Saliva – Rise Up [Review]

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Saliva – Rise Up
2014, Rum Bum Records
Buy the album

1. “Rise Up”
2. “She Can Sure Hide Crazy”
3. “No One But Me”
4. “Lost”
5. “1000 Eyes”
6. “Redneck Freakshow”
7. “Choke”
8. “Army”
9. “Closer”
10. “In It To Win It”
11. “The Enemy”
12. “I Don’t Want It”

Band:
Bobby Amaru – vocals
Wayne Swinny – guitar
Dave Novotny – bass
Paul Crosby – drums and percussion

Producer: Bobby Huff

Saliva is one of a handful of “modern” bands that I follow. I wouldn’t say they are an all-time favorite but I do like them and I’ve been listening to them since the release of Every Six Seconds. I think they’ve done a great job writing singles throughout their career but it was the last two releases with former singer Josey Scott where I felt the band was finally getting more consistent in terms of writing a full album’s worth of quality material. When factoring in Scott’s departure and low sales for the last few albums, I figured it was going to a wrap for the band. Fortunately, that’s not the case as the band found a new vocalist and continued on.

Rise Up is technically Saliva’s second release with Bobby Amaru. In an odd move, an album called In It to Win It was given a temporary release in September 2013 but with the impending release of Rise Up, the album was eventually taken out of print and pulled from iTunes. Very strange because all of the songs on Rise Up were on In It to Win It and this album actually features three less tracks than In It to Win It had. So it’s not like the band went back into the studio to write and record new songs. It’s the same songs. The only change is they’ve shuffled the track list.

That marketing misstep aside, Rise Up is a worthy follow-up to Under Your Skin even if it the highlights here aren’t on pair with the highlights from that album. The songs still sound like Saliva (though they’ve completely dropped all rap-metal posturing) so anyone who has enjoyed the band in the past should like these songs. The only different is the vocals. Bobby Amaru is a good vocalist but fits much more in line with the generic modern alternative post-grunge whatever vocalist. Josey Scott stood out a bit due to his southern rock-style voice.

“Rise Up” is done in the typical Saliva anthemic style while “Lost” and “Closer” are exactly the type of ballads you expect from Saliva. Rise Up sees the band staying the course despite replacing singers and it’s worth at least one or two spins from anyone who likes Saliva.

Highlights: “Rise Up”, “She Can Sure Hide Crazy”, “Lost”, “1000 Eyes”, “Closer”

Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell [Review]

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Sebastian Bach – Give ‘Em Hell
2014, Frontiers Records
Buy the album

1. “Hell Inside My Head”
2. “Harmony”
3. “All My Friends Are Dead”
4. “Temptation”
5. “Push Away”
6. “Dominator”
7. “Had Enough”
8. “Gun To A Knife Fight”
9. “Rock N’ Roll Is A Vicious Game”
10. “Taking Back Tomorrow”
11. “Disengaged”
12. “Forget You”

Musicians:
Sebastian Bach - Vocals
Devin Bronson – Guitar
Jeff George - Guitar
Steve Stevens -Guitar
John 5 - Guitar
Duff McKagan – Bass
Bob Marlette – Bass, Piano
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Franky Perez – Harmonica

Producer: Bob Marlette

The most recent outing from Sebastian Bach sees him recruiting a few other well-known musicians to help out. Steve Stevens, John 5 and Duff McKagan (who handled the majority of bass playing duties, I believe) all lend a hand in the recording and writing process of Give ‘Em Hell.

For the most part, this album continues down the path of modern hard rock & heavy metal that Baz has been walking on for quite some time. While Sebastian has publicly said he’d like to do a reunion with the rest of Skid Row, he isn’t spending his days as a solo act trying to recreate the vibe of his old band. Well, Skid Row was always heavier than the rest of the hair metal acts and heaviness is something Bach has retained as a solo artist but he’s not trying to put out new songs that sound like it’s still 1989.

