This is my first time doing something like this, ranking a bands albums and giving my reasons in the rankings, but I’ve been looking forward to doing something like this for about a year. Initially I had planned Judas Priest to be the first band whose albums I’d rank, but to celebrate Decibel Geek‘s KISSmas in July I jumped at the chance to do this with KISS albums.
First I’d like to note that these are strictly my opinions as a fan and not as a critic. Secondly these are a reflection of my opinions and not that of Decibel Geek, so if anything I say enrages you, or makes you think “this guy’s an idiot,” be mad at me and not the site. On the other side, if you find anything to be profound and life changing, that credit can go to me as well. And thirdly this article only ranks the studio albums of KISS and doesn’t include their live albums, as classic as some of the Alive albums may be, or any compilations, including ones with then-new recordings like Double Platinum or Killers. Oh, and no solo albums are on this list either.
I’ll also be noting what my favourite song is from each album. These aren’t necessarily “highlights” as much as just the songs I personally enjoy the most. If you’ve read my past reviews you’ll know what I mean.
So let’s get started!
I don’t think this will come as a surprise to most. KISS are under the impression that they can still make good music. While I’m sure there is still a little something left in the brains of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons that is capable of writing a quality song, they sure didn’t show it on Monster which is filled with the most forgettable songs the band has ever written. I won’t even single out any because each is as forgettable as the last.
Favourite song: “Hell or Hallelujah”…I guess
If you want it, you can buy Monster here.
#19. Sonic Boom
I swear I’m not ranking these albums by how recent they are. Much like Monster, Sonic Boom, which is the first album with the current incarnation of KISS, also shows the delusions of Paul and Gene thinking they are making a statement with new music when their heyday is far behind them. In reality, this album is actually much better than Monster (I think you have to understand just how low I rank that album) with songs of some actual substance like “Stand” and I’ll admit to enjoying “Modern Day Delilah” when it would come on the radio. At its time, I didn’t really see much wrong with the album, other than the obvious fact that the band was trying way too hard to sound like old KISS rather than write whatever came naturally. That is the downfall to many classic rock bands making music and KISS are one of the worst at it as evident by these two most recent albums.
Favourite song: “Never Enough”
You can buy Sonic Boom here.
So I shamelessly love 80’s KISS. Some of the best songs (mostly the hits of that era) came in their days where they took the glam rock image to a completely new level. These great songs didn’t always materialize into full albums though, and Asylum got the rawest of deals with Gene Simmons just having no heart for music at the time and Paul Stanley struggling to keep his spirits up, this album only has four songs I’d consider quality songs. Three of them are the hits from the album “Tears Are Falling”, “Who Wants To Be Lonely” and my least favourite of the three “Uh! All Night.” The songs Gene sings are practically more forgettable than songs on Monster with only “Trial By Fire” being any good. Even Paul has some stinkers, and I’m a freak for Paul sung songs. “King of the Mountain” is the only other song I find to be a quality track from this effortless album.
Favourite song: “Tears are Falling” – Paul‘s vocal ad-libs at the end are at times fantastic.
You can buy Asylum here.
#17. Love Gun
Love Gun is in the bottom five???? Yes it is. There may be songs that are live staples and fan favourites like “I Stole Your Love” and “Christine Sixteen” but when it comes down to it these were simply KISS forcing themselves to write anything. Those two songs just happened to sound good. The only great song is the title track, while even that song sounds forced, but only if you really pay attention. “Got Love For Sale” is basically a flush noise with vocals to it and “Hooligan” is one of Peter Criss‘s worst efforts as a vocalist. There are some worthy tracks, of course, I have to mention Ace Frehley‘s lead vocal debut on “Shock Me” but even the good songs are far from great.
Favourite song: “Then She Kissed Me” – Just too many memories there.
You can buy Love Gun here.
