Released: Oct 5, 2012
Genre: Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Heavy Metal
Label: Universal Music Group
Number Of Tracks: 12
KISS's 20th studio album, "Monster", is produced by Paul Stanley and is a nostalgic collection of new songs that still seemed to sound like the hard rock of the late 1970's.
MonsterFeatured review by: UG Team, on october 09, 2012 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: KISS has been through a lot since they began in 1973. They have had many changes in sound, and even genre. You don't really know what to expect with a KISS release, but a lot of people may be happy to discover that "Monster" is definitely a hard rock album (though the hard rock of a different decade). KISS claims to have gone back completely to analog equipment, recording and producing in an attempt to re-capture the classic sound of the 1970's. The members on the album are Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, of course, and Tommy Thayer (guitar) and Eric Singer (drums). So, no luck on any hopes of another reunion of the original members.
"Monster" really and genuinely captures the sound of the classic rock of the late 70's. While listening to the album, I kept finding myself thinking about the more straightforward rock songs from the Alice Cooper release, "Welcome To My Nightmare". Of course, KISS still sounds like KISS, that is just the album that kept coming to mind for me. It is really unreal on how they genuinely make this album sound like it was written and recorded in another time. This is absolutely the only album I've ever heard where I felt nostalgic on the first listen. The guitar work and drums are well executed, the songwriting fits right in with what KISS is trying to accomplish, and honestly this is the best album released by KISS in a long time. I've actually been pretty impressed with the guitar work on the album it is some of the best since their first live album, Alive!. There are 12 tracks on the album, which clocks in at just under 45 minutes. // 7
Lyrics: KISS has never been known for an overabundance of sincerity or deep lyrics and they seem to almost celebrate this on "Monster". The songs are about rock and roll and the rock and roll lifestyle from beginning to end. The songs, music and lyrics, were primarily written by Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley but the other members had contributions as well. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have just about halfed the vocal duties on the album, mostly just switching back and forth from song to song, with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer providing vocals on one song apiece. For vocals, I have to say Paul Stanley seems to shine with Gene Simmons coming in a close second. Thayer and Singer put across a sufficient vocal performance on each of their songs, but nothing exceptional.
The first single from the album, "Hell Or Hallelujah", was released in July. Following are some lyrics from this single: "I rode the highway to heartache/ I took a trip on the ship of fools/ whoah yeah/ and I paid the price to have my way/ because money makes the rules, yeah/ sing it/ lay down/ I'm looking through you/ stay down/ you got what you should/ pay now/ all that you never would/ it feels good/ hell or hallelujah/ no matter what you do, I'm running/ through you/ yeah/ you said that love's never lasting/ we surrender our hearts to lose, yeah/ times up there's nobody asking/ this time I get to choose". The lyrics aren't groundbreaking or even especially coherent, but they fit well with the music, and again, KISS has never been known for deep lyrics. // 7
Overall Impression: KISS is one of the bands that have really made themselves a part of history, for better or worse. They are cultural icons that are instantly recognizable to both fans and non-fans. They have marketed themselves with a very calculating savvy and by that alone they've earned my respect. They turned their image and music into a product and sold it as dolls, lunch boxes, trading cards, t-shirts, key chains and even coffins. I doubt you will find any other band who even reaches half of the bottom dollar profit made from merchandising. With the release of "Monster" they are capitalizing on nostalgia, and they market it as well as they ever did any action figures, dolls or lunch boxes.
My favorite songs from the album are probably "Freak" and "Outta This World". My least favorite song from the album is "The Devil Is Me". Quality-wise, the album is pretty consistent from beginning to end which is an accomplishment in and of itself. While I enjoy some of KISS's songs I've never been a huge fan of the members, but the songs and album speak for themselves. The KISS Army will definitely be happy with the album, if there are still members floating around. I would say anybody who is a fan of "Rock And Roll All Nite" or "Detroit Rock City" will definitely find a lot of things to love about this album. // 8
unregistered, on october 09, 2012 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: KISS is one of the most successful bands in all of hard rock. They have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. Their trademark, bombastic (literally) live shows set a standard that some argue has yet to be matched. Almost 40 years after their founding in 1973, they are still entertaining and producing albums. This 20th studio album, the follow-up to 2009's "Sonic Boom", is the second produced with the current lineup of Stanley, Simmons, Singer, and Thayer.