In his mid-40s, Bach shows no sign of slowing down or softening up whether you’re talking about his approach to singing or the content of the songs themselves. Sebastian is a controversial figure at times due to his opinions but you can’t take away that he’s one of the best singers (if not THE best) of his generation. Bach is still going all out on vocals on this album and that’s a testament to his natural born abilities and training as a singer to still be able to do what he does after so many years.

As for the music itself, Give ‘Em Hell finds Sebastian doing exactly that — giving ‘em hell. I don’t think this album is as melodic as his last two albums were but this is the most consistently heavy album Bach has done yet (the heaviest solo song he’s ever done would still probably be Angel Down‘s “American Metalhead”). Bobby Jarzombek is still a monster on the drums and the album is full of crunchy riffs.

There are two occasions when this album lets up: the power ballad “Had Enough” and “Rock N’ Roll is a Vicious Game” (an April Wine cover). After Bach’s last two albums delivered exception ballads, I was really looking forward to what, if any, ballads would appear here. Unfortunately, “Had Enough” falls a bit short in comparison to the likes of “I’m Alive”, “By Your Side” and “Falling Into You” but it is still a fine track. The April Wine cover is a song I’m not familiar with and given the style of the rest of the album, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s not bad, just odd-sounding given that the rest of the album comes across as pretty modern rock/metal.

I have a big soft spot for Angel Down (that album still holds my favorite Sebastian Bach songs) but in addition to being consistently heavy, Give ‘Em Hell may be Bach’s most consistent album from a quality standpoint.

Highlights: “Hell Inside My Head”, “Temptation”, “Push Away”, “Dominator”, “Had Enough”, “Taking Back Tomorrow”, “Disengaged”, “Forget You”

Loud Lion – Die Tough [Review]

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 Loud Lion – Die Tough
2014, MelodicRock Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Love Will Break Your Heart
2. Lion’s Den
3. Lion Eyes
4. Die Tuff
5. Loud Lion Theme Song
6. Dawn Of The Dead
7. The Hills Have Eyes
8. Sunset Slip
9. None More Fast

Band:
Bleu – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Taylor Locke – Guitar
Adam Ross – Guitar
Allison Robertson – Guitar
John Fields – Bass
Maclaine Diemer – Keyboards, Guitar
Dylan Halacy – Drums

Producer: John Fields & Bleu

Loud Lion (Or is it LoudLion? I’ve seen it spelled both ways by the band and the record label…) is a project put together by indie rock/pop musician & producer Bleu along with some help from members of the Donnas, Rooney and Bang Camaro and a few others. Their goal? To emulate Def Leppard and the “Mutt Lange sound” just as good and as better as any band before them. Loud Lion… Def Leppard… get it? Bleu has another project that plays music in a style similar to Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) called L.E.O.

The band was first put together over 7 years ago. The handful of songs out there before the release of Die Tough were available on the band’s MySpace band years ago along with some appearances on a few movie soundtracks such as The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Balls of Fury. Loud Lion even covered Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages” on the Balls of Fury soundtrack.

To my knowledge, “Lion’s Den”, “Lion Eyes”, “Sunset Slip” and “None More Fast” have never been released until now. I’m not sure if they are recent songs or if they came from the same sessions years back that produced much of the rest of the album. As far as I can tell, the rest of the tracks are the very same ones that were released years ago.

I know a Loud Lion album was supposed to happen a very long time ago. Not sure what happened there because it’s been about 7 years since Loud Lion first released some music. Even now in the wake of this album’s release the band’s Facebook & Twitter pages haven’t been updated since 2011.

I still love the previously released material the best but “Lion’s Den” and “Sunset Slip” are cool tracks. As Def Leppard is sometimes more prone to sounding like a ’70s glam rock band these days (C’mon, Joe, that’s what the Down ‘N’ Outz are for!), I am always in a welcoming mood for any group that wants to emulate what Def Leppard did with Mutt Lange in the 1980s. Similar to the KISS-like 1977, many of these tracks are meant to slightly remind you of a few Def Leppard classics. There’s enough of a difference to keep things interesting and for the songs to have their own identity while still invoking those familiar vibes and warm fuzzy feelings that you might get from listening to Def Leppard’s “Rocket” or “Love Bites”.

