KISS — Hotter Than Hell (review)

KISS — Hotter Than Hell album cover Album · 1974 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
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?
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
54 days ago


Unitron wrote:
54 days ago
I love the Creatures of the Night album, but other than that I agree about KISS. Most of their albums I've heard have had a couple really good songs, and the rest filler.
54 days ago
KISS albums are just okay club members unite! They made better action figures, eh?
Tupan wrote:
55 days ago
Can I join the club? I loved their hits when I was a kid, but their albums are only ok, to be honest.
Vim Fuego wrote:
55 days ago
Also not a big KISS fan. Each album seems to have a couple of outstanding songs, and then 80% filler. "It’s okay, I guess" is my reaction to most of their albums.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
56 days ago
Hey, you're back! I'm not a huge KISS fan either but their first Live album is outstanding. Not sure if i've heard this one. Generally their albums are kinda weak.


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