Once I got started writing reviews again for Melodic Net, I thought it would be nice to review some albums that are classic and essential in my humble opinion. I had done that years ago when I wrote for other music websites, but I never really had the chance to review the very first album I ever bought, the one that made my way into music, both as a fan and later as a musician. We're talking about the classic KISS "Creatures Of The Night" album. I know it was not a big selling album in its own home country when it was released back in 1982, but it was considered one of the band's greatest albums by the fans, especially in South America and other countries. Years after the album release, it was considered one of the most important albums ever released by the band. Well, weird as it may seem, "Creatures Of The Night" is now to be considered one of the five best KISS albums, both by the fans and critics, not to mention also by the band itself.
Back in the early 80's, Brazil hadn't had the chance to receive that many big rock artists. Alice Cooper, Van Halen and a few others had made it here, but having KISS play either four or five shows here was surreal and totally unexpected. Needless to say, they were touring to promote "Creatures Of The Night", and the band still says that, till this day, their biggest crowd ever was here in Rio de Janeiro, during their 1983 tour.
Picture that: KISS had had all of their albums released in Brazil (but their "Double Platinum" compilation), and not much was known about the band, other than the facts that they were one of the biggest American bands ever and they had such a "different" look back then. The "Creatures Of The Night" album promotion in Brazil was something never seen here before - the record company even released a very limited "tour edition" of it, having on its cover the then unknown Vinnie Vincent, instead of Ace Frehley. It has become a very, very rare and expensive item for diehard KISS collectors, not only from Brazil, but also from all over the world. When it first came out on CD in 1985, "Creatures Of The Night" was released with a third album cover, with an "unmasked" picture of the band, already with then new guitarist Bruce Kulick, with tracks 2 and 8 being switched for some odd reason, and producer Dave Wittman remixed the songs "Creatures of the Night", "I Love It Loud" and "War Machine". In short, that was how an entire generation got started into rock and roll here in Brazil, including myself.
As for a general view of "Creatures Of The Night", it was, as said before, an important album for KISS. Their 1970's albums "Alive!", "Destroyer" and "Love Gun" were huge, and their softer, pop, disco music-oriented albums "Dynasty" (which achieved great commercial success due to the singles "I Was Made For Lovin' You" and "Sure Know Something") and "Unmasked" (which was a commercial failure at the time, but somehow my favorite KISS album from their "masked" era till this day), not to mention their follow-up albums "Music From The Elder" (the controversial, concept album that failed miserably on the charts) and "Kiss Killers" (a kind of "greatest hits" album, released outside the U.S., that featured four new, incredible Paul Stanley songs, already featuring lead guitar work from session musician Bob Kulick, who later brought his brother Bruce to the band, but this release was kind of irrelevant too). Produced by Michael James Jackson along with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons themselves, "Creatures Of The Night" was the band's attempt to come back to the list of the greatest rock bands in the world, to get their once larger than life popularity achieved among rock and roll fans in the mid-70's. "Creatures" was not only the heaviest album that KISS had ever made back then, but it is still also what can be considered their "drum" album. Maybe because of the fact that the producers had then realized how great of a drummer Eric Carr was. Peter Criss was good, but all of the 70's KISS song played by Eric sounded way different from their original versions. Eric made them sound heavier than they had ever been. It must have been too frustrating to him being in one of the biggest American rock and roll bands ever and not being able to show that he meant business. His work on both the already mentioned "The Elder" and "Kiss Killers" hadn't been really that significant. Now it was Eric Carr's time to shine, and he did it the best way he could. No other KISS album ever has had the focus on the drum tracks as this one. I still consider Eric Carr the best drummer who has ever walked the planet.
Let's go back all the way to early 1982. Van Halen's guitarist Eddie Van Halen was seriously thinking about leaving his own band because of his constant creative disputes with singer David Lee Roth, and he offered his joining Kiss, but Gene Simmons declined it, since it was against KISS's philosophy of hiring unknown musicians to preserve their "mystique" image. KISS started recording the "Creatures" sessions basically as a trio, since Ace Frehley hadn't been contributing musically to the band since "The Elder" album, being "Dark Light" his last song on a KISS album back then. Ace had been long unhappy with the band's musical direction of the band since the "Dynasty" album, and I dare to say that his 1978 solo album being the most successful among the four members', may also have made him lose even more interest in still being part of KISS. The trio had to count on four session guitar players to handle the lead guitar duties for the album: Adam Mitchell, Robben Ford, Steve Farris and last, but not least, Vinnie Vincent. Bob Kulick was also hired for the task, but his recordings for the "Creatures" sessions were never used.
