On Oct. 9, 2012, Kiss released Monster, an LP which could go down as their final studio album.
After spending years avoiding a studio return, Kiss had offered a convincing account of themselves with 2009’s Sonic Boom. Their 19th record followed 1998’s Pyscho Circus, and with guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer now comfortable in their positions alongside Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, Sonic Boom made a satisfyingly loud noise on its arrival.
Stanley had taken the producer’s chair, and ruled out the option of working with outside writers. Instead he had the members sit in a circle as they laid down new tracks. His aim was to avoid being too nostalgic while also presenting the original ethic of the band’s writing; and result was a record that reached No. 2 in the Billboard 200 chart.
There had already been mutterings about that being their final record – Stanley had noted “I thought it would be a shame to let Psycho Circus be our final statement” – but despite that, and fired up by Sonic Boom’s reception, Kiss began work on their 20th album in 2012. Monster was released on Oct. 9 after a delay over securing a new deal with Universal.
“It’s by far the best thing that we’ve done in I don’t know how long,” Stanley enthused in a video shot just as work was being completed. “Have I said that before? Yeah. Was I right? Yeah. I’m right this time again… the album kicks major ass and we’re very, very proud of it.” He also justified the title Monster by saying the LP sounded “powerful, heavy, melodic and epic.”
“I wanted to do an album that sounds like we never did,” Stanley noted to Metal Rules around the time lead single “Hell or Hallelujah” arrived. “I would be lying if I say I don’t want it to be successful. But I don’t expect success. I succeeded because of the album I wanted to make. Would I like the other people to like it? Sure. Everybody wants validation. But if you try to second guess people – ‘What kind of album do they want?’ – and then you fail, you kick yourself and say ‘I should have done it my way.’ I did it my way and whatever is going to happen is going to happen; but I stand behind the album.”
Watch Kiss’ Video for ’Hell or Hallelujah’
Simmons echoed the feelings of his bandmate.
“This is what we all decided to do… let’s do an uncompromising record. Let’s be who we are,” the bassist declared to Music Radar, adding that the band’s focus was to make a straightforward rock album. “When you get in the studio it’s like being on a diet inside of a bakery. You’ve got all this technology and all the time in the world. You can bring in symphony orchestras and saxophones and glockenspiels, because you’re not in front of people. We would never dare bring a guy with a saxophone out on stage. It’s not who we are. The hardest thing to do was to go in the studio and say, ‘Fuck all of that fancy French cooking, let’s just have meat and two veg.’”
Despite their avowed pride in what they’d achieved, and an admirable No. 3 placing in the Billboard 200, Monster seemingly didn’t give Kiss the kind of afterglow they’d been hoping for. Of course, the music industry had changed and LP sales were dying in the light of singles offered by streaming services; and Sonic Boom had been a welcome return for a rock weapon that seemed to have fallen silent. In those circumstances, something akin to a second volume of Sonic Boom was never going to have the same explosive effect. Five songs from Monster were performed live on tour, but four of them had dropped out by the following year, with “Hell or Hallelujah” making its final on stage appearance in 2018.
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In August 2022, Stanley once again asserted that, while the experience of Monster had not been a “crushing disappointment,” he’d concluded that “when you put your heart and soul into doing something and it kind of gets a polite nod, there’s other things I’d rather do.” For that reason, and with the end of their farewell tour looming ever closer, it seems that their 20th album was their last.
“We did two albums in the last, I think probably 10 years, and there are songs on those that are every bit as good as anything I’ve ever written, but they’re new,” Stanley explained. “I came to the conclusion that [new music] can never compete with the past. Not because it’s not as good, but it hasn’t the connection to important times in your life.
“It doesn’t have that patina to it of, ‘Gee, I remember I heard this song when I was 18,’ or, ‘I heard this song when I was on my first date,’ or whatever. You can’t compete with that. It’s more than a song; it’s a snapshot of your life at a certain point.”
If Monster is indeed the last Kiss album, then at least it’s a solid, respectable piece of classic rock – and certainly better than if they’d bowed out with Psycho Circus. But remember the band haven’t revealed what, if anything, will follow their final show – and fans have waited longer for a new record than the ten-year gap that’s just run up.
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