eminently likeable but the lingering thought that it's overly contrived continues to harbor.. 'Shout Mercy' sees Stanley sounding strained to the backdrop of Thayer recycling Ace Frehley
riffs ('Deuce' anyone?). This one is extremely bland, just a tired rehash of ideas heard many times. Stanley is heard again on 'Long Way Down' which has more of a 'Carnival of Souls' melody and sounds more natural at this point than the 70's retread attempts. This is by far one of the best songs on the album.
Simmons is back at it again on 'Eat Your Heart Out' with another short anthem in his best sex-laden lyric tradition. The problem again is the melody. As with 'Never Enough' from 'Sonic Boom', it sounds like 'Nothing But A Good Time' by Poison
at odd moments, which for consecutive albums is hardly appealing. Much better from Simmons is 'The Devil Is Me', with more of a darker feel to it, not to mention heavier. The band sounds better when not regurgitating what is deemed to be 'classic' Kiss e.g. 1970's era, although Thayer's guitar work here is pure Frehley. Both Thayer and Singer get their token solo tracks, with Thayer's 'Outta This World' containing some bombastic late 80's backing vocals, although he himself sounds like Simmons while singing. Singer once again gets to do his Peter Criss
vocal imitation on 'All For The Love Of Rock & Roll' which is a clear attempt at evoking classic Criss tracks with the smoky bar room atmosphere in full effect. This is the aspect which doesn't allow me to fully accept this song. It's a good rocker, but the imitation is unnecessary. 'Take Me Down Below' opens with the band copping AC/DC
's 'Dirty Deeds' riff and develops into another routine romp, with Simmons and Stanley sharing vocals. This is one song too much, utterly dull and reminiscent of the mess that was 'Hot In The Shade'. Again Thayer is busy trying to be Frehley, which is quite tiresome by this point. Nothing distinguishes 'Last Chance' by the same token, Stanley on vocals with what sounds like the guitar solo to 'Strutter' being thrown in for good measure.
It's hard for me to recall when I've listened to an album as much as I have this one before the actual review. Upon my first playing I struggled to hear anything truly memorable. That's the difference between this and 'Sonic Boom'. Where the latter had an immediacy that made it a wonderful outing, this proved the exact opposite, taking repeated attempts for me to come to grips with it. It's easy to see Kiss were striving to create a gritty hard rock classic, but maybe they tried too hard. It's not a complete loss and at least four of these songs are Kiss at their best. The rest just haven't etched into my brain like I expect most Kiss songs to and believe me I've tried. A credible effort perhaps, but I'd have difficulty saying this is anything but average.
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