CD Reviews

Kiss - 'Sonic Boom' Hot
Written by James Gaden     February 17, 2010    
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First new Kiss studio album in 12 years from the legendary rock band.


Having to wait 12 years is a test of any fans’ patience and the criticisms aimed at the band living on past glories certainly seemed justified. So, here we have the first new release from Kiss since ‘Psycho Circus’. Gone are Frehley and Criss, only to be replaced visually in make-up by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. As a long time Kiss fan I had all but given up on anything new, especially as Gene Simmons had been very verbal regarding his views on internet piracy and new material, so it was a surprise to hear the band were in the studio not so long ago.

Kicking off with ‘Modern Day Delilah’ the familiar “yeah, yeah” from Paul Stanley takes us into familiar Kiss territory. There is a hard edge to the guitar work and instantly I noticed Tommy Thayer’s guitar solo is right out of the Ace Frehley guitar solo book, and for some purists this may be a little too close to the mark. The song is at a very steady pace and you can’t help but feel they should have ditched the click track on this one, although nice to hear Gene and Paul’s vocals up front singing together on the chorus as they used to do in the early days.

A thundering start to ‘Russian Roulette’ has Gene’s gut-bucket bass high in the mix and a very AC/DC type of riff introduces the song, again the song is at a mid pace and it’s more of a lazy early 90’s feel to Genes voice with a big vocal gathering round the mic for the chorus. It’s a good song though not what I would call old school Kiss, which is how this release has been marketed and for me is quite a departure from the bands signature sound. Taking us back to the kind of stuff the band were releasing in the late 80’s and early 90’s, ‘Never Enough’ is a traditional Paul Stanley fanfare and reminded me of ‘I Just Wanna’ from ‘Revenge’. There’s some nice work from Gene in the bass department for anyone missing some of his more traditional work from the early days, and this kind of song would have benefited from Vinnie Vincent’s more in your face guitar heroics to bring it up to date.

Taking us back to something that might have been on ‘Dressed To Kill’, Gene introduces us to the simplistic charms of ‘Yes I Know’ as Tommy Thayer all but replicates an Ace solo and Gene sings about his favourite subject…yes, girls! It’s kind of Kiss doing Kiss, if you get my meaning. It’s not until we get to ‘Stand’ that we really get something to get your teeth into and it’s Kiss anthems at their best! The song has all the trademarks with Stanley vocal raps and there is some nice punchy guitar work before we get a nice mid section vocal piece from the band as the song just gets bigger and bigger. The band are not trying too hard on this one to take the sound back to the glory days of ‘Destroyer’ and the song benefits from this.

Eric Singer emulates Peter Criss’s cowbell drum pattern and Gene’s vocals take us right back to’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Over’ for ‘Hot And Cold’ and it’s not a particularly exceptional song. It’s the sort of song Gene writes in his sleep and has a very forced retro feel to it I found. Surprisingly Eric Singer’s vocals on the almost Ramones like ‘All The Glory’ steals the limelight from some of Gene’s efforts and we have a strong chorus in which the guitars are up front, and it’s an instantly great song that is just waiting to find its place on stage. The vocals from all of the band work to an excellent effect as the song builds in strength from the word go, and I would not have minded a few more from Eric after this display. Cutting edge guitar work introduces us to Paul Stanley’s ‘Danger Us’, with a clever play on words as we delve back into classic Paul Stanley material which he did so well in the 80’s. It’s got the cocksure swagger and the hooks we all love him for, and is one of a number of stand-out tracks for me on this release. These are the songs we hoped to hear when it was announced that the band were to return to the studio and make it worth the wait.

It’s been some time since Gene has written with his persona of the demon in mind and personally this has rendered many of his songs predictable and lazy...just listen to his god awful solo album ‘A**Hole’ for a classic example, but with ‘I’m Animal’ the Demon is back with one of his more menacing vocals and a chunky Black Sabbath style riff. This song has it all, plus an exceptionally blistering solo from Tommy Thayer and some thunderous drums from Mr.Singer…Kiss fans check out the end of the song for the ‘Fits Like A Glove’ scream from the past. Tommy Thayer’s first vocal has a similar feel to Frehley’s for ‘When Lightning Strikes’, though obviously Tommy is a superior singer, even the style of riff is a little too close for my liking to Ace’s style. It’s by no means a bad song as such but if I want the Frehley sound I’ll listen to Frehley. It’s the only real dud on offer purely for that reason alone, which is a shame as Tommy is a talented guy and it may be that he was under orders to not steer too far away from the spaceman’s style… who knows?

Paul brings ‘Sonic Boom’ to a close with a typical Kiss party style riff for the simply titled ‘Say Yeah’ and we are off into ‘Uh All Night’ territory in style and feel for this song, and it is the sort of song that you would have found on the likes of ‘Asylum’ or ‘Crazy Nights’, and to be honest it’s just nice to hear Paul singing in this style as he is truly an underrated singer in the rock scene.

Certainly a good release but to liken it to the bands heyday of ‘Destroyer’ is a little misleading. It sits more closely with the likes of ‘Psycho Circus’ or ‘Revenge’, for bands like Kiss in the twilight of their years we should just enjoy the fact that the band are still releasing music some 30 plus years later.

Ray Paul


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Franco Cerchiari said:

It is with a laugh I recall being pulled aside by a priest during my tenure as a student of the Catholic School System, who noticed my wearing of a Kiss t-shirt. "Don't you know what the letters in that band's name whose shirt you are wearing stands for?" "Uh, no," I responded. Continuing his desire to educate me in the evils of rock 'n' roll, this dear priest reported, "Knights In Satan's Service." My reply to him, which resulted in a week of detention and further cemented my life long addiction to hard rock, "Knights in Satan's Service? Really? Cool. I knew I liked this band for a reason." Of course, I soon learned that the name KISS really doesn't stand for anything. Story goes, that it was Paul Stanley who came up with the name Kiss after being told by Peter Criss that he was in a band called Lips.

Sonic Boom, the band's 19th studio album and the follow up to Psycho Circus which was released 11 years earlier in 1998 was the first Kiss album to feature Tommy Thayer, formerly of Black 'n' Blue, Doro and Shake the Faith, and had the return of drummer extraordinaire Eric Singer. As if not a moment was lost in that 11 years, Sonic Boom opens with "Modern Day Delilah," with Paul Stanley's tenor voice, while sounding a tad strained (actually it always has,)still sounds strong, and the evil bass guitar licks mixes with pounding drums on the Gene Simmons led "Russian Roulette." Track 3 "Never Enough," tries hard to emulate Destroyer or Dressed to Kill. The yell of "Oh yeah, look out," opens "Hot and Cold," talking about Gene Simmon's favorite pastime.

One can only wonder just what else Kiss has planned. For over 30 years they have been the kings of self promotion, and tongue in cheek lyrics talking about life between the sheets, and, yes, they have released some great music over the years. Funny thing is, they continue to release some great tracks. The days of Destroyer, Dressed to Kill, Love Gun and Rock 'n' Roll Over may be long gone, but it must be said that Sonic Boom has some great tracks on it, and while the Kiss Army may be getting close to retirement, the boys of Kiss can certainly put up a fair fight of never letting rock 'n' roll die.
September 15, 2013
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