While much of the material isn’t exactly recent, it’s still great to finally see Loud Lion get an album release. Hopefully people take notice and Bleu will give us some new Loud Lion songs in the future. This is a must have release for fans of Def Leppard. It’s the greatest album Def Leppard never recorded!

Highlights: “Love Will Break Your Heart”, “Lion’s Den”, “Die Tuff”, “Loud Lion Theme Song”, “Dawn of the Dead”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Sunset Slip”

Edguy – Space Police: Defenders of the Crown [Review]

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Edguy – Space Police: Defenders of the Crown
2014, Nuclear Blast Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Sabre & Torch”
2. “Space Police”
3. “Defenders of the Crown”
4. “Love Tyger”
5. “The Realms of Baba Yaga”
6. “Rock Me Amadeus”
7. “Do Me Like a Caveman”
8. “Shadow Eaters”
9. “Alone in Myself”
10. “The Eternal Wayfarer”
Digital Bonus Tracks:
11. “England”
12. “Aychim in Hysteria”
13. “Space Police (progressive version)”
14. “Space Police (instrumental version)”
15. “Love Tyger (instrumental version)”
16. “Defenders of the Crown (instrumental version)”
17. “Do Me Like a Caveman (instrumental version)”

Band: Tobias Sammet – Lead/Backing vocals, Keyboards
Jens Ludwig – Guitar
Dirk Sauer – Guitar
Tobias “Eggi” Exxel – Bass
Felix Bohnke- Drums

Additional Musicians:
Michael Rodenberg - Keyboards
Oliver Hartmann – Backing Vocals

Producer: Sascha Paeth & Edguy

Much to the dismay of longtime fans, Edguy continues to be an outlet for Tobia Sammet’s silliness and his love for ’80s rock/metal while Avantasia is his more serious metal project. It’s funny because Avantasia started out as a cheesy & cliched power metal side project for Tobias and there was a time when Edguy used to take themselves more seriously.

One of my favorite songs on the album happens to be a bonus track. “Aychim In Hysteria” is a tribute — musically to Def Leppard and lyrically to the band’s live sound in engineer. Edguy’s lyrics have always been full of little in jokes, awkward phrasing and nonsensical words so while I don’t know what the song is about exactly, at least it sounds good!

With regards to the 10-track album, Edguy has delivered one of their best efforts, in my opinion. I know there are plenty of Edguy fans that still pine for their power metal days and maybe they’ll return to that at some point but for now the band seems happy to write silly catchy hard rock/metal songs. It’s almost like they’re becoming a heavier version of The Darkness. I’m fine with that. That’s how Edguy captured my attention in the first place with Rocket Ride. Songs like “Do Me Like a Caveman”, “Love Tyger” and a cover of Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” won’t win the band any favors with power metal purists but they are fun songs nonetheless.

For my money, the best tracks from the album are the ballad “Alone In Myself” and the headbanging “Shadow Eaters”. With the bonus tracks, “England” is okay but like I said, I think “Alychim In Hysteria” is pretty awesome. As far as the progressive/instrumental versions go–  okay, nice to include but they aren’t essential listening.

Space Police: Defenders of the Crown is a worthy addition to the Edguy catalog. I wouldn’t place it with Rocket Ride but it’s at least on level with Tinnitus Sanctus and I’m enjoying it more than Age of the Joker.

Highlights: “Sabre & Torch”, “Space Police”, “Love Tyger”, “Shadow Eaters”, “Alone In Myself”, “The Eternal Wayfarer”, “Aychim In Hysteria”

The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years [Album Review]

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The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
2011, Capitol Records
Originally Released: 1988, Capitol Records
Buy the album at Amazon

1. “Under My Wheels” – Alice Cooper w/ Guns N’ Roses
2. “Bathroom Wall” – Faster Pussycat
3. “Cradle to the Grave” – Motörhead
4. “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” – Armored Saint
5. “Born to Be Wild” – Lizzy Borden
6. “In My Darkest Hour” – Megadeth
7. “Prophecy” – Queensrÿche
8. “The Brave” – Metal Church
9. “Foaming at the Mouth” – Rigor Mortis
10. “Colleen” – Seduce

Any metal-head worth their weight in steel is well aware of this documentary that was released in 1988. It’s a truly fascinating look at life as rocker in the 1980s. For better or worse, warts and all, it absolutely captures a time and a vibe & scene that can never truly be replicated no matter how “retro” a band may act.

