Creatures of the Night B+ / Saint and Sinner B- / Keep Me Comin' B- / Rock & Roll Hell B- / Danger B+ / I Love it Loud D+ / I Still Love You B- Killer B / War Machine B+
Holy crap. I think Kiss read my reviews and actually took my advice. How is that even possible? In their 1982 album, they'd finally abandoned all those miserable attempts at art-rock and pop-rock that plagued their previous three works and instead focused on what it was that supposedly made these guys great in the first place: that is, FRIGGIN' LOUD GUITAR MUSIC. Seriously, this should have been obvious. And yet they needed someone who was little more than a jumbo shrimp to tell them this. (That's right; I was a fetus when this album was released.)
However, even though Kiss is now writing music that's far more appropriate to their strengths, that doesn't necessarily save this album from stinking to high heaven. By far the biggest problem with it is it's so doggoned plastic. There used to be a certain joy listening to Kiss' schtick, but this is fairly standard '80s hair metal fare. In fact, it's even worse than that: It's boring and has zero inspiration. It doesn't even have a particular song that I can latch onto and enjoy even though most of this is perfectly listenable.
I think probably the title track is the best song of the bunch, although when it comes to trying to pick a favorite, I'm plagued with not really caring. But I'd say the title track is as good as any of 'em. It has loud stadium drums, glitzy rapid-fire guitar licks, and Paul Stanley singing in an operatic, Iron Maiden-ish sort of way. (These guys might be generally famous for being untalented, but Stanley was pretty good at singing for someone who's supposedly untalented. ...I'm obviously not the biggest Kiss fan in the world, but I'm just sayin'...) Another OK-ish song is “War Machine,” which has a dark and growling riff that's almost catchy. Do I remember it five minutes after it's through playing, though? Not really.
“Danger” is another ridiculously overblown and over-sung metal song, but since that's all this album is good for, I guess we can chalk that up as another one of the album's high moments. It's hard to come up with a unique way to describe the song, but I suppose it has a slightly more distinctive chorus than the rest and I like hearing those same kinds of testicle-electrocuted, Roger-Taylor-like wails I hear in the background.
Speaking of Queen, what's with Kiss trying to rip-off Queen's “We Will Rock You” in “Love it Loud?” Man, that Queen song was insufferable as it was, but Kiss trying a similar thing makes me want to rip out my friggin' ear drums. It seems awhile since I've awarded anything less than a C- to a song, and that must be why I've been saving it! It has a ridiculously macho vocal performance from the world's most obnoxious man, Gene Simmons, who sings a melody that's so horrible it makes Queen's melody sound like Mozart. Another song that kind of reminds me of Queen's style is “Saint and Sinner,” particularly that playful electric guitar that plays heavy notes in the chorus. It's such a shame Kiss sucked at melodies or otherwise they might have been able to pull that off. “Keep Me Comin'” has a fast-paced riff with some appealingly growling guitar, but … wow is that thing ever so bland. I don't even know why I bothered bringing it up other than I convinced myself I should name off more songs.
Oh, and the necessary trivia regarding Kiss' line-up: Ace Frehley had absolutely zero participation in this album even though he is depicted on the album cover. The Wise One, Wikipedia, tells me that there were some sort of contractual reasons that Frehley had to be put on the cover. ...I don't get it, but that's what happened. In his place on lead guitar, we have Vinnie Vincent. He would only last a couple albums with the band, so it's best not we get too attached to him. I did a Google search on him, and he's ugly as hell. In other words, he fit in with the group just nicely.
Even though Kiss essentially heeded my advice and released an album that I wanted them to release all along, I find this album a little bit too bland for my tastes. Say what you want about Music from “The Elder”, but at least then I had more of a perverse interest in it. And I think surely the highs of that album surpass the highs of this one. Thus, I'll put this album on the higher spectrum of a 8/15. Why on the higher spectrum? Just so that it's clear I think this is better than Unmasked.