Well, here it is! The moment I sink my teeth into an album that I have a complicated history with. As many of you have known, I am an avid KISS fan. (If you want to leave now, I understand!) I essentially grew up on five different KISS greatest hits albums and the box set. The box set contains hidden gems, live cuts, and rare demos – which helped balance out the countless rearrangement of hits that were the ‘Best of:’ compilations. At some point in my adolescence, I decided that I wanted to own all of the albums that these songs on the box set were sourced from. This was my first encounter with our latest CTEP feature, Hotter Than Hell!
I bought this album for the first time around the year 2000, from Music Outlet in Enfield, CT. They have been open for decades and I developed an appreciation for hanging out in record shops at an early age because of their business. As any physical music lover would tell you, the record shop is a congregational site. This is where members of the musical community gather, share, and learn!
An eager and younger version of myself brought the disc home with wild excitement and great anticipation. I opened the case, put the disc in the player, and….. HATED the album! I actually returned the album to the store and exchanged it for a title I can’t recall. To this day, I still have issues with this great albums sonic qualities. However, I will say that Hotter Than Hell stands as a lonely testament to the musical substance of KISS.
Let’s just do it. Let’s address the ugly truth staring us in the face. This album doesn’t sound as good as other KISS albums. In my opinion, Peter Criss has the worst drum sounds of his KISS career on this album. I’m not speaking of his playing, just purely the timbre of his kit.
Don’t get me wrong! This is early KISS at their best. This album is not solely a desperate attempt at commercialism like the albums to come. These songs are kick ass and perhaps some of the most authentic of the KISS catalog! There are some nasty riffs, some fire, a little danger, and some good ol’ rock and roll! This album is dirty and gritty compared to the finely polished releases to come and features some classic cuts still played by the band as well as various KISS alumni solo efforts!
Tracks such as “Hotter Than Hell”, “Mainline”, and “All the Way” are great examples of 70’s rock and roll. While songs like “Parasite”, “Watchin’ You”, and “Strange Ways” give the album it’s darkness, fire, and energy. It should be made clear that these are all fine songs – great songs, even. However, they all fall short, in my opinion, of what may be considered the best KISS song of all time – “Goin’ Blind”, which features a surprising arrangement of hazy guitar work, themes rooted in science fiction (if you reference the MTV unplugged version), and a most excellent and soulful guitar solo courtesy of Ace Frehley!
Hotter Than Hell in many ways is a continuation of the KISS hard rock formula. They follow up their debut with this offering that in many ways cuts deeper and rocks harder than its predecessor. It’s an imperfect album but since when has rock and roll been about perfection? This album has an energy that is rooted in it’s legato and it’s swagger.
Maybe I’m biased. Maybe I’m too invested to remain partial. Either way, this is a kick ass album that I would always recommend!
Favorite Songs: Goin’ Blind, Got to Choose, Watchin’ You