One Track Mind: Kiss, “Hell or Hallelujah” (2012)

I won’t say that “Hell or Hallelujah” had the same impact on me as hearing “Unholy” from Kiss’ Revenge record, but it’s a very similar situation.

In 1992, Kiss was coming off a pair of weak, heavily commercial records when they unleashed Revenge, and “Unholy” took me from completely uninterested to “gotta have it” in one listen. Fast forward 20 years, and Kiss is coming off two weak, pretty much phoned-in albums, although much farther apart, in 1998’s Psycho Circus and 2009’s Sonic Boom. Once again, I’m pretty much uninterested in the new release, despite Gene Simmons’ statements that will be like a combination of Destroyer and Revenge, my two personal favorite Kiss albums. Then comes this energetic, rocking blast called “Hell or Hallelujah,” and all of a sudden, I’m looking forward to Monster.

The song is certainly a nod to the band’s past. It’s a rollicking rock ‘n’ roller in the spirit of much of their 1970s work, but it also has a little touch of 1980s glitz, and yes, just a little bit of that Revenge grit. That said, it’s not like Sonic Boom, which I thought was an attempt to make a record that sounded just like their 1970s output, sacrificing all else to get there. There’s a definite energy on “Hell or Hallelujah” that was missing from pretty much all of their 2009 release, and it actually seems that Paul and Gene are having fun again on this song, rather than collecting a paycheck.

Yeah, there will be people who gripe about Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer wearing Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ makeup and using their gimmicks live. Truth be told, it bothers me a little, too. I’ve always been of the opinion that they should have developed new characters for Thayer and Singer as they did for other members before they unmasked instead of trying to pass them off as the originals. But the truth is that Thayer and Singer are probably better for the band right now than the originals — just as Singer and Bruce Kulick were on Revenge. And, at some point, fans have to accept that Paul and, particularly, Gene are going to do what they want and there’s not a lot we can do about it.

So maybe I’m not listening to my cassette of “Hell or Hallelujah” recorded off the college radio station over and over and counting the days until Monster comes out like I did with “Unholy” and Revenge. But, then, this is a Paul Stanley song, and the Gene songs have always been the ones that made the most impact on me. Who knows? Maybe there is an “Unholy” to be found on this record. I certainly hope so.

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Dates for 2012’s “The Tour,” featuring Kiss and Motley Crue:

Jul 20: Bristow, VA – Jiffy Lube Live
Jul 21: Virginia Beach, VA – Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach
Jul 22: Raleigh, NC – Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
Jul 24: Atlanta, GA – Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
Jul 25: Charlotte, NC – Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
Jul 27: West Palm Beach, FL – Cruzan Amphitheater
Jul 28: Tampa, FL – 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre
Jul 31: Pelham, AL – Oak Mountain Amphitheatre
Aug 3: Houston, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Aug 4: Dallas, TX – Gexa Energy Pavillion
Aug 7: Albuquerque, NM – Hard Rock Casino Presents The Pavilion
Aug 8: Englewood, CO – Comfort Dental Amphitheatre
Aug 10: Phoenix, AZ – Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion
Aug 11: Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Arts Center
Aug 12: Chula Vista, CA – Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre
Aug 14: Irvine, CA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Aug 16: Concord, CA – Sleep Train Pavilion at Concord
Aug 18: Auburn, WA – White River Amphitheatre
Aug 19: Ridgefield, WA – Sleep Country Amphitheater
Aug 24: Grand Junction, CO – Rock Jam
Aug 26: Tulsa, OK – BOK Center (on-sale 3/30)
Aug 27: Maryland Heights, MO – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Aug 29: Minneapolis, MN – Minnesota State Fair (on-sale 3/31)
Aug 31: Cincinnati, OH – Riverbend MusicCenter
Sep 1: Noblesville, IN – Klipsch Music Center
Sep 2: Pittsburgh, PA – First Niagra Pavilion
Sep 4: Nashville, TN – Bridgestone Arena
Sep 5: Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre
Sep 7: Tinley Park, IL – First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Sep 8: East Troy, WI – Alpine Valley Music Theatre
Sep 11: Allegan, MI – Allegan County Fair (on-sale 5/5)
Sep 12: Cleveland, OH – Blossom Music Center
Sep 13: Toronto, ON – Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
Sep 15: Darien Center, NY – Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
Sep 16: Mansfield, MA – Comcast Center
Sep 18: Scranton, PA – Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain
Sep 19: Camden, NJ – Susquehanna Bank Center
Sep 21: Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center
Sep 22: Wantagh, NY – Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Sep 23: Hartford, CT – Comcast Theatre

A look back at our recent thoughts on Kiss and Motley Crue. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: KISS: News that Kiss is back in the studio, working toward the 2012 release of a new project called Monster, got us scurrying back to our old album collections. And not just because of those fond memories of playing air guitar with former guitarist Ace Frehley during Kiss Alive. Bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons said something interesting about the sessions: “This new record feels heavier than (2009’s) Sonic Boom. It feels like a connection between Destroyer and Revenge. Those were but two of the favorites we discussed here.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: MOTLEY CRUE – MOTLEY CRUE (1994): John Corabi, former vocalist of The Scream, brought a second guitar and a gruff, ragged edge to the vocals. It was a stark contrast to Neil’s high-pitched tones, and though I may earn the ire of many Motley Crue fans — one that lives with me, included — by saying this, Neil’s vocals can’t touch what’s on this record. Corabi’s voice also brought a rougher, heavier edge to the music. Though many Motley Crue fans dislike the album because of Neil’s absence, no one can deny that it’s the band’s heaviest and most mature record — mature, of course, being a relative term where Motley Crue is involved. Lyrically, the songs are still littered with drug references and party themes, but musically, there’s a definite growth.

FORGOTTEN SERIES: KISS – REVENGE (1992): There is one non-makeup Kiss record that certainly belongs in the conversation with the band’s best work. Released in 1992, Revenge came on the tail of two snoozers — 1987’s Crazy Nights and 1989’s Hot in the Shade — that were completely lost in the keyboard-laden, ballad-heavy 1980s radio rock sound. Revenge, though, was a different beast. There were still plenty of mindless sex and party anthems. It wouldn’t be a Kiss record without those. But there was a darker, heavier edge to the album, which was loaded with Gene Simmons’ gruffer vocals.

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • cole riel

    Did you even listen to sonic boom, such strong classic sounding Kiss songs on that album. And singer crushing criss’s original drum tracks on the kiss klassics part was awesome for any drummer or listener.

  • Fred Phillips

    Many times before I reviewed it in 2009, only once or twice since. It did, and still does, feel flat and lifeless to me. It sounds like they went into the studio saying, “let’s make a record that sounds exactly like something we would have done in the 1970s,” and they did. While it sounds like a ’70s Kiss record, to my ears, it lacks all of the energy of those records. There’s not a single song on it that sticks with me beyond the time it’s playing.

    The re-recordings were pretty good, but I’m not, in general, a big fan of re-recordings, either.

    You won’t get any argument from me on Singer vs. Criss. Love his work on Revenge, and even Carnival of Souls. I still say they should have created a new character for him, though, rather than trying to pass him off as Criss.

    • http://www.somethingelsereviews.com Nick DeRiso

      Wholeheartedly agree on Singer — both counts. He’s far and away the better drummer, and he really deserved his own makeup. Kiss should have retired Catman and Spaceman when Criss and Frehley split. Wasn’t a fan of the second, early-1980s generation of characters — I thought both Vincent’s Wizard and Carr’s Fox looked amateurish — but at least they got to claim their own stake in the legacy.