Sunday, 8 November 2009

KISS - Animalize (1984)

1. I've Had Enough (Into The Fire)
2. Heaven's On Fire
3. Burn Bitch Burn
4. Get All You Can Take
5. Lonely Is The Hunter
6. Under The Gun
7. Thrills In The Night
8. While The City Sleeps
9. Murder In High Heels

Time to get educated my fair freaks...

In 1983 the hottest band in the land - KISS - removed their trademark makeup, exposing their faces to the world and released the classic "Lick It Up" album which helped revive them during their bad start to life in the 1980s and further cemented them as one of rock's biggest draws. After the heavy MTV rotation and chart hits had come and gone for that year, the band parted ways with shred-god Vinnie Vincent and Stanley and Simmons brought in guitarist Mark St. John (White-Tiger) to record the follow-up "Animalize". Bringing with it new costumes (featuring tons of leopard & zebra print), staging and enhancing further the band's technical abilities that had been forced into overdrive a year earlier, by the departing Vincent.

Most KISS fans and even KISS themselves don't look upon this album or period too fondly and this is mostly due to KISS possibly trying to fit in with the younger, glam metal movement that was about to go supernova at the time and in m opinion, because they weren't wearing the make-up anymore. I'd say 90% of KISS fans I've spoken to despise the entire 80s KISS catalogue and they are being far too dismissive and are blinded by their own nostalgia and fear of change. They are missing out on some quality metal. Yeah, that's right, you read correctly - "metal". 1980s KISS is criminally underrated (surprise, surprise it is yours truly's favourite period in the band's career), in particular "Animalize", as it is, without a doubt the heaviest album KISS ever committed to vinyl and crosses the path into Flash Metal territory. The album was also their biggest selling album since 1977's "Alive II" and attained platinum status within three months of being released - not bad going, if you ask me! Paul Stanley (vocals/guitar) stated that "Animalize" was about being a live, raw rock n' roll band and that "people back then were becoming like computers, making music by pressing buttons and that's no fun".

The record opens with the thunderous "I've Had Enough (Into The Fire)", which to this day, I still think is one of the most fucking brilliant song titles I've ever known. The song is extremely heavy for KISS and a huge step up from what "Lick It Up" only hinted at. The riffing is fast, the bass pummeling, Eric Carr's drumming as always is untouchable and Paul Stanley's delivery makes this track come across mighty dangerous. The song is notable for likely being the first KISS song where the lead guitarist was truly allowed to let-rip and melt some faces. Mark St. John's (guitar) solo on this baby is certainly capable of melting some faces - this shit utterly demands to be cranked all the way to 11! I guess it was the sign of the times, as KISS was having to compete with all these new acts, chocked full of lightning fast axe masters that they had inspired a decade earlier. They had to keep up, show the kids how this shit was done. It's unfortunate, but not a total surprise to learn that Gene Simmons (bass/vocals) was against letting St. John go wild with his chops on the record, as he found the shred-style to be irritating - claiming it was "like a bee buzzing around your ear". I love this style of guitar playing and can really appreciate the level a player needs to be at to pull it off in way that both adds to the music and sounds cohesive with the structure of the songs. So fuck Gene, the bass player would be the one to come out with a comment like that! *On a sad note, St. John would contract Reiter's syndrome, which caused his hands to swell making him unable to complete touring duties. He was replaced by Bruce Kulick by the end of 1984...

Anyway back to the songs themselves. "Heaven's On Fire" is a cracker! A great upbeat pop-rock anthem with some great lyrics: "I got a fever raging in my heart, you make me shiver and shake/baby don't stop, take it to the top, eat it like a piece of cake". KISS put "Heaven's On Fire" out as a single and made a video to accompany it, featuring the guys surround by many sexy ladies and opening with Paul Stanley's fingers ablaze, finishing with him jumping through a ring of fire - legend! The song is the only cut from this album that has kept a place in the band's set list since. "Burn Bitch Burn" (what the fuck is it with rock bands and fire themes?) is the first offering from Gene here and it's a barnstormer. Really heavy, great chorus, great lyrics overall and another nuclear assault of a guitar solo. The other stand-outs are; "Under The Gun", which is almost like a speed metal song it's so fast! I'd love to drive a Chevrolet 190mph into a brick wall whilst listening to this song (see, that's the power of KISS), "Thrills In The Night" which sounds alot like some of the opening cuts from "Unmasked" - it's got super-duper 80s verses, conjuring up all those images of sleazy street walkers and being out loaded 'til 3am. "While The City Sleeps" is another lost classic, containing more crunchy guitar work, cool vocals and the structuring in great, just great. Paul Stanley's production work on this by the way is fab...And that's coming from a guy who's vinyl copy is beaten to hell, like a red-headed step child.

So, it is yet another high recommendation from the Flash Metal Circus, whether you happen to be a KISS fan or not - do not underestimate the raw predatory power of 1984's "Animalize". This record screams metal from its waxy lungs and is definitely worth giving a spin. School's out....


*Sadly, on April 5th 2007, Mark St. John suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. Flash Metal Circus will never forget his exceptional musical contribution to both KISS and White Tiger and to the legacy of 1980s metal.

© Flash Metal Circus

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I know I am in the minority (hugely so), but I like Kiss better after the makeup came off. My favorite of their records is Carnival of Souls... and NO ONE else likes that one, at all. Animalize was a good one, though.