KISS unleashes classic analog sound with 20th studio album
Very few bands stay together long enough to record 20 albums, so KISS decided to record an album like they used to do in the 1970s and ‘80s. The band chose to record “Monster” using only analog equipment and vintage gear. This means the band did not have the safety nets of digital technology like auto-tune, digital mixers or digital editing at their disposal. Today, it’s commonplace to exclusively use digital equipment to record an album.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, vocalist and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley was asked why the band decided to record using analog tape and he said, “Gear that looks like ‘Star Trek’ isn’t what any of our heroes played on. If you can’t get a great sound with your guitar plugged into an amp, you need a new guitar or a new amp.”
The band’s line-up is cemented with founding members Paul Stanley (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Gene Simmons (bass guitar, vocals); however, the positions of drummer and lead guitarist have seen a revolving cast come and go since the ‘90s. Currently, Eric Singer holds down the drum kit while Tommy Thayer shreds on lead guitar.
The band has found it increasingly hard to please the “KISS Army” ever since founding drummer Peter Criss and founding guitarist Ace Frehley left the band. “Monster” is only the second album that features the current incarnation of the band, and there are many things that need to be proven before KISS enthusiasts embrace Singer and Thayer as one of their own. KISS certainly had this in mind when recording “Monster” in Hollywood and Los Angeles, Calif. The album is jam packed with 12 songs that were created using previous hit-singles as a blueprint for success. The band use familiar hooks to generate new anthems that long-time KISS fans will surely appreciate. Additionally, the band wrote all of the songs and had no outside writers contribute to the album.
“Hell or Hallelujah” may be the lead single from “Monster,” but it’s “Eat Your Heart Out” that generates the most excitement from this disc. The opening of the song begins with all four members singing a-cappella, “Eat your heart out, baby! / Oh won’t you give me something sweet? /Eat your heart out, baby! / A hot mess is just a-what I need.” A slithering solo guitar riff creates a bridge into a smooth stadium-sized attack. Simmons handles lead vocals on this track but, as the chorus kicks in the band transition into their signature gang vocals. This song has vintage KISS written all over it.
While Simmons and Stanley share the bulk of lead vocal duties, occasionally they allow other band members to shine in the lead singer light. This only happens one time throughout “Monster.” Thayer provides lead vocals on “Outta This World” and he does a great job. He has a smooth delivery that blends in perfectly with Simmons’ voice. In addition to providing the lead vocals on this track, Thayer also wrote the song. This could be a sign that Simmons and Stanley have vested their trust in him and fans should do the same.
For a band that’s built on visuals and an out-of-this-world stage show, it’s easy to neglect the quality of music the band creates. Thankfully, KISS does not disappoint on studio album number 20. Casual fans of rock music will enjoy this album as much as any KISS fanatic.
“Monster” has been released under the Universal Music Group label. KISS has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.