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Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 15, 2000
Carnival of Souls takes the raw roots era KISS of REVENGE and updates it. "Hate" is the offspring of "Unholy" and "Spit" off of REVENGE, and "Jungle" is a darker version of "Who Wants To Be Lonely" from ASYLUM, only with a much better groove. In fact, almost every song on COS has a precedent in KISS' back catalog. "In My Head" is somewhat reminiscent of "Mr. Blackwell" from "the ELDER," and "It Never Goes Away" is a Black Sabbath style cruncher like "Strange Ways" from HOTTER THAN HELL. Other standouts inclue "Master And Slave," "Rain," and the Hendrix inspired "In The Mirror." The theme on COS is experimentation, but experimentation within the framework of what KISS has done before. The perfomances of Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick are excellent as well, particularly the performance of Eric Singer, who really brings this album to life. If you are willing to take a chance on a Darker, and Heavier version of KISS, you will not be disappointed by CARNIVAL OF SOULS.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2005
While KISS certainly proved to be innovators and trendsetters with their classic early albums and shows, they have also proved to be trend followers as well. Since the late 70s, KISS has jumped on whatever bandwagon was the flavor of the month in order to stay relevant. In the late 70s it was disco-pop with "Dynasty" (1979) and "Unmasked" (1980). In the late 80s it was glossy pop-metal, with "Crazy Nights" (1987). So, what kind of album do you think KISS would make in the mid-90s? Yup, you guessed it, a grunge album.

Released in 1997, "Carnival of Souls" had been recorded two years earlier. The lineup for the CD includes Paul Stanley, (vocals, rhythm guitar) Gene Simmons, (vocals, bass) Bruce Kullick, (vocals, lead guitar) and Eric Singer (drums). "Carnival of Souls" had been intended for a 1995 release, with an accompanying tour to promote it. But those plans were cancelled when original KISS members Ace Frehley (guitar) and Peter Criss (drums) rejoined the band for their massively successful 1996 reunion tour. Kullick and Singer were dismissed from the band and "Carnival of Souls" was put in the can. Throughout KISS's reunion tour, bootleg copies of "Carnival of Souls" started to appear in various forms and quality. Sensing enough interest for an official release, "Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions" was released in 1997.

KISS's longevity can be attributed to the fact that they have proved to be good musical chameleons over the years. Even if KISS does shamelessly follow musical trends, they can still, overall, do so with considerable success. If KISS can incorporate disco-pop into their sound with "I was made for lovin' you" and make it sound like KISS, then KISS can certainly make a grunge sounding album in a KISS mold as well.

"Carnival" is a grunge sounding album, but with a metallic edge. Many reviewers/fans/critics have correctly stated that the album sounds like "Badmoterfinger" (1991) era Soundgarden. The album overall is quite dark, and not of the celebratory nature of most KISS albums. "Carnival," also demonstrates the dark, cheerlessness of KISS's "Music from the Elder" (1981). But whereas "Elder" was a progressive concept album, "Carnival" is a more stripped-down, straight-forward affair. Indeed, "Carnival" shows the band going for a minimalist approach. The whole album sounds sparse and stripped-down. All-in-all, "Carnival of Souls" can therefore be seen as "Badmoterfinger" meets "Music from the Elder" meets "Led Zeppelin III" (1970).

The title of the album "Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions," may lead one to conclude that it is a CD of demos from those '94-'95 sessions. Not so. The CD is a finished product and could have received an official release as is back in '95.

Stanley and Simmons each sing about half the album, with Bruce Kullick giving his first (and only) lead vocal performance with the closing "I walk alone." Stanley, Simmons, and Kullick co-wrote the album with Curt Cuomo, Scott Van Zenn, Jamie St. James, Ken Tamplin, and future KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer.

The opening sluggish "Hate," and the gloomy "Rain" sound like "Badmotorfinger's "Rusty Cage," and "Outshined" respectively. "Master and Slave" has the band stripped down to its bare-bones. Simmon's hammering bass over Stanley's eerie delivery before its melodic chorus is quite cool. "Childhood's End" is one of the album's strongest tracks. Simmon's cocky, defiant delivery, with its melodic, sing-along chorus, ultimately makes it a triumph. The album's shinning moment is the stunning semi-acoustic "I will be there." A tribute to a father-son bond, this is one of the finest songs that KISS has ever penned. It is somewhat reminiscent of "friends" and "Since I've been loving you" from "Led Zeppelin III". The melodic hard-hitting, "Jungle" is effective and keeps up the momentum. "In my Head," and "It never goes away" comes straight out of the "Badmoterfinger" playbook. While not bad, they're rather sluggish and never really get off the ground, putting a wrench in the albums momentum. The melodic mid-east flavored "Seduction of the innocent" gets the album back on track. "I Confess" is both menacing an aggressive. Stanley and Simmon's duet in the chorus works very nicely. "In the Mirror" has a cool Zeppelin-meets-Soundgarden like quality. The Bruce Kullick song "I Walk Alone" closes out the album. A celebration of the loner, this is one of the album's most memorable songs. It's a shame that Kullick was never afforded the opportunity to sing it live with KISS.

