Under The Radar: KISS & the (Un)holy Trinity of Rock.
Updated: Mar 25
Kiss’ 16th studio album Revenge celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Of course, being a KISS fan, I had to write something about the “Kiss-toric” event. So, there I was, getting ready to write a review on Revenge and as I start to think about the album and the band’s history, other elements start to creep in and this happens. Just like KISS, I couldn’t go small. The article took on a Crazy, Crazy, ehm, well it ended becoming this overview of the band’s three hardest rocking and most underappreciated albums in their repertoire: Creatures of the Night, Lick it Up and of course Revenge. Or as I like to call them, KISS’ (un) holy trinity of rock. It’s my opinion that KISS has always been underappreciated when it came to their studio albums especially their latter albums, after their 70’s heyday; specifically, the band’s non makeup era.
So, You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best!! KISS’ (un) holy trinity of rock!!!!
Creatures of the Night (1982)
Creatures may not have set heaven on fire, ehm, I mean set the charts on fire, but over the course of 3 decades, Creatures has grown in popularity. The record hits you like a ton of bricks and to this day, the album boasts some of the loudest sounding drumming I have ever heard. The album is a bombastic, sonic assault with arguably some of the best material from Gene and Paul since Destroyer. Honestly, there isn’t a weak track on the album. Unfortunately, the world just wasn’t ready for such a hard-hitting record. My personal favourites are the title track, Saint & Sinner, Danger, I Love It Loud and the amazing ballade, I Still Love You. Bottom line, KISS pulled an Ace out of their six-inch leather heels ehm, sleeves, and not only delivered one the best albums of their career, but one of rocks best albums, period. Creatures of the Night is simply an amazing hard rock record that took thirty years to get its just due.
Lick It Up (1983)
With Creatures underachieving on the charts, KISS knew it was time to make some major changes. First, tweaking their sound by making it more melodic and accessible to the record buying public. Second, it was time to, gasp! remove their trademark make-up. Lick It Up showed the world that the band was ready and willing to not only be part of the new musical landscape, but dominate it.
Again, I think that fans of the band had a hard time accepting KISS’ changing sound in order to fit in with the changing musical climate. Also, the fact that the band had removed their signature make-up, may have hurt the album. Although Lick it Up did go platinum and was one of their biggest sellers in years, I still think, it should have sold more. My issue has always been with Mercury, their record label. I am thoroughly convinced that the record label was never fully on board with KISS’ decision to remove the make-up or continuing without founding members, Ace and Peter. In any case, Lick It Up is a great record that has been lumped into “the KISS 80’S” era and like Creatures it never got the accolades it so deserved. Highlights from the album: Exciter, Lick it Up, All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose & A Million to One.
After the synthesiser heavy Crazy Nights and the pop rock record Hot in the Shade, many fans thought that KISS, just like in their disco phase, had once again lost touch with their rock roots. But come on! Never count KISS out. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons re-emerged from the ashes with a killer album called, Revenge. The album is easily the most relentless record from the band. Merging the best elements of Creatures and Lick It Up and then kicking it up to ten! Revenge made a bold statement with Gene “The Demon” Simmons issuing the dark hard rock lead single Unholy, a modernized version of God of Thunder for a new generation. Fans around the world rejoiced, “The Demon was back!!!!!” Paul Stanley brought in his “A” game on Revenge. Tracks like,Take it Off and Heart of Chrome ranked up there, as some of his best. Although, once again, Mercury records dropped the ball and never really marketed the album. Worst of all, Paul Stanley had delivered the best ballade since Beth, with Every Time I Look At You and it should have gone #1. But alas, it was not meant to be. Now, as much as I love Paul’s contributions on Revenge, this was clearly the album that brought Gene Simmons back to the forefront with his strongest set of songs in nearly a decade, most notably Unholy, Thou Shall Not & Domino. Also, the inclusion of an amazing jam session , from then recently deceased drummer, Eric Carr, made Revenge a bittersweet victory for KISS and their fans. Revenge is the album where we see the band fully embrace their rock n roll past and show KISS for what they were: an honest to goodness rock band.
You can purchase all the albums in this review at the Aroundtable Store.