Also, KISS had long lost the magic of being a real band, due to its members not really playing on the albums since 1977's "Alive II". Even Gene Simmons wasn't so involved in the recordings anymore, then not playing on some songs of the album either. Session bassists Jimmy Haslip and Mike Porcaro also played on the album. It's also interesting to mention that "Creatures Of The Night" was the very first KISS album which featured lead vocals by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons only, and that songwriting contributions by Adam Mitchell, Mikel Japp, the then unknown Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, and of course, Vinnie Vincent (who revealed to be not only a fantastic guitar player, but also a wonderful songwriter with great looks to match... he had all it took to be the obvious replacement for Ace Frehley later), made a big difference for the album to become the killer record it was.
Once "Creatures Of The Night" was released on October 13, 1982, Ace Frehley, who hadn't played a single note on it, but was credited as being the album's lead guitarist and being in the official, first album cover (for contractual and commercial reasons), was only part of promotional TV appearances for the album. He officially left the band soon after that, and for the "Creatures Of The Night Tour / 10th Anniversary Tour" in the U.S., Vinnie Vincent, who adopted the "Ankh Warrior" make-up, was announced as KISS's new lead guitarist, whose Egyptian Ankh make-up was designed in a hurry by Paul Stanley. In my opinion, the short-lived line-up of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent was the best one KISS has ever had. It was great to see these guys' next album, the brilliant "Lick It Up", being released - the very first album the band released without the make-up. But that's another story for another album review.
TRACK BY TRACK
01 - "Creatures Of The Night"
The album's title track and opener is a true KISS classic. By the minute one heard the powerful drum intro, he could barely notice it was a KISS song, considering the drastic difference between it and the songs on the band's four previous albums. Paul Stanley's vocals are angry, and they give the lyrics a meaningful, full of rage feel. The song has melodies and a musical structure never tried by KISS before. It's clear that Adam Mitchell's songwriting had a lot to do with its direction. Steve Farris's guitar solo on the track is simply amazing. Not that Ace Frehley's solos weren't as good, on the contrary. But one could tell within seconds that it wasn't even similar to Ace's guitar playing. Adam Mitchell also plays some guitar parts on this track. Curiously, Gene Simmons wasn't the one who played the bass on it, but session musician Mike Porcaro. His background vocals are there, though. I just wonder why he didn't care about playing on this timeless, classic KISS song.
02 - "Saint And Sinner"
So here it comes the first Gene Simmons song off "Creatures", written by himself and co-written by Mikel Japp. After the amazing opener, Gene came up with a song that is not as good as its predecessor, but not a bat track either. Even though the lyrics are a little bit predictable, its accompanying music rocks hard, once again sounding fresh and heavy, especially because of Eric's drums. This being the second song on the album, one can tell everything else that is to come will have some big focus on the drum sound, which is something exciting. I wouldn't call it a "filler", but just a good KISS song as most of their material is. But the drum sound... only if half of the albums we have listened to had a huge drum sound like this... Paul Stanley doesn't do much on it, letting both Gene and Eric on the spot. And Vinnie Vincent. Oh yes, Vinnie Vincent's first ever recorded guitar solo for KISS is awesome. Even being a simple one, it differs drastically again from Frehley's style. This isn't something either good or bad, just different. KISS should really have let go of Ace before the album was released. Any diehard KISS fan wouldn't buy that he had recorded a solo like that. Not because he wouldn't have been able to do it, just because KISS had a new sound then, on which his playing just wouldn’t fit right. We all do love Ace Frehley, but he and KISS were in different paths for a while back then.
03 - "Keep Me Comin'"
The second Paul Stanley song on the album, which was also co-written by Adam Mitchell. A more relaxed, rock and roll tune that takes us back to the classic KISS style. But heavier. Way heavier, thanks to Eric Carr's great drumming. One can tell that Paul did want to have a sexual content song on "Creatures Of The Night", and the lyrics are just tongue-in-cheek poetry. The sexy way he sings it makes it even more appealing, making the difference clear between his and Gene's songs for the album. The swinging suberb vocals by Paul just hold the listener to the song's very end. The sexier "Keep Me Comin'" is, the sexier it gets, due to the additional ad-lib vocals. The "right here, right now" ending is unforgetable! Gene doesn't do much on this one but Vinnie Vincent's guitar solo is amazing. How come one would truly believe our beloved Ace Frehley was the one delivering such licks? Hard to tell. The second song here that has Vinnie on lead guitar. Really easy to tell why he was the obvious choice to replace Frehley, and the guitarist to have the most solos on this epic album.