As it stands, the soundtrack to The Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a solid compilation. Sure, bands like Seduce and Rigor Mortis didn’t stand the test of time but when it comes to the ’80s metal scene, you can’t really argue against the inclusion of bands like Motorhead, Lizzy Borden, Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Guns N’ Roses, Metal Church or even Faster Pussycat. It was all metal one way or another.

The documentary itself was actually what turned me on to Megadeth as they performed “In My Darkest Hour” in the film and it certainly made an impression on me.

The lack of Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Poison, KISS or W.A.S.P. is a bit odd given how their stature and appearances in the documentary but the soundtrack isn’t meant to be all encompassing. If it was, we’d be putting up with having to listen to the likes of London, Tuff and Odin, too. A few tracks either start or end with audio clips from the film.

We could argue for hours over who truly deserves to be included on a compilation of ’80s metal but this soundtrack is just a taste of what that era had to offer and is meant to tie in most closely with bands featured in the documentary. Keep that in mind and what you’ve got is a good collection of ’80s rock & metal that will fit right in with your retro denim vest.

Highlights: “Under My Wheels”, “Bathroom Wall”, “Born to Be Wild”, “In My Darkest Hour”, “Prophecy”

Babylon A.D. – Lost Sessions/Fresno CA 93 [Review]

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Babylon A.D. – Lost Sessions/Fresno, CA 93
2014, Apocalypse Records/Perris Records
Buy the album at Amazon

1. Love Blind
2. While America Sleeps
3. Love Is a Mystery
4. Bang Go the Bells

Band:
Derek Davis – Vocals
Ron Freschi – Guitar
Danny De La Rosa – Guitar
Robb Reid – Bass
Jamey Pacheco – Drums

This EP is new release of old songs (even the re-recording of “Bang Go the Bells” is a few years old) but that doesn’t deter from the quality of music. Late bloomers in the ’80s hair metal scene, Babylon A.D. has regrouped yet again for a run of shows throughout 2014 and have given us this glimpse into “what could’ve been” with three unreleased tracks that were recorded in 1993 and a newer version of their signature song “Bang Go the Bells” that was recorded in 2010.

The first three tracks were recorded, presumably, for a third album. Ultimately, a third studio release from the band wouldn’t happen until 2002 with the release of  American Blitzkreig as the band became inactive in the face of the changing musical climate in the early 1990s.

“Love Blind” is a great rocker. It’s a shame this song got scuttled due to the rise of grunge and alternative music. The riff is great. Very catchy song.

“While America Sleeps” is okay but basically filler.

Clocking in at nearly 7 minutes, “Love Is a Mystery” seems like the band’s attempt at writing an epic ballad. Parts of it remind me of Great White but other parts have a dark vibe to it. It’s good.

Finally, we arrived at the 2010 rendition of “Bang Go the Bells”. It’s fine. Derek Davis’ voice may be slightly weaker but at least they didn’t try to reinvent the song and modernize it.

Fans of Babylon A.D. will enjoy this look back at what the band was up to in 1993. The physical CD price of $12+ is a bit ridiculous for four songs but you can score the MP3 album version for under $4.

Highlights: “Love Blind”, “Love Is a Mystery”

Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [Single Review]

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Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls [single]
2014, Epic Records
Buy the single at Amazon.com

1. “Redeemer of Souls”

Band:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Glenn Tipton – Guitar
Richie Faulkner – Guitar
Ian Hill – Bass
Scott Travis – Drums

Well, we’re finally getting new Priest music some 6 years after their last release of original music. So far, all we’ve gotten to hear is the album’s title track “Redeemer of Souls” (the album itself is due to be released July 15, 2014 in America) but I thought it was worth talking a bit about. It’s important to note that KK Downing is no longer in the band and while his absence is disappointing and not how I would prefer things to be, I think this track is indication that Richie Faulkner is a fine stand-in to work alongside Glenn Tipton.

