I think it's safe to say that even though they've truly upset and angered some fans (to the point of leaving the KISS army) Paul and Gene still command a vast KISS army around the world. With Sonic , Boom, KISS was back and it was a nice return after 11 years of complete studio silence and lack of a new album. SB was mostly well received as a return to form and a great KISS album. Then there are fans who didn't buy the album because it's not KISS and it's disrespectful to Ace and Peter who were the originals to have Tommy and Eric wear their makeup. I understand both sides completely and agree with both, but I liked Sonic Boom for what it was and three years later it's follow up (and 20th!) KISS album, Monster is I have to say better. While I was glad that there was a new KISS album and I enjoyed it, SB sounded a little too 80's rooted at times. However, Monster is heavier, doesn't feel like 80's KISS and its edgy and aggressive and did I say heavy? The guitars are turned up LOUD and the drum is almighty, the sound that comes from it is massive, anthemic and fist pumping Hard Rock formula pushing far into Metal territory and as a fan, that's good. It helps that there are no ballads either. At this point it shouldn't be about "Fake KISS" and so on like there was a lot of talk on the Sonic Boom Amazon page, the music should stand on its own. Buying the new KISS album was always like an event, an obligation in some way whether it was Love Gun or Dynasty or Crazy Nights and now, Monster.
Opening track and first single "Hell or Halleluiah" is in your face heavy, and I was surprised at how fast it sounded. To me it sounds like something from Love Gun in '77 like "I Stole Your Love" meets the speed of "Gimme More" from Lick It Up or perhaps another fast 80's KISS tune. It works really well, it's anthemic, it's pure KISS and Paul sings it like he's on fire and the backing vocals just get it done. "Wall of Sound" is Gene being the real demon Gene Simmons again. He's menacing and attitude comes throughout, it's one of the best songs on Monster. "Freak" is a track that I love if not just for the lyrics, they're representative of KISS in a way and Paul does nicely here, it's catchy and hits it home. "Back To The Stone Age", now this is what I'm talking about! The sound is massive, heavy and Gene's voice, he's got that angry demon voice we all love. The lyrics are cool and very Gene, there's even a neat little breakdown and it's one of the best songs here absolutely. "Shout Mercy" is undeniably catchy and has that classic, quintessential chorus that made their classic songs memorable and radio staples, and the "whoohoos" back vocals add to the catchiness, you'll see."All For The Love Of Rock And Roll" is one that I quite like, it's slower paced and less aggressive and Eric Singer does a wonderful job on the vocals ("All For The Glory" was one of my favorite songs on SB). On an album where pretty much the songs are heavy it's nice to have something to balance it out, and while not a ballad this song does just that. I could almost see it as a single on radio. "Eat Your Heart Out" starts out with just the band singing and nothing else, those harmonies sound great and you know it's going to be a cool track. It kicks in and doesn't let you down, another strong one. "Outta This World" is sung by Tommy Thayer and it fits the Spaceman persona nicely, I much prefer this one to the song he had on Sonic Boom, it's a good rockin' track I was impressed by Tommy. "Take Me Down Below" has obviously sexual innuendo and the reason this one is special is because Gene and Paul share lead. Gene has his story that's reminiscent of "She's So European" from the 1980 Unmasked album (talks about a lady, standing there, champing, perfume, now she's standing next to me, very Simmons) and Paul comes up with something and then the chorus and it works nicely I wish they did this more often. The only song that didn't really do it for me was "Last Chance" but while it's not awful I think the album might have ended stronger without it. I haven't gone through every song or every little detail but I think you get the idea of my appreciation.
I was initially worried about the album being delayed as usually that's never a good sign, but the album is excellent and those fears were unfounded it turns out. They've been at it for 40 years now (almost) and it doesn't show, they have that drive and that passion in the sound. I think it shows more of their influences too, in one song I detected a really Zeppelin-ish part and so on which I think was great. Gene really surprised me on Monster with his lyrics, voice and attitude he really contributed amazing stuff time around that exceeds what he did on the previous album, I think his songs may just be the best ones here. It's not a retro album, its KISS being KISS and kicking it up a notch and sounding tighter and heavier and it works extremely well. Sonic Boom grew up on me, Monster I loved immediately (SB had that extra re-recorded KISS Klassics CD and live DVD but Monster stands proudly on its 12 songs people).
To me Sonic Boom wasn't a five stars KISS album, while very good it didn't take it to the next level which is exactly what Monster does. Is it the perfect KISS record? Look at this point it's better than I could have anticipated, exceeds the last one which was really good and it stands on its own, plus they're heavier this time around and it's the record they needed to follow up SB with. To me it's full marks on this one, Monster really is a Monster and it impressed me! Nicely done and I don't say just because I'm a die-hard fan with everything they've made. Initally the band talked about having another painting as the album cover much like Destroyer or Love Gun and that didn't happen, a slight let down. Now I'd just love to see KISS play a big chunk of this album in a LIVE setting, they sound made for the stage and I can only imagine how well I would work. 5/5.