#16. Hot In The Shade
There’s just so many songs. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because in fifteen tracks there are about as many good tracks as there are songs on Love Gun, but it’s bad because it’s hard for a band to make an album of fifteen songs and have all of them be quality songs. “Read My Body” and “Love’s A Slap In The Face” could not have possibly been written to be anything more than filler. Unfortunately, Eric Carr‘s lead vocal contribution “Little Caesar,” his first original effort with the band, fell a little short as well. However on the other side of the coin, the album does have its classics in some fans eyes (“Hide Your Heart”) and of course one sure classic in most fans eyes (“Forever”) but there are many other gems as well, like “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell.”
Favourite song: “Forever” – This was actually a tougher choice than I thought it would be.
You can buy Hot in the Shade here.
I’m going with quality over quantity here. Much like Asylum, Animalize does not manage to be consistent, but the tracks that are good are for the most part fantastic. All of Paul‘s songs are just great, except I can get tired of “Heaven’s On Fire” pretty quickly, and Gene has some not bad songs too, but it’s mostly his songs that stop Animalize from being the great album it could have been. His song “Burn Bitch Burn” being the best of his songs. Mark St. John‘s playing was inconsistent, as both Paul and Gene have separately said they found him to be a little too much. Every solo with him just had to be a thousand notes hit per minute, and that ruined some guitar solos that could have been great. There were few upsides though, like his solo in “Under The Gun.”
Favourite song: “Thrills in the Night” – One of my favourites by the band.
You can buy Animalize here.
#14. Music From “The Elder”
Yes, this actually did not make the bottom five, which probably surprises everyone. The most civil of critics have said that Music From “The Elder” would have been a great album if it wasn’t a KISS album. I say that’s bullshit only because I don’t think it should matter what band plays an album. If it sounds good it sounds good. I don’t look at KISS as a band that has to rock and roll all night. I look at them as musicians who got by being marginally good at song writing and just happened to know how to make a good hook, but just this once they wanted to be true musicians and write music that didn’t have to be about sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. In doing so did something that no one looks at the right way. It’s not like they were planning on staying this way forever in the first place. That’s all me defending the album, but ultimately it still falls in the bottom ten simply because I feel the remaining albums were better, and not because Music From “The Elder” is bad.
Favourite song: “Just a Boy” – Everyone else’s least favourite, but clearly I’m not one to care.
You can buy Music From “The Elder” here.
#13. Psycho Circus
The last good KISS album, though some may disagree. Sure there are songs that sounded forced, like “You Wanted The Best” which really feels like the record company was pushing for a song with all four members singing for the first time ever. And “I Finally Found A Home” sounds like Paul and Bob Ezrin just reluctantly wrote a song for Peter Criss because according to Paul, Peter can’t write a song. But there are songs like the stadium crumbling title track and the surprisingly not-so-lame four-eyed anthem “Raise Your Glasses” that make Psycho Circus an absolute delight to listen to each time.
Favourite song: “Dreamin'”
You can buy Psycho Circus here.
#12. Lick It Up
Another case of quality over quantity. Actually, I can say very similar things of Lick It Up as I said to Animalize, right down to the fact that while the leading single “Lick It Up” is a classic, I can get tired of it easily. This is before Gene completely stopped putting effort into his contributions, with songs like “And On the 8th Day” and “Fits Like A Glove” being two of his ultimate best contributions to 80’s KISS. Naturally all of Paul‘s songs are just great and underappreciated, including the fast and heavy tracks “Exciter” and “Gimme More” which all help make Lick It Up one of the most, if not the most heavy metal album KISS has ever made.
Favourite song: “A Million To One” – I don’t think I ever noticed how most of my favourite KISS songs are their slower ones until now.
You can buy Lick It Up here.
KISS‘s pop album may be at times embarrassing to listen to, and it had many fans putting paper bags over their heads, but this had some truly catchy pop rock songs. I’m not crazy about “Torpedo Girl” but the other poppy songs like “Is That You” “Tomorrow”, “She’s So European” and many others just seem to find a way to hook me and makes me unapologetically want to call Unmasked one of my favourite KISS albums.
Favourite song: “Shandi” – Yes, “Shandi”.
You can buy Unmasked here.
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