Monster is the twentieth official studio album by the legendary American Rock band Kiss, it was released in 2012, around fourty years after the band’s inception, it was produced by Paul Stanley and Greg Collins and it is their second studio album with the Stanley/Simmons/Singer/Thayer line-up (although Singer and Thayer have both been involved with the band in different capacities for years and years).
Monster follows up the 2009 Sonic Boom album, which was seen by a great many fans as a return to form, or reaffirmation of the band’s quality and as probably one of the band’s best efforts since the Seventies. A large part of the album’s success was in deliberately using equipment and tones that they would’ve used in the Seventies, as well as concentrating on the Hard Rock part of their signature sound and not filling the album up with experiments, strings, choirs or ballads. Monster is very much constructed in the same vein as Sonic Boom
Throughout their history the band have also made some questionable decisions with regards to hiring outside writers to contribute to the albums instead of band members, and with Monster, the band are making a big deal out of the fact that the band sat down and wrote all the material themselves.
The material that the band came out with has everything you’d expect from a Kiss album that’s mission statement is pure hard Rock. If it wasn’t so enjoyable it would almost seem like a cynical textbook run through of how to write and structure good Rock music.
There’s loads of lead guitar, there are fun and simple drumbeats that make everything catchy, as well as touches of cowbells and hand-claps to make it fun, there’s a mix of different vocals (Paul and Gene take lead vocals on different tracks as usual, and the other guys get a bit of an airing too, like on Sonic Boom) and structurally there are a lot of fun stop/start mechanics and instrument-drop-in-drop-out dynamics.
The album kicks off with the energetic lead single ‘Hell Or Hallelujah’ which is reminiscent of some sort of mixture of pre-existing high energy Kiss songs like ‘I Stole Your Love’ ‘Modern Day Delilah’ and ‘I Pledge Allegiance To The State Of Rock And Roll.’ Its simple enough to be fun, but it has a bit of depth to it too, its heavy for Kiss’ standards, and there’s great lead guitar work. It’s a bit of a shame that there’s nothing else on the album that’s this fast though, about two more songs in this tempo would’ve really did it for me personally.
There are some great slower, but still hard tracks like ‘Wall Of Sound’ which actually reminds me of Foghat more than anything, as well as ‘The Devil Is Me’ and ‘Take Me Down Bellow’ which are great stompy hard rock moments.
There are also a few tracks like ‘Long Way Down,’ which has a Zeppelin sort of feel in parts, and ‘All For The Love Of Rock N Roll’ that aren’t really in the same sort of driving pounding direction at all and add a bit variety to the album.
My favourite track on the album is probably ‘Back To The Stone Age’ which seems like a sneaky modernization of ‘Deuce’ but is still a great song despite the obvious homage.
To be fair, its surprising that any band this far into their career can put out such a fresh and energetic record but of course, some people will just never ever like any Kiss without Peter Criss or Ace Frehley in the line-up and if you haven’t liked anything the band have done in ages, then I don’t see this record changing your mind.
Overall the album is pretty much in the same vein as Sonic Boom; not identical but certainly similar, and if you liked that album, then I imagine that this will satisfy you as well. If you desperately need originality or youthful sounds then look elsewhere, but if you like solid, classic sounding, mid-tempo rock music its surely worth a listen. It isn’t the best album that any band made ever, but its definitely one of the best Kiss albums since the Seventies.