For anyone afraid of what the band might release after having done Nostradamus, have no fear. “Redeemer of Souls” is very good metal track and Rob’s voice is in fine condition, better than I expected. In fact, he’s sounding better than he has in years. I wasn’t blown away by the song when I first heard it. My honest reaction was that it was a slightly generic slab of power metal. As I keep listening to it, I’m starting to like it more and more. It does not sound like Judas Priest throughout but you can still hear parts and go, “yes, that’s classic Priest”. I guess if you had to compare this song to an era from the band’s past you could go with Defenders of the Faith?

Most feedback I’m seeing online ranges from “it’s okay” to “it’s good”. I think the song is better than anything from Nostradamus and I also think it compares to some of the best from Angel of Retribution. I’ve seen people say they hope the rest of the album is better than “Redeemer of Souls”, well if that’s going to be the case, I think Priest is going to deliver one heck of an album!

 

Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life [Review]

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 Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life
2014, Rhino Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Neon Knights – Anthrax
2. The Last In Line – Tenacious D
3. The Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob
4. Rainbow In The Dark – Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher
5. Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
6. Starstruck – Motörhead with Biff Byford
7. The Temple Of The King – Scorpions
8. Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro
9. Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
10. Catch The Rainbow – Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren
11. I – Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
12. Man On The Silver Mountain – Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren
13. Ronnie Rising Medley (A Light In The Black / Tarot Woman / Stargazer / Kill The King) – Metallica
14. This Is Your Life – Dio
Bonus Track:
15. Buried Alive – Jasta

Well, there certainly hasn’t been an absence of Dio-related releases since Ronnie’s passing. In the 4 years that Ronnie has been gone there have been two compilations, two live releases (a third is due shortly) and at least three tribute albums by my count. Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life is the third tribute album that I am aware of. The first two tributes were Jorn’s Dio (which Wendy Dio gave her blessing for) and Joey DeMaio’s Magic (which Wendy did not approve of), though I’m sure there’s probably more out there.

As far as star power and  talent goes, you won’t find a better Dio tribute: Anthrax, Halestorm, Metallica, Scorpions, Rob Halford, Motorhead, Biff Byford, Vinny Appice, Doro, Doug Aldrich… the list goes on and on.

Most these songs are played fairly straight and faithfully but it’s still interesting to hear Dio covered by other well-known artists and the songs cover his years in Rainbow, Black Sabbath and the Dio band. The majority of these tracks range from good to excellent. Even Tenacious D (who I normally can’t stand) do a decent job.

There are a few tracks I do have an issue with though. For one, Killswitch Engage’s “Holy Diver”. I don’t like metalcore and never needed to hear a metalcore version complete with unnecessary pinch harmonics that would make Zakk Wylde proud. I give them credit for trying to make the song their own, but it doesn’t make it a good cover.

Then there’s the cover of Black Sabbath’s “I”. There’s a good line-up of musicians on the track and Oni Logan is a good singer but he lacks the power to really put that song over the top like Dio did. He doesn’t sound bad, but I don’t think he’s the right fit for a song like this, if that makes any sense.

Then there’s “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Again, great musicians here. It’s Rob Halford backed by a collection of former Dio band members. Doug Aldrich’s presence is felt throughout the song and while he was in Dio before he joined Whitesnake, the song is given a slight makeover and comes across like a modern Whitesnake song. Halford sounds fine, but again, he doesn’t have the proper voice to be covering songs sung by Ronnie James Dio. Or songs sung by Ronnie James Dio that have been given a Whitesnake makeover. I’m liking this take on the song musically, I just think Halford’s vocals are out of place.

Glenn Hughes turns in a fantastic soulful performance on “Catch the Rainbow”. He is also backed by a collection of former Dio players. Motorhead & Biff Byford do a great job on “Starstruck” and I initially thought that was the Glenn Hughes track when I first heard it. “The Temple of the King” by Scorpions is wonderful as well. It’s a faithful cover of the original but it’s very cool to hear Klaus Meine on vocals.