If you are looking for a quick summary of everything overall, I suggest scrolling to the Overall Impression section, and quite frankly, with KISS, any discussion on a song is moot until it is played live. Anyways, this is one guy's opinion and I hope it is helpful.
1. "Hell Or Hallelujah" - this is the song that was released as a single in July and it is the only track from "Monster" that KISS has played on The Tour. On a first impression, this song has the typical Paul Stanley, catered to radio, chorus line. The best part of this song is the bridge. While it's not an atypical KISS bridge, it sets an amazing vibe leading into the guitar solo. In the guitar solo, there is a double stop section almost surely taken from "Dazed And Confused". The guitar solo then goes back into the bridge, which seamlessly continues into the chorus to make a great song where there wasn't much of one earlier. Overall, the main riff attempts to get you into a jump-up-and-down mood, but fails to do so until the bridge section, when the song is at its best. After listening to the whole album, this song is as close to heart pounding as it gets and the more I listen to it, the more I like it. I anticipate this to be the anthem song of the album for any upcoming tour.
2. "Wall Of Sound" - the main riff of this song is heavy (worthy of headbanging) and one of the catchiest on the album. From a guitar standpoint, the dual guitars work together well on this song compared to the others. The verses lend itself well to the "wall of sound" idea and Tommy's meticulously placed solos lead to this being one of the best solos and songs on the album. Can't wait to see this one live as it definitely deserves a spot in their set.
3. "Freak" - I personally find this to be an uninspired, insignificant offering. The song fights itself being between hard rock and ballad rock. It uses the overdone "people think I'm stupid but I know I'm better" message. The predominant riff is hardly a riff, the guitar solo makes you go, "eh, who cares?" and the song structure seems forced into the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo format. The line "I pledge allegiance to the state of independence" seems forced into the song and it really doesn't gel well. The lyrics are ironic for obvious reasons I'm probably being overcritical of the song, but the lasting impression is, "I've heard this before/was it really worth my time?" 40 years ago, this one may have worked, but now it really doesn't.
4. "Back To The Stone Age" - the intro reeks of Gene Simmons. That is the first thing that will hit you. The verse follows a tried and true method that still works on me but probably not on everybody. The chorus is strange for KISS; it has a catchy melody that uses what sounds like a tambourine and prominent backing vocal lines that remind me of something very distinct, very old. I just can't put my finger on it. It is because of this that the song will probably not make it into the live set as it does not follow the KISS mantra. The guitar solo is great but it doesn't fit the context of the song. Again, it was great but could probably be put into something else. For whatever reason, this guitar solo seems like it should mimic the vocals of the chorus, like certain Journey songs. Still, it is an average song; not good nor bad. It is something worth being proud of, just not for these superstars.
5. "Shout Mercy" - first, this song is not as gallant as the title implies. The song, straight from the structure to the chorus to the guitar solo follows the same blueprint as the other songs and is very ordinary. For anyone except the true KISS Army, this song won't mean much, and by now you will only "shout mercy" from the format of the songs, which while the KISS standard, starts to become mundane by now. Again, the song is fine, but nothing special and nothing you won't find in any of the other 37 KISS albums.
6. "Long Way Down" - the first 5 seconds of this song seem like they will lead to a heart-pounding hard rock song. I was pissed when the song changed, but over the course of the song, it evolves into being one of the most solid on the album. The song has a Slash like vibe, which becomes noticeable after a minute or two. The solo has a few well placed phrases which lend themselves to the song in a great way. The song is definitely not heart-pounding rock, but is solid nevertheless.
