KISS Retro-Active – Animalize (1984)

kiss_retroactive

“How many times have they lied with the truth in their eyes
Treat you like dirt, wasting the days of our lives
They try and deny it, ain’t gonna buy it, just look around
Before it’s all over, it’s gonna get rough

I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)

Continuing the feature to celebrate KISSmas in July, we retro-review KISS’ twelfth studio album Animalize.

AnimalizeAnimalize marked the only appearance by lead guitarist Mark St. John, who replaced Vinnie Vincent in April 1984.  St. John brought a similar intense type of shredding guitar to the party as Vinnie and so seemed to fit in with the KISS sound of that time.

St. John was forced to leave KISS during the subsequent tour after being diagnosed with Reiter’s Syndrome. By November 1984, he was out of the band, the third lead guitarist to exit the group in two years.  On the evidence of this album, this really was a shame (although the greater tragedy was his untimely passing), as Mark provided a real kick to the band.

Paul Stanley found this album to be difficult to make and commented:

I fixed Gene’s songs, fixed the band situation, pulled solos out of Mark and saw through the making of the album. I also named the album, designed the album art and arranged the cover photo shoot. On top of it all, I spent big chunks of time in our office personally promoting the album, glad-handing radio people, cajoling MTV into playing the videos and doing all the things a manager would normally do.
Gene Simmons fell into increasing conflict with his band mates during this period for a variety of reasons, most of which revolved around his perceived lack of commitment to the band and preoccupation with numerous outside projects, including producing and managing other rock groups such as Black ‘n Blue (whom Tommy Thayer was a member of at the time), bit parts in films like Trick or Treat (as a radio DJ), a co-starring role in Runaway, and an assortment of business ventures. “Heaven’s on Fire” became the biggest hit from the album (as well as the only song to survive on the band’s live setlist after the ’80s), and its music video received heavy MTV rotation. It is also the only music video appearance of Mark St. John.
Posters on Facebook made mention of St. John‘s contribution to this collection:KISS_Animalize-costumes

Did not care for Mark‘s playing, it lacked soul. Bruce [Kulick] has soul and all the technical ability.

One of the better non-make-up albums, one of my all time favs! Mark St. John, sure, he cut the mustard…

Good album. Mark did good on the album. Too bad we never got to know how good Mark really was. I still wonder what Animalize would have been like if Gene, Paul, and Vinnie could have gotten along.”

As the quotes demonstrate, this record divided fans. Critics likewise criticized Animalize.

However, it does have some real classic moments and none more than the opener.  “I’ve Had Enough” is one of the most angry songs KISS have ever recorded.  The speed and venom, allied to Paul‘s great vocals means that Animalize starts like a demon.  This is one of my favorite KISS tunes of all time!

The next cut is the classic “Heaven’s On Fire“, which needs no introduction.  The song starts out with Paul‘s gospel type vocals and ends up a total banger.

kiss_animalize_band1Simmons weighs in with the hilariously crude “Burn Bitch Burn“, with his greatest line to date of “Oh babe, I wanna put my log in your fireplace“, which has been spoofed to perfection on the Decibel Geek Podcast.  The tune is OK, but a really bad song in so many other ways.

Moving on to the typically 1980’s song “Get All You Can Take“, which is a pretty great slice of metal.   Stanley‘s lyrics are a bit nasty, but the song is strong overall.  Again, some great solos from St. John.

Under The Gun” is up-tempo and cruises at 100mph.  “Murder In High Heels” is a groover and “While The City Sleeps” chugs along nicely.  However, the other standout track is “Thrills In The Night“, which is a real anthem and St. John‘s guitar on this is fantastic.  One interesting note is that “Thrills In The Night” has a chorus that sounds very much like “Nowhere To Run” from Killers…Tell me I’m wrong?

Overall, I love the album and it was my summer soundtrack in 1987 (I know, but I was a late KISS starter).  Enjoy the memories and don’t be too hard on a record that was challenging for band and fans alike!

Buy: Animalize

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