04 - "Rock And Roll Hell"
The second Gene song on "Creatures Of The Night" was curiously written by himself, and the then unknown Jim Vallance (who became a very respected songwriter and producer a couple of years later) and by a young, also kind of unknown, singer and songwriter, who had a couple of unterated albums out by 1982, called Bryan Adams. Well, Bryan needs no further introduction, since he became the huge pop star he is today. "Rock And Roll Hell" is a true heavy, rock and roll masterpiece. It's simple structure, dark lyrics and over the top bass guitar ambience, once again highlighting Eric Carr's drumming makes it one of the best songs Gene Simmons ever delivered for KISS. His impecable vocals and harmonies are nowhere to be criticized in a bad way. Robben Ford's guitar solo fits the song perfectly, proving that whoever who was taking over lead guitar duties all over this album was clearly not Ace Frehley, even though it is a short and simple solo. Talking about Ace, he recently included a cover version of this song on his last solo album, 2016's "Origins Vol. 1". For the love I have for Mr. Frehley's work and legacy, I refuse to compare his version to the untouchable original song. Well, sorry... I guess I've just done that...
05 - "Danger"
“Danger” is the third Paul Stanley song here, written by himself and Adam Mitchell. It’s another simple, predictable (but incredible) Paul Stanley rocker, but again, there are better songs on the album. Good lyrics, but not as good as the other ones. The chorus is very, very catchy, which makes it a good song to listen to. A good song to finish the “A Side” of the album back then. Eric Carr’s shining all over it again, while Gene Simmons doesn’t do much. Vinnie Vincent’s solo on this one is just incredible, maybe one of the best ones on "Creatures Of The Night". It’s a short song whose goal was maybe, just maybe, to be a “filler”. But it’s surely not a filler, it’s a great song.
06 - "I Love It Loud"
The third Gene Simmons song here, the second one also co-written by Vinnie Vincent. I can say that "I Love It Loud" was my very, very first contact with KISS, since it was the album's lead single. The first single, the first promo video from the first rock and roll band I've ever listened to. Looking back, it was a very important song to me. Writing this review now, I can tell that it isn't a song as good as some others on "Creatures Of The Night". Although it has become a trademark KISS song, I think it wasn't the perfect choice for such a great album's first single. Anyway, as any other song here, it isn't bad at all. The powerful, thundering Eric Carr drum intro and the simple sing-along Gene Simmons's opening vocal melody maybe made it commercial and heavy enough at the same time. It may have been the reason why it was chosen as the lead track off the album. Its lyrics don't really say much - Gene just repeated the old, well known "rebellion" type of songwriting old KISS fans had been used to. Not a bad idea, but nothing new either. Musically, "I Love It Loud" can be considered quite simple if compared to other songs here. Yes, catchy. Really catchy stuff. And heavy. That's what you got when you had Gene Simmons and Vinnie Vincent writing together. It's Vinnie again handling lead guitar duties. Looking back again, Vinnie must have had a hard time recording a simple, seven-note guitar solo... Paul's work on this song is very little, though one can still hear his great background vocals. The song’s fade ending and then its coming back again was also something KISS had never done before. It may seem silly nowadays, but it was quite a different ending to a song back then.