7. "Eat Your Heart Out" - I'm impressed with the opening a cappella harmony, not because it's incredible, but because they even tried it. The recording of it seems very retro, like from the late 60's, and it's definitely cool. The song itself is above average for the album. The cowbell driven rhythm is a welcome sound and the chorus vocal line is one of the better ones on the album. The guitar solo is above average, using a wah pedal (oh my!) and not ending on this certain bent interval that most of the others do. The song ends in AC/DC fashion, which feels unique for this album, but it shouldn't.
8. "The Devil Is Me" - the song is reminiscent of the KISS album "Revenge". Gene's voice is probably at its best in this song, compared to the rest of the album. The part played over the guitar solo sticks out and the whole song is heavy. I think a few well placed pinch harmonics would have improved the song but the hammer-on section of the guitar solo is like from Jimmy Page's live "Heartbreaker" solo and I really dig it.
9. "Outta This World" - just by the song's name, you can tell it is meant as if Ace was still in the band. Even so, in my opinion Tommy's voice knocks Ace's out of the water any day of the week. I really think that Tommy's singing voice is underrated. This song is less hard rock than "Sonic Boom"'s "When Lightning Strikes". Tommy's solo in this song, really starts to get good in the part over the chorus. I think that this song could have been improved with a more psychedelic feel. In the last 30 seconds or so, a flanger effect becomes ever more prominent until it more or less takes over the whole sound of the song. I think the song could be improved with more of it. The song is a breath of fresh air because it feels somewhat unique compared to the others on the album, yet overall it leaves more to be desired. I'd love in the future for someone to do a cover of it because I think that there's room for someone else to take it "outta this world".
10. "All For The Love Of Rock And Roll" - this song strikes me as being a possible theme song for a TV show. It doesn't really seem like KISS, but more in my perception of Peter Criss. I don't know much of his material but this song goes towards my perception of it. The song feels like pop with soft electric guitars. It's a nice song that won't be a #1 hit or anything in that direction, but for the casual listener, it's something pleasant.
11. "Take Me Down Below" - this song seems like a conflicted song. It starts with a heavyness like "The Devil Is Me" but then changes into a Paul sounding rhythm and a chorus that's the same as "Outta This World". In fact, now that I think about it, the choruses from many of the songs sound like "Outta This World". I'd like to note that the guitar solo is either using delay, or more likely a dual Black Sabbath type recording, which I think could have been very effective elsewhere on the album, but here it really doesn't stick out as much.
12. "Last Chance" - On the concluding song of the album, I think that Paul's vocals are at one of his stronger points on the album. The lyrics also seem the closest to the classic KISS lyrics about sex that really seem to be lacking on this album. I know they're 60 years old, but that is what KISS is known for. The song, musically follows the same format that by this point, if you are still listening, is nailed into your head. There isn't much that casts this song as different from the others on the album, through the riffs, solos, or anything else and strategically, I think that "Wall Of Sound" should have been placed here to finish the album off strong. // 6
Lyrics: Lyrically, the album is weak. There aren't really any lines that are memorable enough to sing to yourself a week later. The topic matter is unenthusiastic because it all just seems forced into production, or required by precedent, like "Outta This World" trying to be Ace-like and sung by Tommy. The vibe of the lyrics didn't mesh with the music as well as I would have liked, and I preferred the lyrics on "Sonic Boom" more.
In terms of voice, Paul sounds as good as he did in the 70's albeit, a tiny bit less energy. On the other hand, he didn't sound like he was stretched to his limits. Or, maybe he was and his voice really has depreciated over time. Gene's voice was very similar to his voice on "Revenge" more than any other album, in my opinion. Both seem excited and powerful, the lyrics just didn't demand it, so it is mostly wasted. I really wish that Tommy would be allowed to be the lead singer more often because his voice is really top rate. Eric has a nice voice, but it's just that; nice. It isn't really for the hard rock of KISS, but I guess it fills in well for Peter Criss. // 4
Overall Impression: Overall, this album is very similar in style to "Sonic Boom". Tommy's lead guitar is better and more prevalent, but on the other hand, I found the vocals to be better on "Sonic Boom". I also found Eric's drumming to be particularly weak and predictable on this album. Gene Simmons described this album as, "meat and potatoes". He is correct. The album utilizes simple (not necessarily bad) hard rock concepts that don't stretch any limits and don't experiment in any real way, which stays true to the KISS mantra. The album seems to be standard KISS and not classic KISS. I'm trying to say that the album sounds closer to the Post-Ace era than when Ace was in the band.
