Sound — 7
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.
Lyrics — 7
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.
Overall Impression — 8
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.