KISS: Creatures Of The Night
Release year: 1982/2022
Label: Mercury Records
I saw Kiss live on their Psycho Circus tour in the late 90’s, probably at the time in my life most suitable for witnessing the spectacle that a Kiss concert is. I was 15 or 16, had been into heavier music for some years, and had seen a few but not too many live concerts. Just the moment in time when Kiss live, in good form, hit all the right buttons for me. Honestly, that’s one of my more cherished early concert memories; in some ways more impressive and memorable than, say, Black Sabbath a few months earlier, though otherwise Black Sabbath have always been a far more important band to me.
I mean, if you’re getting into hard rock or metal, at some point in time, probably sooner than later, you’re gonna come across Kiss. I don’t know how kids these days feel about the admittedly campy but still very fun schtick of the masked four, but back then they were just the right combination of comic books, provocation and some killer songs. For me, Kiss were a gateway drug into harder stuff, and though my relationship with Kiss remains highly casual and on-off in nature, they’ll always have a place in my heart.
It was actually my brother who was the hardcore Kiss-fan, for a couple of years at least. I think he bought all of their CD’s, even acquired a few albums on vinyl (not a given in the 90’s!), went to a couple of Kiss Expos and what have you. I’d have been pretty satisfied with owning the stellar compilation Greatest Kiss, but through him I got to dig deeper.
This was one of those albums you’d probably have missed if you weren’t a somewhat more dedicated Kiss fan. It was the first album not featuring the original line-up (The catman Peter Criss had been replaced by Eric Carr), and was released when the seminal hard rock group’s star was on the wane, and wasn’t as such a commercial success even back when, though critics liked it. And, spoiler alert, here’s one latter day critic who likes it.
Creatures Of The Night saw Kiss return to a harder and heavier sound after the lighter, perhaps even more commercial albums since Dynasty (1979). It could be argued that this is the heaviest Kiss album up ’til then, with a sound that embraced the glam metal explosion that was just taking place. The drums pound like they’re meant for stadium concerts and the guitars are loud. Gone are any elements of disco or the weird conceptual adult rock of Music From “The Elder” (1981). This is Kiss doing what they do best: straightforward, catchy hard rock. Not complicated, not artistically particularly ambitious, but solid.
The title track, which kicks off the album, is one of the underrated Kiss anthems. Incorporating just the right amount of 80’s glam metal catchiness and melodic sensibilities to a very traditional Kiss blueprint, it kickstarts the album on a high note. As far as quality goes, this should be included on all Kiss compilations, be played at every concert and just in general be counted among their iconic tracks along with the 70’s classics. But of course it isn’t, because it’s not the original line-up playing.
Other highlights of the album include I Love It Loud, a typically heavy-handed and straightforward Gene Simmons track; a tribute to loud rock music that probably rocked receptive members of the audience on the release tour of this album. Keeping it Simmons, War Machine closes the album with a pretty killer heavy metal groove; certainly one of Kiss’ heavier tracks overall. Apart from the title track, other Paul Stanley highlights include the catchy Danger.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kiss album without some filler tracks. The shortcoming of virtually all Kiss albums is that beside a few killer tracks, there’s always padding which feels like it. The killer to filler ratio on Creatures Of The Night is pretty good, but tracks like the mandatory ballad I Still Love You or the somewhat throwaway Killer certainly don’t belong in the same league as the tracks mentioned above.
But, all things considered, Creatures Of The Night is a far more balanced album than some of the canonized classics. Most of the fillers feel a bit less throwaway than on some other albums, and whilst a track like Keep Me Comin’ isn’t one of the tracks you’ll be coming back for, you won’t mind listening to it as a stop-gap between the highlights.
Never one to shy away from a chance to earn a dime, there are of course all kinds of deluxe versions of this 40th anniversary re-release of Creatures Of The Night, including one with 5 CD’s and a Blu-Ray disc. Luckily, Kiss have also decided to cater to us more casual fans and offer the album itself without any bells and whistles on both CD and vinyl. Personally, I don’t need the outtakes, live recordings and all other extras; just the album itself suffices. But, of course, I do understand that collectors are interested in just that: all the extra stuff, all the unheard stuff.
This basic edition is really just that: basic. The booklet of the CD contains only the lyrics and credits; not even the liner notes from previous re-releases are included. In fact, I can’t even find the line-up of the band mentioned in the booklet. But that’s okay. If I’d wanted something extra, I’d have shelled out for one of the many expanded editions of this anniversary re-release.
In retrospect, Creatures Of The Night is a stop-gap album between two eras of Kiss. The original line-up was no more, and even Ace Frehley would soon leave – he is credited on the album and featured on the cover, but apparently plays barely a note on the album. And for the next album, Kiss would shed their skin quite literally, and appear without masks for the first time. The drought in the commercial department would also come to an end, as the unmasked Kiss managed to reconnect with rock crowds and once again be able to shift enough albums to warrant more significant chart success.
In that context, Creatures Of The Night is the innocent victim of circumstances. It’s a thoroughly solid album, perhaps even one of the more solid albums in Kiss’ discography, all albums considered, but likely many dismissed it upon release after the disappointment of the previous few albums. It probably never stood a fighting chance. Luckily, Kiss have never been ones to pretend like an album of their never existed, and as such Creatures Of The Night has been available quite easily since then, and seems to have a fair share of proponents among Kiss fans.
If you’ve somehow missed out on this album – or dismissed it up until now – well then, this 40th anniversary edition is a good time to give it a chance. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
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