The album won't become an important piece of KISSTORY but it's still a solid hard rock album and today, these are far and few between. If you're looking for something to add to your playlist, it's new material. It isn't groundbreaking, but it's new. The real test of the album will be its live application, as with any KISS album. Overall, the best songs were "Hell Or Hallelujah" and "Wall Of Sound". The worst song was "Freak" and an honorable mention goes to "Long Way Down". If it were lost or stolen, I probably wouldn't buy it again because most of the songs don't need to be heard more than a few times. // 5
sn00ze, on october 10, 2012 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: I must say I am pleased with the overall sound of the album. For certain songs I would involve some to help Paul with the production. I don't agree with Paul it is not Kiss album. It has many elements and features typical for their albums, hard not to since they went from rock & roll over pop and heavy metal to hard rock. All the instruments are mixed very well, with an interesting use of effects, some not typical for Kiss (wah). Maybe less cowbells? // 7
Lyrics: To talk about lyrics and the Kiss in the same sentence never ends good. They still write like they are in their 20s. They are exactly what one would expect from them. The singing is another thing. Paul is doing fine, fine when you consider how much he has been pushing his limits constantly for over 40 years. Gone are the E2-G5 times but he still delivers. And I still consider him to be one of the best frontmen in the business. Gene has always been better singer than Paul (vocal ranger consider) and he still kicks a-s. When it comes to Tommy and Eric it is hard to tell, they got only one song each. Technically they are good singers but with a boring/generic voice. I would never listen to a band with frontman with voice like that. // 5
Overall Impression: 1. "Hell Or Hallelujah" - Great way how to start a new album. It really manages to set the mood for the whole album. It definitely belongs to the top 10 Kiss album openers.
2. "Wall Of Sound" - First Gene's song on the album and it's killer one, especially his singing. Heavy riffs with a feel of "Creatures Of The Night"/"Revenge", almost like "Thou Shalt Not".
3. "Freak" - I guess two good songs in a row were too much. This one feels like left out from Paul's second solo album "Live To Win". It might have been a good song if it wasn't produced by Paul. Also Paul's voice is pretty weak here.
4. "Back To The Stone Age" - My favourite song on the album. Heavy bass and drums, typical Gene's scream and very well done rhythm guitar, I love Paul can add his sweet playing to a heavy song like this. Tommy's solo in "his/Ace" style fits the feel of the song, still not sure whether I would want him to add his style or just copy Ace's. I would love to hear this one with the "Creatures Of The Night" production/sound and Eric Carr drumming.
5. "Shout Mercy" - Typical Paul's generic song. Nothing special or interesting about this one and four minutes for repetitiveness is way too much.
6. "Long Way Down" - Slightly better than "Shout Mercy" but still feels like a filler. And for some reason (I guess the bridge does that) it is like this song was done by Bruce Kulick while listening to Led Zeppelin for his "BK3".
7. "Eat Your Heart Out" - Sweet opening of the song with that feel of "Hot In The Shade", in a good way. The highlight of the song is the solo, finally Tommy tries something else than imitate Ace and it work! It would have been the best song on the "Crazy Nights" or one of the best on the already mentioned "Hot In The Shade".
8. "The Devil Is Me" - This one seems to get a lot of attention on the Internet as a great song. I find it to be a weaker version of "I'm An Animal", cheap attempt for another "God Of Thunder", and a bit of Ozzy Osbourne singing. Only good part is pure hard rock riff.
