KISS – Revenge (1992, Mercury/Polygram)
- Take It Off
- Tough Love
- God Gave Rock’n Roll To You II
- Heart Of Chrome
- Thou Shalt Not
- Every Time I Look At You
- I Just Wanna
- Carr Jam 1981
Paul Stanley – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Gene Simmons – Lead Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Lead Guitar
Eric Singer – Drums, Vocals
Eric Carr – Backing Vocals on ‘God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You II’ & Drums on ‘Carr Jam 1981’
Producer: Bob Ezrin
Total Time – 48:51
There are three albums in KISS discography that are hotly debated amongst the KISS Army: DESTROYER (1976), (Music from) THE ELDER (1981). and REVENGE (1992). All of these albums were produced by “genius-producer” Bob Ezrin and each marks a significant, and controversial, time in the band’s history. DESTROYER was a success, and launched the band to super stardom, because of it’s diversity. It was this diversity that also led On the other hand, THE ELDER helped plunge the band into Rock’s toilet because of the experimental concept and un-KISS like sound. Would the teaming of Ezrin and KISS bring a formula for success? Or would the band’s credibility plummet again after a successful run in the mid-late ’80s?
There were other factors that made REVENGE a controversial record:
- First, and most importantly, long-time drummer, Eric Carr died On November 24, 1991. Eric’s replacement was Eric Singer (ex-Black Sabbath/Badlands/Lita Ford) who stepped in while Carr was still alive to keep the band’s recording commitments on schedule.
- Second, Vinnie Vincent was brought back into the fold for songwriting. Vincent’s songwriting was instrumental in KISS’ comeback with CREATURES OF THE NIGHT (1982) and LICK IT UP (1983).
- Third, Gene Simmons decided it was time to focus on the business of KISS rather than trying to be an actor and music producer.
REVENGE is a harder album than previous efforts CRAZY NIGHTS (1987) and HOT IN THE SHADE (1989). Some people believe the band were trying to cash in on the current Grunge movement while others felt the band had returned to the raw crunch of the early days in the ’70s. The image is more aligned with the early KISS: black, leather, dirty, dangerous.
Opening the album is the Simmons/Vincent collaboration, ‘Unholy’. When I first heard this song all I could think about was something sinister. There is a simple guitar riff that just sounds ominous while Gene’s vocal harkens back to yesteryear’s Demon a la ‘God Of Thunder’. This track set the tone for the album, hearing ‘Unholy’ let the listeners know that the band had gotten heavier and that this was the best song by Gene in at least a decade. Surprisingly, this was also the first single and video off the album, the band had major success in the ’80s by releasing Paul Stanley material as singles.
‘Take It Off’ is pure Paul Stanley: uptempo and sexually charged, this is the typical KISS single. Basically an ode to strippers and strip clubs with some excellent guitar. The breakdown mid-song just seems unnecessary as the song cruises along with out it. Paul Stanley song #2, ‘Tough Love’, has a thick gritty sound, very bass heavy. The vocals are clean but the music has a beefed up sound. It’s a decent song but Paul’s vocal, the title, and the music don’t mesh well…..a better Gene song maybe? I like it but it’s a question mark.
The two worst songs on the album are next: ‘Spit’ and ‘God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You II’. ‘Spit’ is an absolute rip-off of Spinal Tap’s ‘Big Bottom’, read any serious review and it will be mentioned. It’s one of those typical Gne songs that would thankfully get buried on Side 2 of earlier records. The only redeeming quality is the Paul Stanley sung break before the chorus with the Bruce Kulick machine gun riff. I’ll give the song credit for heavy guitar but the solo with ‘Star Spangled Banner’ pieces is awful. The second tune originally appeared on the BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY Movie Soundtrack (1991) and was a released single. It was later added to the album for momentum and to mark Eric Carr’s last contribution to the band by providing backing vocals. It’s a reworking of the original song by Argent…..it’s basically a cover song. I don’t mind ‘God Gave…..’ in moderation but it always seems to be a highlight of many a KISS concert or DVD, it fills the quota as an anthem and a ballad. The one thing the song does have is some good Gene & Paul harmonies.
