By ALAN K. STOUT
102.3-FM, The Mountain
Back in 1984, the day before KISS released its “Animalize” album, I told a few high school friends that they probably wouldn’t be seeing me for a while. Once I had a new KISS record in hand, I knew what I’d be doing every day after school for the next few weeks: I’d be hunkered down in my room, sitting in front of my stereo, listening to the album.
That’s it. That’s pretty much all I’d be doing. A new KISS album was an event. And I fully absorbed the group's recordings, track for track, note for note.
Nearly three decades later, I still feel a sense of excitement when KISS releases some new music, and thus I was online at 7 a.m. on July 3 dowloading KISS’ new single, “Hell or Hallelujah.” The group’s new album, “Monster,” doesn’t drop until mid-October, but this little sneak peek certainly seems to have garnered a nice buzz and quickly became one of the most downloaded songs in the world.
And rightly so.
“Hell or Hallelujah” is a terrific modern-rock track. Some have said it reminds them of classic ‘70s KISS, circa “Love Gun.” Some have said it reminds them of ‘80s era KISS, circa “Asylum.” Others have compared it to 1992’s “Revenge.” I hear a little of all of that, plus a continuation of 2009’s “Sonic Boom.” But really, who needs to compare and contrast? All that matters is this:
The song rocks.
Opening with snarling and stingy riff, “Hell or Hallelujah” explodes into a torrid track that’s fueled by Paul Stanley’s energetic vocals. When he sings, “One heart is bre-a-a-a--king,” you can feel the surge of classic KISS, and having Gene Simmons share vocals on a few lines also gives it an old-school feel. Still, this is no retro track. The production is big and the song booms. Drummer Eric Singer pounds with authority and bassist Simmons cleverly dances around the fretboard in a few spots. And with the fall release of "Monster," guitarist Tommy Thayer will have done something that only Ace Frehley and Bruce Kulick have done before: serve as lead guitarist on more than one KISS album. With “Hell or Halleluiah,” Thayer has seized the moment and frequently steps up for notice. Big props to him for bringing his own vibe and putting his own stamp on the track. It’s good for him. And it’s good for KISS.
Honestly, it's hard to imagine anyone hearing this number and not looking forward to hearing more from "Monster" in October.
So how does it feel to get the first new KISS song in nearly three years? How does it feel to know that the kings of American hard-rock are still the kings? How does it feel to play “Hell Or Hallelujah" loudly in the car, or to crank it on your iPod?
Well, to borrow from one of the catchiest lines in the song - and one that the Starchild will likely have the crowds singing along to on the band's upcoming U.S. tour:
“It feels good!"