4 out of 5 Stars!
Well damn it, after listening to this album several times, I have to concede that this is probably one of the most powerful albums of Kiss’s career, with much of the album reminding me of the feeling I had when first listening to the slamming Creatures Of The Night album when it appeared after the band had fallen into lackluster territory in the late ’70s/early ’80s.
Although many reviewers seem to provide each of the albums in the post-Creatures Of The Night era of the band (from the albums Lick It Up to Hot In The Shade) with less-than-enthusiastic ratings, I’ve always felt those ratings completely unjustified. Certainly, the band at that time (having finally removed the make-up and showing the actual faces of the musicians involved to the public) jumped on the “hair band” bandwagon and went a bit “heavy-commercial,” they still seemed rejuvenated and wrote some decent tracks (certainly better than the Unmasked period of the band). Indeed, I quite enjoyed that period of Kiss. Not only was the band consistently powerful on that string of albums through the entire 1980s, delivering some catchy—and generally loud—stadium anthems, but the band seemed to possess an endless infusion of high energy that put most of their contemporaries of that era (Warrant, Dokken, Bon Jovi, etc.) to shame.
Soon came several more releases, from Revenge to the Psycho Circus album, which (sadly) I never quite embraced. To me, the songwriting quality had greatly diminished, as did the band’s “fun factor” and “attitude,” with Kiss even sounding in some ways like just another lackluster, depressing grunge band of the era, which completely took me by surprise, as I’m sure it did many longtime fans. Sadly, during this period, I lost nearly all interest in any of the band’s releases.
Then, more than a full decade passed, and the band finally released another album, this one being a collection of remakes under the name Jigoku-Retsuden (which I didn’t purchase). Again, I had lost much interest in the band, and I certainly didn’t feel like revisiting a bunch of “Kiss doing Kiss” tracks. But then to my thrill, a year later, the true comeback album Sonic Boom appeared, and I finally saw more than a glimpse of the old Kiss Alive energy and the band’s rejuvenated “fist-raising,” “rollicking-good-time” image rearing its welcomed head. In many ways, that album reminded me of the “back to basics” approach Kiss used on the album Rock And Roll Over after the overly produced Destroyer album had smoothed off the harder edges of their sound (“Beth” anyone? Good God!). Anyway, although the overall Sonic Boom package wasn’t quite what I had prayed, it was far from bad and was certainly a giant improvement from the Psycho Circus album. Thankfully, Kiss decided to continue in the same vein, only adding even more Adrenalin to the mix, and finally, Monster appeared in 2012.
An undeniable, sorely missed energy encompasses the album, a drive that the band hasn’t fully displayed since the early 1980s, not since its Creatures Of The Night masterpiece of kick-ass heavy rock (and an album that somehow captures the energy of their live performances). As mentioned at the start of the review, I feel this is one of the most powerful albums of Kiss’s career, both studio and live.
The opening track, “Hell Or Hallelujah,” barrels through the speakers with full guns blazing, and the album barely lets up until the closing track “Last Chance.” Guitarist Tommy Thayer truly leads the way into crunch-territory, delivering some wickedly wild leads and some memorable riffs—many of them reminiscent of Ace’s best solos and riffs from the olden days, or even Bruce Kulick’s blazing leads and riffs during that underrated ’80s period—and all the while the current rhythm section of Gene Simmons and Eric Singer, along with Paul Stanley’s dynamic guitar fills, create a magnificently grand, round and rich and bombastic sound and ultra-killer delivery in the best tradition of “stadium rock.” The full and blaring vocals only add to the excitement and fury, coming across as a “dare to listen to us again” call to arms to the Kiss Army. Sure, there are a few tracks that are lacking a tad (not in overall power or energy, but in substance and memorability), yet many of the tracks are not only catchy and infinitely repeatable, but also rival many of the tracks of the band’s early “classic” Alive years.
Yes, Monster proves that Kiss are back in full swing, and let’s pray the ride lasts forever.
Oh, and one final note: Turn It F*cking Loud!!!