Gene Simmons bounces back from the terrible ‘Spit’ with ‘Domino’. This is Gene Simmons so the lyrical content follows a familiar theme: a bad girl and what Gene wants to do, etc. In the past this has been hit or miss for Gene but the music and arrangement is perfect if the lyrics are not. This was a single and video as well but only aired on MTV late at night. I like ‘Heart Of Chrome’, it has that slow chugging riff that drives the song, totally guitar driven with a solid backline. It’s not your typical “happy Paul” song, it has a darker edge to it, perhaps the Vinnie Vincent influence? This is the second song Vincent contributed to. Silent Rage’s Jesse Damon co-writes with Simmons on ‘Thou Shalt Not’ and the song is pretty good. It’s heavy, has a raw, gritty quality to it. Gene’s vocals are rough and ready…..the Gene of old. The only drawback is the chorus: repetitive and simple. That’s how KISS writes songs though. Overall, I’d say it’s much better than ‘Spit’ but not as good as ‘Unholy’.
If this is a KISS record, then Paul Stanley has to have a ballad. ‘Everytime I Look At You’ fits the bill complete with acoustics and orchestration. Obviously this was meant to be the slow song of the album before the inclusion of ‘God Gave…..” and it is much better than Bill & Ted’s anthem. KISS ballads are hit or miss: ‘Beth’ hit, ‘Hard Luck Woman’ missed…..’Reason To Live’ fell short, ‘Forever’ went Top 10. ‘Every Time I Look At You’ picks up a bit with the orchestration in the middle but the charm is the superb vocal and acoustic guitar. This is probably one of the most underrated tracks on REVENGE but it was released as a single/video late in the album’s life.
‘Paralyzed’ is another hard Gene penned number that is great until Bob Ezrin messes with it. Halfway through the song, just before the solo, there’s a breakdown with some audio trickery, obviously an Ezrin contribution. I’m not knocking Ezrin, the guy has writing credits all over the album and the album is solid but sometimes less is more. Paul Stanley ends the proper songs with a party time, sing-a-long track ‘I Just Wanna’. Full of KISS cliches and nuance, this is ’80s style KISS with a beefed up guitar. The chorus is weak but it becomes a crowd favorite in concert when Paul plays to the crowd. The harmonized breakdown mid-song is extremely annoying but the song continues with it’s natural groove. ‘I Just Wanna’ is a good song despite that breakdown and is the third co-written song with Vinnie Vincent.
As a tribute to their fallen bandmate and friend, the band tacks on the Eric Carr instrumental ‘Carr Jam 1981’. The history on this track is that this was the only drum solo properly recorded by Carr in the studio and had been languishing in Bob Ezrin’s personal vaults since THE ELDER sessions. The original take included Ace Frehley on lead guitar but he was replaced by Bruce Kulick for this recording. The basis of this song was used for ‘Breakout’ on the first Frehley’s Comet album in 1987. From what I have read from numerous sources, Eric Carr didn’t even own a copy of this solo as it had been buried as a discarded idea when the band went conceptual for THE ELDER. This instrumental shows how talented Eric Carr was and perhaps that he was held back by the Gene & Paul tag team. It would be interesting to hear of Eric Carr was allowed to let loose on the kit.
Back in 1992, this album was a winner and I still think it is to this day. Take away ‘Spit’ and ‘God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You II’ and the rest is extremely solid and good. If you look at KISS in the late ’80s, it was all about following trends to be successful, trying to be like the Bon Jovis and Def Leppards of the era. In ’92, with the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal scene faltering, the band comes up with their hardest album since ANIMALIZE (1984).
The production is flawless, although I could pass on some of the breakdowns mid-song (‘I Just Wanna, ‘Paralyzed). The sound is thick and beefed up but I wouldn’t say that it’s Grunge or Alternative, more like a heavier KISS. Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer put in solid performances across the album and both are underrated as to their contributions. It’s still the Gene & Paul show and it’s good to have Mr. Simmons focused on the band. Aside from one or two songs, Gene puts in a long overdue solid performance vocally and writing wise.
A good solid album that was a bit unexpected considering the circumstances surrounding the recording (R.I.P. – Eric Carr). Favorites here: ‘Unholy’. ‘Domino’, ‘Heart Of Chrome’, ‘I Just Wanna’, and ‘Paralyzed’.