Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
It had been a rough time for KISS, their stock the lowest it had been for years following the poorly received ‘The Elder’ concept album, their usually sold-out tours struggling to fill arenas.
There had also been a change in the line-up, drummer Peter Criss having been replaced by Eric Carr, devoted fans concerned about the shift in personnel.
Where to go and what to do to restore their fortunes uppermost in their minds, KISS did what they did best and went into survival mode. Fighting for their very lives, the band headed back into the studio and were determined to come out swinging. The result was ‘Creatures of the Night’.
Now viewed as one of their very finest albums, it’s a much heavier beast than their previous output and contains a number of tracks that were to become live staples of their set to this day. From the dazzling roar of the titular opener and through to the anthemic, Gene Simmons led ‘I Love It Loud’, the album was an adrenaline-soaked blast that had an appeal to an audience way wider than those who had been fans throughout the years.
With the huge surge of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal creating a tsunami of fresh metalheads craving their fix, ‘Creatures…’ filled that itch and then some, the gloss that KISS had some miles away from the meat and potatoes of most of the English bands from the era.
Blockbuster after blockbuster tore from the speakers, ‘Keep Me Comin’’, ‘Danger’, ‘I Love It Loud’ and the crushing ‘War Machine’ all had enough power and excitement to grab even the most casual observer. The album even had a ballad but given that ‘I Still Love You’ is still one of the best things the band has ever written and Paul Stanley’s vocal one of his finest and most emotive even this stray from the blisteringly feral template that informs the rest of the album.
Arguably, there may be one or two tracks that don’t quite match up with the rest but that’s a minor point and for most this is a release to be played from end to end without skipping and still sounds raw and exciting today, forty years after it was first launched onto the world. With this new mix it also sounds better than ever, a stomping, fire breathing monster that would have Godzilla running for the hills.
Truth be told, things weren’t entirely rosy behind the scenes, Ace Frehley hardly playing on the album at all, most of the guitar work done by a number of other players but mostly by Vinnie Vincent who’d replace the six-stringer after his telegraphed departure.
It may also have been the new bloods input that helped refresh the band as well but whatever the reasons, ‘Creatures of the Night’ rocked harder than ever, the songs and performances some of the best of their career. The wave continued with their first truly ‘unmasked’ album ‘Lick It Up’, but that’s another story for another time.
Being a Fortieth Anniversary re-release the Super Deluxe edition features a total of one hundred and three tracks, three quarters of which have never seen the light of day before. As you make your way through discs two and three of alternative versions, outtakes and demos there’s some fascinating
listening, some of the tracks like ‘Deadly Weapon’ and ‘Betrayed’ punching hard, tough bubblegum rockers ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘I’m A Legend Tonight’ and curios in the form of ‘Something Seems To Happen’, a classy AOR ballad all revealing some gems.
Two more discs feature live soundboard recordings the ‘82/’83 tour and are a pretty dirty, dangerous selection, the band at their most feral and not taking prisoners. As with such source material, the recordings aren’t polished but excitingly true to the sound of the shows and the roughness around the edges adds an authenticity and claws-out edge to the whole.
A mix of new and classic material providing a perfect snapshot of the time, the band sounding tight and reinvigorated, proud of the songs and the on-stage rapport they’d regained.
With seven tour sound effects added on for your listening pleasure, the album set is something that will give hours of pleasure and we know that’s exactly as Messrs Simmons and Stanley would want you to have.
Bristling with energy and a rediscovered fire, ‘Creatures of the Night’ is a vital purchase and can stand alongside of ‘Destroyer’ and ‘KISS Alive’ as the solid gold heights of their recorded work. Every home should have a copy.