You can say what you like about KISS, and people really do. The fervour and love of their army of fans is matched only by the strength with which many despise their brand of fun-loving, Rock & Roll music. Whilst it lacks any real depth, serious message or great technical ability, Monster definitely offers what made KISS huge in the first place: A slice of high energy Hard Rock that gets fists pumping in the air and the long hair (albeit a distant memory for many of their original fans) swinging.
The 20th album of a career spanning 4 decades, Monster is the second record KISS have made with the current line-up of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (founding members) along with the guitar skills of Tommy Thayer, and the pounding drums of Eric Singer. The follow up to 2009’s Sonic Boom continues with the band’s return to the true 70s sound that they’re famous for. Never a group to push musical boundaries, KISS is still most certainly doing what they’ve always done. 3 minute Hard Rock with plenty of guitar solos and lyrics about little more than Rock and Roll and partying which, whilst alright for some, do not plumb the depths of imagination, imagery or metaphor to decipher, especially as the ideas could have been lifted directly from albums of the band’s hay-day of 30 years ago. The problem with this return to the style of their classic period is that listening through to the album, there is a sense that you’ve heard all the songs before. “Ground-breaking” has never been a term regularly used in terms of KISS’ music, but there is a lack of much of anything special or new on Monster.
The opening track of Monster, “Hell or Hallelujah”, which was first released at the start of July 2012, begins the album with a barrage of classic bombast. The high-energy continues throughout the first couple of tracks, drawing heavily on the Blues-Rock roots of the band, each following the stock Verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo format which, although tried and tested as a song-writing technique, offers little in the way of variety. The album features tracks which allow all 4 members the opportunity to have a turn on lead vocals. Although no-one else reaches the power and range of Stanley, Thayer’s tribute to the spaceman aesthetic that his character in the band has on “Outta This World” is a good rocker, although, like most of this album, there’s little inspired about it. The same with Singer’s “All for the Love of Rock & Roll”, while anthems extolling the virtues of specific musical genres are all well and good, music has moved on and evolved since the time that these songs belong in. The guitar playing on this album, whilst definitely better than most attempts at guitar based music that are released today, still lacks the sparkle, polish and sophistication that is needed to stand out even in the specific Rock music charts. The Hard, Party-on aesthetic seems to be wearing a bit thin on these stalwart veterans, with the two original members in their 60s, and Tommy and Eric in their 50s; it’s hard to see how relevant their lyrics are to them anymore.
This album is a welcome return to the 1970s styling of KISS’ music. Although the problem is large amounts of it do sound like off-cuts from previous albums. There are no real possibilities for a modern-day “Rock and Roll All Nite (And Party Every Day).” Unfortunately for KISS they seem to be resting on their laurels a bit with this release.
In a year where many other classic bands have released new albums, while this is definitely a fun, good time record, there’s very little special or exciting about it. The re-hashed formula of the songs makes this a bit of an old, toothless Monster at best. So for previous, and die-hard fans who love what KISS always were, this album continues their legacy successfully enough. But for people looking for an exciting, new addition to the Rock ‘n’ roll cannon, it lacks in many departments.