A long time ago, we used to have a regular column here at Rockpages called “Diamonds & Rust”. In this frame, we presented two records of one band; the good side (Diamond) and the bad or uninspired moment (Rust). So, we resurrected it a while ago with Blackmore’s Night and AC/DC. Up next is…KISS!
“Creatures of the Night” (1982): We could have easily included in the “Diamond” category the landmark “Destroyer” record; as we could have done the same really with the all 1974-1978 albums. For better or for worse, KISS has always been an American band as their albums sold more units in the States while their stage show was en eye-candy for the average American fan. So it should not come as a big surprise when “Creatures of the Night” was not a commercial success on the other side of the Atlantic after a disastrous 3-year period where KISS experimented with a disco, pop and symphonic sound! Come to think about it, it’s a wonder that America didn’t abandon them once and for all.
From my perspective, “Creatures…” is the absolute diamond of their entire catalogue…well, it might not be their most representative one but it’s my favorite. Heavy yet catchy tunes, powerful drums, inspired and flawless musicianship set the album on fire and if the fans listened with their ears instead of their eyes then I am sure that “Creatures…” would have sold as much as “Lick It Up”…or even more. Undeniably…a DIAMOND!
“Psycho Circus” (1998): I still remember how anxious I was to listen to the first album by the original foursome after 19 whole years! You see their blockbusting reunion tour of 1996/97 had naturally created high expectations among the ranks of the KISS Army thus everybody held his breath for the new album that would bring back the trademark rock n’ roll sound of KISS. Wishful thinking! What we received instead was a flat/plastic record that had absolutely nothing in common with the band’s glory days. This was the first time where the fans were listening to a KISS album that included more fillers than great songs. After 22 years, I am still fond of the title track, “Within” (an outtake of “Carnival of Souls”) and “Journey of 1.000 Years” (that would be more suitable to a Simmons solo offering). I can be generous and add Ace’s solo on the abominable “You wanted the best”. But this is as far as I can go with “Psycho Circus” as it is full of below-par compositions and the fact that Ace & Peter do not play on the album (with the exception of 1 song) adds insult to injury. The peculiar thing is that the unreleased demos are far better than some of the songs that were eventually handpicked. Go figure…