The track that is garnering the most attention, obviously, is the Metallica track. I’m glad they are on this project because there’s no doubt they have brought eyes to this album that might not have given it a look otherwise. They do a good job covering four of Rainbow’s best songs.

The physical CD closes the album with the ballad “This Is Your Life” which is pulled from Dio’s 1996 album Angry Machines. The song is given extra weight considering the circumstances. Jasta’s “Buried Alive” is a digital album exclusive bonus track and is actually pretty good. Once again, Japan gets more material than North America because Stryper’s cover of “Heaven and Hell” and the Dio Disciples’ take on “Stand Up and Shout” appear on pressings over there. Seriously, what’s up with Japan always getting bonus tracks that never see the light of the day in the United States? I’ve never heard anyone actually address why that happens so often!

A few minor quibbles, but this isn’t a better Dio tribute album out and there probably never will be. Must have for Dio fans!

Highlights: “Rainbow In the Dark”, “Straight Through the Heart”, “Starstruck”, “The Temple of the King”, “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, “Catch the Rainbow”, “Ronnie Rising Medley”, “This Is Your Life”

KISS – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions [Review]

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KISS – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions
1997, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Hate”
2. “Rain”
3. “Master & Slave”
4. “Childhood’s End”
5. “I Will Be There”
6. “Jungle”
7. “In My Head”
8. “It Never Goes Away”
9. “Seduction of the Innocent”
10. “I Confess”
11. “In the Mirror”
12. “I Walk Alone”

Band:
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Eric Singer – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Producer: Toby Wright, Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley

The subtitle of this album is a bit misleading as the only thing “final” about it is that it is the last studio recorded by the Stanley/Simmons/Kulick/Singer line-up and it is also the last album from the band’s non-makeup era. The album was recorded in late 1995/early 1996 and was scheduled for a release in ’96 but then the big reunion with the original four members took place and this album was quickly forgotten about… just not by the fans. Bootleg copies of the album began circulating and despite the fact that KISS had put the make up back on and Ace & Peter were back in, this album was quietly released this album in October of 1997 because of demand for it. “Jungle” was released as a single and actually made it to #8 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts, despite the fact that the band wasn’t really promoting the release and they certainly weren’t playing any of these songs live.

Carnival of Souls shows a band definitely trying to keep up with the times, much as they were doing in the 1980s. This time around, the band was mimicking the grunge/alternative rock scene, specifically bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. You can even hear elements of Black Sabbath. I can imagine “It Never Goes Away” during that band’s Tony Martin era. The tone of the music and the lyrics are angry, serious and heavy. It’s a bit weird seeing KISS look so grungy and dour on the cover of the album. This is one of the band’s heaviest albums and I actually think it’s one of their best as well. Admittedly, KISS was already in the process of toughening up their image in 1992 with Revenge, so Carnival of Souls is just the next step. To point out the Revenge connection even more, I’ve always felt that “Hate” & “I Will Be There” were the next evolution of “Unholy” & “Every Time I Look at You”.

Granted, when you think of KISS, the sound and style on Carnival of Souls is probably not what you’d expect (or even want) to hear from the band. When I first heard it, I thought was weird but there was still something about it. I kept spinning it over and over and I started to become a big fan of the album. My first time hearing the album was probably somewhere between 1998 and 2000 and it’s something I still reach for every now and then all these years later. Songs like “Hate”, “Master & Slave”, “Jungle”, “I Will Be There” and “I Walk Alone” (Bruce Kulick finally get to shine!) still randomly pop up my head and bring me back.

Had the reunion not taken place, it would have been interesting to see how this album would have been received had it gotten a full promotional push and if KISS would’ve continued with this sound. Carnival of Souls is something different but also something good.

