KISS – Monster [6 out of 10]

By Andrew Bansal

After undergoing an extended build-up and withstanding a few delays, rock legends KISS are ready to unleash their 20th studio album “Monster”. Set for release on October 9th in North America, this album has been talked about by the members of the band for quite a while now, and Gene Simmons repeatedly described it as “Destroyer meets Revenge”. Although I wasn’t ready to take his word for it, the first single “Hell Or Hallelujah” definitely raised my hopes up for the rest of the album. It’s been more than three months since the release of that single, and the long wait is finally over.

Of course, the album starts out with the aforementioned “Hell Or Hallelujah”. An upbeat rock ‘n roll tune with catchy riffs and vocals, this is quintessential Kiss. The overall sound is delightfully heavy, and the guitar solo blends into the song excellently towards its end. The vocals are invariably the weak link in aging bands, but Paul Stanley’s vocals sound surprisingly good here. In fact, the five songs on this album sung by him are vocally the best ones.

When I first heard the single in July, my biggest concern was that it might be the best song on the album, but I was still hoping for the rest of the album to offer some good tunes. My fears came true to a large extent, as none of the other 11 tracks are anywhere near as lively or strong as “Hell Or Hallelujah”. But still, the album has its moments and a few of these remaining 11 tracks are worthwhile. “Wall Of Sound” has decent guitar work and a solid rhythm section, but Gene’s vocals leave a lot to be desired. “Freak”, “Back To The Stone Age” and “Shout Mercy” are much better tunes with well-written music and great vocals. “Shout Mercy” is probably the strongest tune on the album guitar-wise, as Stanley and Thayer are in their elements. “Long Way Down” is a weak, generic tune but the guitar solo is once again the saving grace. And that, I’m afraid is the last good song on the album. The album fades away pretty quickly after “Long Way Down”, which is ironic when you read that title. The next five tracks are quite mediocre, offer nothing worth a second listen, and sound too similar to each other. Thankfully, the album ends on a decent note with “Last Chance”.

Overall, the album is better than what I had initially expected, but not up to the expectation that I built up in my head after listening to “Hell Or Hallelujah”. That being said, it’s leagues better than the abysmal “Sonic Boom”, and a number of Kiss fans might be pleasantly surprised with some of the stuff on Monster. I like the rock ‘n roll vibe created by these songs, and besides the music itself, the analog 24-track recording approach seems to have paid off, as it has lent a touch of character to the overall sound.

For Kiss Army members and die-hard Kiss fans & collectors, this album won’t disappoint, but for others, a digital purchase of tracks #1, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #12 would suffice, because the band got lazy with the album cover, and they’ve not really done much to make the package attractive enough to compel us to buy the physical formats. All in all, “Monster” is not quite the “Destroyer meets Revenge” album we were promised, but a decent release nonetheless.

Rating: 6/10

Record Label: Universal Music Group
Release Date: October 9th 2012

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