Best of 2012: KISS - Monster

by Morley Seaver

I've been a solider in the KISS Army for a long time. Since the very beginning, in fact. I bought the debut record the day after it was released. And as a fan who has supported them at every stage of their career, I think I've got more than a bit of perspective.

With that in mind, it's with complete confidence that I make the following statement. This is not a regular KISS album. With past records, everything was transparent and you knew exactly what was what when dropping the needle or pushing the button.

With Monster, at least for me, its magic was not so instantly apparent. I cracked the plastic on the CD when I received it and sat back waiting and….nothing stood out. Only one cut "Show Mercy" showed promise and Eric's vocal on "All For the Love of Rock & Roll" also caught my ear.

Slightly disappointed, I let it sit for a day or so before trying again. This time it became warmer. The first single "Hell or Hallelujah" shined a bit brighter. It still wasn't there, however. It sat for a few more days and then a strange thing happened. I threw on some headphones and listened to it that way. Suddenly and dynamically, the album came rushing into focus like an old-time Polaroid quickly developing before your eyes. The songs that first struck me became absolute winners and the other tracks quickly followed suit.

It's amazing what a few days and some extra listening will do. Is it the record or is it just me? Guess we'll never know but I think these songs were created with a bit more juice in them than the past cuz I think they'll all have mucho staying power. There is nothing that is as immediate as say "Love Gun" or "Domino" (I'm not even saying "Deuce", "Strutter" or the like because let's face it, they're Klassics) but the songs have all emerged as having legs as long as Lebron James. I don't think my ears will tire of them for quite a while as now I'm fully on board.

In fact, it's strange to say considering my initial reticence but this could quite possibly be the best KISS record of all time. What? Am I crazy? I can just hear the comments that statement would elicit. No, there will never be another Destroyer. That was over 35 years ago. Nothing will strike you the same after a gap of that many years. But while there may not be the grand slam home run like "Black Diamond", "Detroit Rock City" or "Love Gun", this collection of songs hangs together from start to finish perfectly, sort of like Halle Berry's DNA. There are no passengers on this one with every cut pulling its weight and expertly crafted by the headmaster, Paul Stanley.

"Hell or Hallelujah" flexes its muscles and, for me, the magic starts when Paul commands "Sing it" and Gene and co provide backup vocals. There's a real whiff of confidence from this track right from the get-go. It's not the most obvious or captivating hook of Paul's but the more I hear this, the more I like it.

"Wall of Sound" is a stealth-missile that sneaks up on you. I sort of dismissed this Gene-voiced cut at first but it really hooks into you after a few spins. "Freak" is seemingly not a typical Paul Stanley song but it one of his most interesting and also one of the songs that will endure long past when the album has used up its "newness". Gene takes the mic again for "Back to the Stone Age" and on the surface sounds like a typical Gene song but it really hangs in there for the long haul.

"Shout Mercy" is my vote for the outstanding cut of the record and it is once again courtesy of Mr. Paul Stanley. The whole song is so juicy that you'll be singing the whole thing, not just the chorus in short order. Quite simply, this song has all the best elements of the record sewn up in its stitches, with a big part of it being Gene on the background vocals.

"Eat Your Heart Out" starts off with a cool a capella version of the chorus and the song itself sounds like it could be off Rock & Roll Over. "Long Way Down" is a more, dare I say, mature sounding cut that still manages to bench press some serious weight. Great cut, this one.

Gene is fully in his Demon character for "The Devil is Me", sounding confidently dark and nether-worldly. Tommy takes the mic for "Outta This World" and proves himself a capable vocalist. Written squarely in the Spaceman vein, the song fits him to a tee.

If you're listening to "Take Me Down Below" while driving, I suggest you switch to another cut because your foot is going to plummet and thrust you into peril. In Klassic KISS fashion, Gene and Paul alternate verses for maximum effect. One of the more buoyant songs on this record is "All for the Love of Rock & Roll" where Eric Singer takes his turn on vocals. This is an absolute winner!! Ending off the record in a big way is "Last Chance", another Paul Stanley song that keeps the energy going from start to finish.

Much better than Sonic Boom", Monster lives up to its name. If it's possible to make a mature rock record that sounds anything but old, KISS have done it in high style. Hard-hitting but catchy and containing all the best elements of past records, Monster is not only one of the band's best records but one of the best released last year.

Best of 2012: KISS - Monster

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