As for its promo video, "I Love It Loud", which had moderate airplay on MTV at the time, was quite a "big" one. I guess it was what influenced me the most to fall in love at first sight with KISS. A rebellious video showing a young man leaving his conservative, old-fashioned family to join others like him, who were an obvious reference both to the Kiss Army and to "Creatures Of The Night". The band's performance on it is quite amazing. Gene Simmons is the one who really shines here, and Eric Carr is impossible not to be seen as well, since his giant, metallic tank drum kit with an exploding turret, the same one that was on the album tour was on it too. Lots of flames and explosions all over the video were visually perfect, and as kisstory tells us, it was just the same as on the tour. As for Paul Stanley's performance on this video... Well, not much to say about it. Paul Stanley has always been Paul Stanley, no matter what. His great looks and moves when there’s a video camera shooting him are just not to be matched. Ever. Paul’s performance was even more highlighted once he played the role of the lead guitarist here. It's quite clear why he did it. Ace Frehley was still in the band, but since he hadn't played a single note on the whole "Creatures Of The Night" album, it's hard to believe he even knew how to play it. Ace's role as the rhythm guitarist here on this video was his farewel to KISS back then. I bet everyone who is reading this review has already watched this video, if one hasn't lived in a cave in the last 34 years. Anyway, here's the link where you can watch it (again, hopefully...):
07 - "I Still Love You"
The fourth Paul Stanley song on the album was also co-written by Vinnie Vincent, and it's undoubtfully one of the best songs on the album. As the one and only ballad here, it's also a highlight, for its sounding totally different from any previous KISS love song. Very melodic, and heavy as well, thanks again to the great Eric Carr, "I Still Love You" also stands out because of its beautiful lyrics and Paul's emotional and down to earth vocals. Well, Paul Stanley, folks... It can be be said that “I Still Love You” is still one of the best Paul Stanley vocal performances ever recorded. Vinnie Vincent, who co-wrote it, could have played its guitar solo, but for some reason, he simply didn't, or did it, but it was never used. Let’s remeber that he was not officially in the band at the time... But Robben Ford delivered an epic, wonderful one. Curiously, Gene Simmons seems nowhere to be found throughout the tune, since there are no other vocals other than Paul's and, years later, it was known that drummer Eric Carr played all the bass guitar parts on it. It's really hard to tell why Gene seemed not to be interested at all in being on this specific song, as well as on the album's title track, which are easily not only two of the best songs on "Creatures of the Night", but also two of the best songs in the KISS legacy.
08 - "Killer"
The fourth Gene Simmons song off "Creatures of the Night" was written by himself and also by Vinnie Vincent, whose initial guitar riff is somewhat amazing! It really stands for its title: "Killer" is a killer track!!! Another heavy and catchy hard rocker, the song itself is just musically perfect, and its lyrics are interesting enough to make it as another one of the best songs on the album. Maybe Paul Stanley isn't on this one, since Gene handles rhythm guitar duties here ( one can barely hear Paul’s background vocals anywhere), and the lead guitar spot is once again taken by the new "genious" and song co-writter Vinnie Vincent. Needless to say that the guitar solo that's being talked about is also "killer"!!! Eric’s drumming stands out over and over again... such a perfect and memorable Gene Simmons song that, unfortunately, never really got the attention it deserved. As far as I know, it has never ever been even played live. Such a waste!!! That would have been awesome if "Killer" had been a huge KISS hit song.
09 - "War Machine"
After so many great songs, here we have the album closer, another great one, called "War Machine". The last track on "Creatures of the Night" is another epic Gene Simmons tune, also co-written by already mentioned then unknown songwriting duo Vallance / Adams. Just like "Rock And Roll Hell", "War Machine" is na instantaneous classic from its initial, interesting guitar riff, which is heavy, with melodies that don’t come close to anything KISS had done before, along with the monsterous Eric Carr's drums. Gene’s lyrics are once again dark and agressive, fitting the song title like a glove. All of his vocals are just impecable as well. Once again, Paul Stanley seems not to be on this track, since he can’t be heard at all, and since Gene also plays rhythm guitars on the song. As for Vinnie Vincent’s solo... Another one of his best ever, especially concerning this album in particular. The initial / chorus guitar riff comes once again so that “War Machine” is over, featuring another short, but amazing guitar solo.
In short, "Creatures of the Night" was the album that started a whole new chapter in kisstory. A heavier sounding but still melodic edge was to be used in the next three or for years, only coming to na end when the classic “Crazy Nights” album was released in 1987 (still my favorite KISS album till this day). “Lick It Up”, KISS’s follow-up album was then another platinum seller worldwide and, unfortunately, the only album released by the classic KISS line-up that comprised Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Carr (Rest In Peace, you’re still missed by millions...) and the genious but controversial, multitalented, temperamental and self-destructive guitarist Vinnie Vincent.
Best songs: "Creatures of the Night", "Keep Me Comin'", "Rock and Roll Hell", "I Still Love You", "Killer" and "War Machine".