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3.38 | 30 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 1974

Filed under Hard Rock


1. Got To Choose (3:54)
2. Parasite (3:02)
3. Goin' Blind (3:37)
4. Hotter Than Hell (3:30)
5. Let Me Go, Rock 'N Roll (2:15)
6. All The Way (3:17)
7. Watchin' You (3:44)
8. Mainline (3:51)
9. Comin' Home (2:38)
10. Strange Ways (3:18)

Total Time 33:10


- Paul Stanley / rhythm guitars, vocals
- Gene Simmons / bass guitars, vocals
- Ace Frehley / lead guitars, vocals
- Peter Criss / drums, vocals

About this release

Release date: October 22, 1974
Label: Casablanca Records

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I’ve never been a big KISS fan. I had a couple of the eighties albums on cassette in the eighties and in the last couple of years I bought “Lick It Up” and the debut. I actually found the debut kind of interesting and liked three, maybe four tracks. The other tracks were alright. But I heard that the debut was not the strongest album even though it’s held in fairly high regard compared to some albums. I watched a video where one fellow was listing some of his favourite hard rock albums of the seventies and he mentioned that this, “Hotter Than Hell”, was his favourite KISS album of that decade. As I often have the same opinion or close to the same as this guy, I went and ordered KISS’s second album.

The CD notes said that the debut had been a disappointment, unable to capture the vitality of the band’s live act. This album was said to be a grand improvement. After the first listen, however, I felt the album was totally unmemorable except for perhaps one track, possibly two. A second listen didn’t make it sound better. “Hotter Than Hell”? This album doesn’t even get hot enough to keep toast warm, I thought. So I put on my reviewer cap and gave the album one more listen, a careful one!

The opening track, “Got to Choose” is pretty mild. It’s mid-tempo, lacks any thrill and rush, and in no way hints that this is supposed to be a band with a spectacular live act. The song lyrics are pretty lame, too. It’s about a guy who finds out his girlfriend might leave him for another guy. So she “has to choose”. Deep, man.

The album does improve, though. “Parasite” is a little heavier than hard and sounds like it could go somewhere when played on stage. But “Goin’ Blind” is goin’ bland and just another throwaway power ballad. The title track should be a thrilling rocker I imagine but I isn’t. It starts with one of those typical hard rock riffs: power chords, pause, power chords, pause. But I’ve heard it a lot of times and done way better. The lead break is the only thing that kind of stands out.

“Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll” is alright and we are actually starting to rock out more. A typical blues-based rocker, it reminds me a little of Rush’s debut album. It’s not my favourite approach to seventies rock but the song moves. Then there’s “All the Way”, which is surprisingly not about “going all the way”. This song strikes me as KISS trying to do a hard rock song a little differently from the rest of the album. There’s some cowbell! It’s a good follow up to the previous track because at least now we seem to have gotten our asses of the couch even if it's just to confirm the track number.

At last I feel the band is making use of the dual guitars and bass when we reach track 7, “Watchin’ You”. Good riffs and musical structure. I am now finally warming up to this album! Then with "mainline" the band decides to do a southern rock-styled song that sounds like something I’d hear on a Nazareth album, like “Gone Dead Train” from “Show No Mercy” except Nazareth were better at it. Who is doing the vocals here? Ace?

“Comin’ Home” (these guys don’t like the “g” in the present continuous). What happened? This sounds like a demo! Paul Stanley sings this fun-ish rock song with a melody. Maybe something you’d hear from Cheap Trick. Then we get another heavy track, possibly one of Gene’s, with “Strange Ways”. It’s not bad but sounds very familiar, it doesn’t particularly stand out for originality. I get the impression that KISS were better at wearing make up and costumes than they were at writing and recording songs. Maybe that's why they were most popular among my friends when we were 9 years old.

It’s okay, I guess. There are some tracks that are worthy of adding to a seventies’ mixed playlist or that should be good live. Perhaps that was KISS’s strong point after all: their live shows. I have plenty of albums in my collection that totally rock out, songs that make you want to do scissor kicks and punch the air. This album needs to be cranked at a frat party and then only certain tracks played. Perhaps it’s best for people loaded on beer and hormones. Or am I too finicky?
Impressively released barely three months after their debut, Kiss are back with their second album, ‘Hotter Than Hell’. While I admire a lot of these early rock bands from back in the day for their non-stop work ethic which saw them chug out so many releases in such a short space of time, the end result is usually average at best.

Take Kiss’ early days, for example. Mediocre, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll, at its very finest. I guess. I didn’t really enjoy the bands self-titled debut, and this certainly isn’t any better. From the rather dreary riffs to the forgettable lyrics, the only real shining quality about this album is the apparent chemistry amongst the band members, in particular, guitarists Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley. While it’s nothing remarkable by today’s standards, there’s definitely a synergy between the two, and if nothing else, it’s reassuring to know that these guys will go on to release much better material in the future.

‘Got to Choose’ and ‘Parasite’ are the only two songs I’d even consider passable, and the latter is mostly thanks to Anthrax’s cover of it. There’s a couple of decent guitar solos, but not decent enough that I remember which song I heard them in, and I have no desire to go looking for them.

While Kiss’ early works probably fare better if you were around in the 70’s, or you were exposed to it at an early age, to me, ‘Hotter Than Hell’, much like its predecessor, is a fairly rubbish album. It lacks the energy and bombast of later efforts, and just tends to drag along boringly with no real passion. Mercifully, it’s barely half an hour long.
Although it is prized by many Kiss fans, I personally find it difficult to warm to Hotter Than Hell. Its case isn't helped by the miserably murky production job, which combined with a lifeless, plodding performance by the band causes the album to lack all of the vivacity and enthusiasm of the band's electrifying debut. When you throw in the fact that most of the album's better tracks would be released in superior and far more energetic versions on the Alive! album, there's really no compelling reason to listen to this one, unless your heart is set on listening to the band groan their way through a tasteless joke about a lecherous old codger's relationship with a barely-legal-to-outright-illegal (depending on your local laws on age of consent) girl. No thanks.
She looked good she looked hotter than hell, so begins the title track and this is an apt description of the album. It looks fantastic with Japanese scrawlings and vibrant colourful kabuki masks, the Japanese must have adored this. The sound is raw and energetic and it is perhaps the best of the first three albums of Kiss. Parasite is on this, always a perennial favourite. Goin' Blind is the wonderful Simmons ballad. Got To Choose is a slow paced cruncher by Paul with blistering riffs. Mainline is Peter Criss taking the mike to great effect. He also shines on the Frehley penned Strange Ways that features some awesome Ace grooves and a killer lead solo. Overall this is a memorable album with a startling doomy atmosphere. The serious side of Kiss was captured here and the tracks have featured in concert performances over the years. It is one of my favourite early Kiss albums.

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