Title: “Sonic Boom”
Label: KISS Records
Release Date: 10/16/2009
Genre: Hard Rock
KISS fans have waited eleven years for the band to release a new studio album and “Sonic Boom” is finally here and proves to be a major musical upgrade from their last effort “Psycho Circus”. The aforementioned release was done by a reunited KISS but it didn’t feel as though the songwriting was done together whereas “Sonic Boom” seems to have been written by the band together and recorded in the same fashion. Despite the absence of original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss who are no longer a part of the equation I really was looking forward to the album and had high expectations of it even if some of my friends chose instead to rally against it. As a musical work, “Sonic Boom” does not bring the listener a continuation of the experiments KISS had done in their career and there is no Disco, no Pop, no Grunge and nothing Alternative about it and instead the album brings you back in time to the days of releases like “Love Gun” or “Rock and Roll Over”. While not comparing the albums to those venerated classics, it is clear that the musical format chosen was intended to be that which made the band popular in the first place and the whole thing starts off with the rocking opener “Modern Day Delilah”. It’s a nice and heavy track that finds Paul taking lead and driving the point home. Most of the record finds Gene and Paul exchanging tracks and to be honest I felt that Paul’s were the strongest musically especially when it came to tunes like “Stand”, “Never Enough”, and “Say Yeah” but Gene does shine just a little bit on his own numbers with “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)” and “I’m An Animal”. At the end of the day the Paul tracks will be on the listeners lips a little easier and faster than the Gene ones and most would go over well in the concert sense just based on how powerful they are on the recording. I had to say that I felt this album was a lot more even in nature and how it flowed.
We also get tracks from Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer who each strut their vocal stuff on “When Lightning Strikes” and “All For The Glory”. I’ve always felt that Eric had a good voice and it’s nice to hear what he can do outside of the “Black Diamond” tune he does at concerts. Tommy sounds pretty good as well and had a raspier tone than I expected. The musicianship on the new release is sound and as mentioned brings us back to a simpler time in KISS’ career. Tommy seems to be holding back just a little and is keeping his Ace-like riffs in the pocket and while he is a very capable drummer, Eric is keeping the groove in check with consistent playing with the occasional flair tossed in. I know I will hear it from some of my friends for being so behind the album but at the end of the day I love the whole KISS idea and what it brings to the table. While I would love to have a full original lineup recording and tour once again those days are over and the band moves on in order to continue to entertain the masses. As a release this is not a disappointment and seems to follow suit with the other bands whose newest releases and tours are focusing on the classic years of their own. The album comes care of KISS Records and is a Wal-Mart exclusive release that presents three discs. One CD of new music and another of re-recorded classics and a DVD with concert footage. Journey did the same thing last year via the same retailer and it was a tremendous success. Can a band as marketable as KISS find anything different happening for them? I think not, and now for some views on the other parts off the release.
KISS “Klassics”: Deuce, Detroit Rock City, Shout It Out Loud, Hotter Than Hell, Calling Dr. Love, Love Gun, I Was Made For Lovin’ You, Heaven’s On Fire, Lick It Up, I Love It Loud, Forever, Christine Sixteen, Do You Love Me, Black Diamond, Rock and Roll All Nite.
*** This CD was originally released in Japan under the moniker of “KISSology” or “KISS Best” and its Japanese title was “Jigoku Retsuden”. It is a healthy collection of the KISS back catalog classics all re-recorded by the bands lineup circa 2008. Some diehards are screaming about this claiming how the band is trying to erase their past but I don’t view it like that since when Journey did their release they gave us a similar thing with their own newest lineup. I view it as a means to let people here how the songs might sound in concert today and in the end there is very subtle difference between these tunes and their original versions. As I listened I thought they were okay at best and didn’t really capture the songs original fire all that much, and this was especially the case on the oldest tunes like “Deuce” and “Hotter Than Hell”. It was cool to hear Eric singing “Black Diamond” on a studio version but I did not like “I Love It Loud” all that much or the redo of the anthem “Rock And Roll All Nite”. Yes, they did write it, but some songs don’t need to be remade under any circumstances. While three of the selections come from the legendary “Destroyer”, KISS managed to cover a lot of album ground with these re-recordings by getting at least one track from a wide number of them. It should be noted that while there are some fifteen tunes presented on this disc that there are no Ace Frehley or Peter Criss penned songs reworked at all. Whether this was done out of respect to the former members or to avoid backlash from the public opinion we shall never know until Gene or Paul writes it down in a book. I view this as something the KISS fans will load onto their computers or music players and only return to listen to every now and again more than religiously. Why listen to remade classics when you have the original remastered collection and the many, many “Best Of” releases at the tip of your fingers. I know that is how I will be dealing with this, and I simply view it as another interesting chapter in the book of KISS history.
KISS “Live In Buenos Aires” DVD: Deuce, Hotter Than Hell, Come On & Love Me, Watchin’ You, 100,000 Years, Rock and Roll All Nite.
*** I just love KISS live video releases and have quite a collection of the ones that are currently available so I really thought the inclusion of the DVD concert as a part of “Sonic Boom” was a good thing. The downside was that unlike the Journey concert which accompanied their 3 disc set, the KISS concert we get does not present the full show of the band and instead gives you only six songs from Buenos Aires. Content wise every song presented hails from the “Alive” concert album and that makes sense since the band is currently doing a show that showcases in full this classic live recording. While only about thirty minutes in length I did enjoy seeing the band performing in front of the massive crowd in Buenos Aires. When one sees the audience as the cameras pan over them there are clearly more than a couple of hundred thousand people present. With the new album and tour taking place I am sure that a full-length video will be in order sooner rather than later. KISS has been releasing “KISSology” sets, and while the third brought us closer to today’s timeframe, there is always footage turning up when it comes to these guys. I look forward to this even if it has not been announced as something officially coming down the pike.
Let’s talk about the packaging a little bit because with a band like KISS, one can expect a lot of cool images and graphics to enjoy. The albums art was designed by Michael Doret who did work with the band before on their “Rock & Roll Over” album so many years ago, and this artwork seems to be a slightly modern version of the same premise. The logo is obviously the classic but the words for “Sonic Boom” resemble some kind of video game graphic font and in each corner is an image of the band members that appear to be painted art as opposed to physical photos. Inside the deluxe edition it opens up to reveal Gene and Paul and when opened again we see Tommy and Eric. The art here is understated and nothing appears on the sleeves with the bonus discs. The booklet while some twenty pages I felt was a disappointment because even though it offers up lyrics to enjoy, there is only one band photo and the remaining four images are musical instruments. When a band like KISS gives me this many pages to peruse I want to see photos of the band more than anything else which comes off as fluff.
It’s up to you as a KISS fan to decide whether or not you want to support them going forward despite any of the misgivings you might have about how they do things. If you choose to pass then I feel you are missing out on a solidly produced and good record. It was better than I had expected it to be and really delivered a lot of songs that do justice to their legacy material. Based on that one could not ask for anything more.
1. Modern Day Delilah
2. Russian Roulette
3. Never Enough
4. Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)
6. Hot And Cold
7. All For The Glory
8. Danger Us
9. I’m An Animal
10. When Lightning Strikes
11. Say Yeah
Official Website: www.KISSonline.com