Highlights: “Hate”, “Rain”, “Master & Slave”, “Childhood’s End”, “I Will Be There”, “Jungle”, “Seduction of the Innocent”, “I Confess”, “I Walk Alone”

KISS – Revenge [Review]

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KISS – Revenge
1992, Mercury Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. “Unholy”
2. “Take It Off”
3. “Tough Love”
4. “Spit”
5. “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”
6. “Domino”
7. “Heart of Chrome”
8. “Thou Shalt Not”
9. “Every Time I Look at You”
10. “Paralyzed”
11. “I Just Wanna”
12. “Carr Jam 1981″

Band:
Paul Stanley - Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons - Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick - Guitar, Backing Vocals, Bass
Eric Carr – Backing Vocals (“God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”), Drums & Guitar (“Carr Jam 1981″)
Eric Singer – Drums, Backing Vocals

Additional Personnel:
Dick Wagner – Guitar (“Every Time I Look at You”)
Kevin Valentine – Drums (“Take It Off”)
Tommy Thayer – Backing Vocals
Jesse Damon – Backing Vocals

Producer: Bob Ezrin

By the mid-1980s, KISS was becoming a hair metal band. Not that I have a problem with that, because I consider KISS to be among the godfathers of hair metal (along with Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Van Halen). But by the early ’90s, the world was changing and music was definitely changing. Bubblegum metal was no longer the flavor of choice. Bands like Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Megadeth and the like were starting to experience great commercial success with a harder sound. While the band didn’t make a drastic change in sound like they would do for 1997′s Carnival of Souls, their was a conscious effort on their part to retool their image a bit and get a bit tougher. Most of the promo shots from this era feature the band in black denim and black leather.

The album was also a shot at “redemption” for Bob Ezrin as he helped take the band to new heights with Destroyer but his collaboration with the band on Music From “The Elder” took the band to new lows in popularity. What’s funny now is, in hindsight, it seems most KISS fans now enjoy Music from “The Elder”. Of course, the band reunited with someone else from their past in Vinnie Vincent, but in a songwriting capacity only. He receives writing credits on “Unholy”, “Heart of Chrome” and “I Just Wanna”. With Ezrin and Vincent having been called in, the band was making a serious effort to deliver the best KISS album yet. According to Bruce Kulick, Gene, Paul & Bob Ezrin were extremely picky when it came to song writing on the album.

In fact, Revenge is the album where KISS’ past, present & future unite. Gene, Paul, Vinnie, Bruce Kulick, Eric Carr, Eric Singer and future guitarist Tommy Thayer all participate on the album in some form or another. I guess Ace, Peter and Mark St. John were too busy to stop by!

For the music itself, Revenge generally receives good praise. Among fans, it competes most often with Lick It Up as the best non-makeup album. Given that this was one of the last KISS albums I needed to fill the hole in my own collection, I tend to look at many of KISS’ other outputs more fondly just because I’ve spent more time with them. In fact, I heard Alive III and MTV Unplugged before I ever heard Revenge, so even now the studio versions sound “off” to me because I’m used to the live/acoustic versions .

There’s definitely some great cuts on this album though. “Unholy” kicks off the album with a darker sound than KISS had previously employed. Gene completely owns this song, it’s one of his best and it works even better when performed live in the Demon make-up. “Take It Off” is a strip club song (and a great one at that), “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” is a re-imagining of the Argent song that will forever be tied to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and “Domino” is yet again another amazing Gene track. Meanwhile, Paul shines on the ballad “Every Time I Look at You” and the fun and nearly-naughty “I Just Wanna” (“fuh-fuh-fuh-forget you!”).

The album closes with “Carr Jam 1981″, which was a demo recorded by Eric Carr early in his tenure in the band and was included as a tribute due to his passing away from complications of heart cancer on November 24, 1991. I believe Bruce Kulick did some work on the track after Eric’s passing in preparation for its inclusion on the album.

Though it’s not without some filler (“Spit”, “Paralyzed”), Revenge is not only one of the band’s best non-makeup albums, it’s also one of their best albums in their whole catalog.

Highlights: “Unholy”, “Take It Off”, “Tough Love”, “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II”, “Domino”, “Heart of Chrome”, “Every Time I Look at You”, “I Just Wanna”

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