Happy Halloween, Rockers!!! Welcome to Classic Albums: Halloween Edition. This week I thought we’d take another look at a band that truly embodied the theatrical and dangerous element of hard rock: KISS, and their 1982 comeback album Creatures of the Night. Everything about this record is a standout, starting with that awesome and somewhat spooky album cover. This marked the first “real” album with newest member Eric Carr on the drums after the critical and commercial failure of Music From “The Elder” the year before. And he really gave the band a major kick in the ass. For the better part of three years KISS had been coasting, getting more sugary sweet by the day; well no more! Michael James Jackson and Eric managed to get the best out of Gene and Paul this time around, and while it may not have set the charts afire, it is one of my favorites to this day.
As soon as you hear the opening drums of “Creatures of the Night” you just know that all hell’s about to break loose, and this is the tone-setter for what would ultimately be the heaviest KISS album of their career. Clearly Paul has his swagger back, as does the rest of the band. “Saint and Sinner” only further cements that notion, Gene’s vocals taking on an animalistic quality previously unheard, largely mirroring that heavy new guitar sound. And yes, Ace is on the cover of the record, and YES, we know he doesn’t play on it, blah blah, Bob Kulick, Vinnie Vincent, etc. We know all this!! The point is, the guitars are not of this Earth for pretty much the whole album. Up next is one of Paul’s trademark anthems about fucking, “Keep Me Comin’”, dripping with the spirit of the 80’s.
Gene’s ode to rebellion “Rock and Roll Hell” is not only one of his best performances to date, but it’s also one of the ballsiest tracks on Creatures, and you can feel the angst of the young anti-hero he’s singing about. “Danger” closes out side one on a similar note to the title track, steamrolling everything in its path. Everything you could possibly love about KISS’ playing at this point has been amplified tenfold, and we still have a whole ‘nother side to go!
The iconic “I Love It Loud” kicks off side two with the world famous cry of “Heeeyeyeah!” and Eric Carr’s thunderous drums that sound like they’re in danger of putting holes in the ground. A live staple even now, it never fails to get a deafening response and is forever a KISS Klassic, etched in Kisstory for all time. Even the lone ballad “I Still Love You” is heavier than what many other bands were putting out at the time, once again thanks to Eric, but also thanks to the soloing that almost crosses into blues territory. Not to mention, Paul gives arguably the vocal performance of his life on this one. Years later, the version on KISS Unplugged would send shivers down my spine; such is the power of this song.
Up next is “Killer”, and the beginning of Gene’s overly-misogynistic, tongue-in-cheek lyrics that frequently drew the ire of organizations like N.O.W. (National Organization for Women), et al. No matter, with riffs that sound like they were sharpened on a knife’s edge, the song fucking shreds, case closed, as does final song “War Machine”. No list of the Greatest KISS Songs of All-Time is complete without this one, and if you were ever looking for the best way to close out a record, this my friends, is it. Who among us didn’t run around screaming, “You better watch out, ‘cause I’m a War Machiiiine!!”, huh? Priceless.
Unfortunately, despite putting out one of the best albums of their careers, KISS fans still stayed away in droves. And while it would eventually go Gold, it broke my heart to see my favorite band in the world having to retreat to South America where they sold out multiple dates at soccer stadiums while being largely ignored here in the States. But my cousin Franc and I took solace in playing Creatures of the Night on our turntables day and night and basking in KISS’ newfound resilience, heart, and balls. On some level though, we knew the make-up days were at an end, and while he abandoned ship after a time, I bravely soldiered on, forever a member of the KISS Army, even now. I have taken a lot of shit for being a die-hard KISS fan, but my love will never die, and when I do leave this world, it will be in a KISS Koffin, all of my stuff buried with me. ~dc