9. "Outta This World" - As well as on "Sonic Boom", Tommy gets to sing one song here. It will be compared to "When The Lightning Strikes" it will win. Tommy is really getting into the role of Spaceman (not going to judge whether it is good or not). The lyrics, the "feel", and the structure of the solo is Ace. This song also shows what rock & roll is about: Tommy is better singer than Ace when it comes to range/technique but his voice is generic and booring, I can't imagine listening to him singing more than one or two songs on the album.
Bottom line: I would love to hear Ace Frehley do the cover of it, I bet his version would be way better and raw rock & roll.
10. "All For The Love Of Rock & Roll" - Eric Singer's Mainline? What I said about Tommy getting into Spaceman role aplies here as well. I always considered/still do Singer to be hard rock drummer and his only song is what you would expect from Criss back in 70s. I believe this song is for/about Criss. The riff is pure Kiss, cowbells pure Criss. Guilty pleasure?
11. "Take Me Down Below" - When you thought "Uh All Night" was corny and they would never go that low, you were mistaken. If you manage to get over the lyrics you will find it is well done song with some nice singing done by Paul and Gene.
12. "Last Chance" - Uptempo song with a feel of Kiss in the era of Lick it up. Not a bad song to end the album with (with some good singing by Paul).
I like Kiss. They have done many different albums, from their first one over "Unmasked or "Carnival Of Souls" to "Sonic Boom". I like the direction they took with "Sonic Boom" and I love what they did here on this album. It might be too early to say but I think this one, in a year or so, will end up in my top 10 Kiss albums and that is success. // 6
vinnyvincent10, on november 19, 2012 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Ahh, "Monster" at last. The follow-up to the current line-up's "Sonic Boom". This "Wall Of Sound" on "Monster" is pretty in-your-face. Recorded straight from analog tape, the sound has nice, crisp vibe to it. But, some of the overall songs are well... Mediocre.
"Back To The Stone Age" sounds like a song written for that Nickelodeon kids show Gene Simmons created. Oh what was that called? "My Dad The Rock Star". Also, if you listen to "Wall Of Sound" and "The Devil Is Me", the songs sort of mirror one another sound-wise, especially in the choruses.
Tommy Thayer has really stepped up his game on this album. He has really come into his own style without straying away from a classic KISS sound. Listen to the solo on "Outta This World", a song which he also wrote and sings on, on the album.
Paul's voice is definitely still capable of getting up there, although I'm not quite sure he pushed it as much as he could've on the album. Still great, I believe the auto-tune roll came into play on most of his songs in the final mixing. // 8
Lyrics: As for the lyrics, it seems as if Gene has ran out of ideas on what to talk about. For instance, a lyric passage from the song, "Eat Your Heart Out", on "Monster".
"Yeah, give me a kiss I'll bite your lip
C'mon baby let your backbone slip"
This lyrical passage is taken from the song, "Russian Roulette", off of the bands previous album, "Sonic Boom".
"Open up and let your backbone stiff"
What's with the "backbone" obsession Gene?
Also, the lyrics seem to be cheesy and comical. Some say that KISS has always been that way lyrically, but this album takes the cake. // 6
Overall Impression: Does it compare to other albums? Yes. It is basically a follow-up from "Sonic Boom". KISS, themselves, compared it to being a mix where "'Destroyer' meets 'Revenge'". If such a statement were true, then "Monster" would melt your brain and eat your heart out. Sadly, it does not compare to those iconic KISS albums.
The songs that really stand out, to me personally, would have to be "Wall Of Sound", "Shout Mercy", "Eat Your Heart Out", "All For The Love Of Rock & Roll", and "Outta This World".
As a dedicated KISS fan, I would buy this album over and over again if my copy were damaged or lost. But I'm sure, others would not. If anything, they would download it off the internet. "Monster" is not a very memorable KISS album such as the likes of "Love Gun" or "Rock And Roll Over" are. // 7