While "Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions" will ultimately be just a footnote on KISS's legacy, it's still a memorable album. While it doesn't rank up there with such classics as "KISS," (1974) "Destroyer," (1976) and "Love Gun," (1977) it's still an excellent album that fans of the band should check out.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2006
Prior to the reunion of the original line-up and seemingly endless tour that followed, KISS decided to show they could be as contemporary as the grungers of the period (1995). What could have been a cheap derivative in other bands' hands became the heaviest album KISS ever delivered, the Seattle influence present but not dominating. Riffs are more in the early Black Sabbath vein, but the chord work is definitely grungey in its downtuned guitars. Bruce Kulick saves the day, keeping his chops at the front, as if to say "I can play the dropped "D" tuning just like you flannel punks, but can you do this?" before burning off great soloes that know when to stop being vehicles for showing off and keeping the melody in mind.

Sales for this CD weren't exactly stellar, but judged on its own merits, "Carnival Of Souls" is a damn good riff heavy and smart album. I have no problem believing KISS could do whatever they set their minds to, judged by the evidence on this platter.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2005
Something happened to Kiss before they re-donned the makeup in 1996 - they grew up.

The *Carnival Of Souls* album displays a ferocious maturity, unmatched by any Kiss album to date. A sweeping statement to be sure, especially pertaining to a band whose career has lasted longer than fully half their fan-base's lifetimes. But I choose my description carefully: "maturity" being the key word.

No more lyrics rooted in pawdying and pussying - Abandon All Innocence Ye Who Enter: evocative themes abound, as varied as lost youth and suicide, paternal dedication, false religion, concrete jungle nights, introspective emptiness... a regular carnival of soul!

Standout tracks include: the somehow-nostalgic "Childhood's End", Paul's dedication to his son, "I Will Be There", the rumbling, tumbling "Jungle", the doomsaying "It Never Goes Away", the cello-tinged, jagged-beaten "I Confess" - but seriously, they're *all* winners.

Simmons' and Stanley's songwriting is at a peak they will probably never attain again, ensconced as they now are in the "nostalgia" game, till world's end we presume. Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick are at long last entrenched musically as Band Members, and add volumes to Gene and Paul's dynamism, Kulick carving memorable Frehley-ish licks to Singer's succinct, whiplash pummeling (one of the few drummers who can pull off double-kick with taste and finesse!). A tragedy that these two musicians were lost to the makeup craze (- at least Singer is back in the fold, lending his awe-inspiring limbs to The Cat's prowess).

Of course I can appreciate the wild nostalgia of youth and the "magic" that certain periods in history evoke, but in putting this as simply as possible: this album's songwriting, performance and production are unequalled in the Kiss oeuvre. Sure, I'd be as inclined as the next Starchild to spin "Strutter" over "In The Mirror" - but the two songs should not even stand side by side on the above aspects, separated as they are by over two decades of personal growth, loss, career swoons and startling amounts of puss-in-boots.

Due to unfortunate circumstances of politics and marketing, though *Carnival Of Souls* was recorded in 1995, its release was staved off until 1997, when the Reunion momentum was well underway. It made Kiss look confused; it confused Kiss fans. And any shelved album always casts doubts on that album's intrinsic worth. I meet fans even today who are debating on whether to purchase this album.

Darker, deeper, more dangerous than any of the bands whose "modern" sounds Kiss emulated on this album, it intimates a bold, unapologetic direction they would have taken had the Reunion never been. Haphazardly packaged, unknown and unadvertised, this release is pure Black Diamond. Buy it - you've got Nothin' to Lose...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2011
As a 48-year-old KISS fan who's been listening since I was 13, I've always been somewhat frustrated by the band's musical insecurity - at their worst, they can't seem to stop second-guessing what the music-buying public wants to hear. Their very best albums - "KISS," "Alive!," "Destroyer," "Creatures of the Night," "Revenge," "Unplugged," and "Carnival of Souls" - all seem to come from times in their career, where all they wanted to accomplish on vinyl was To Be Great. When they put aside their desire to Be Popular, they really can do that.

"Carnival of Souls" was one of the great ones. It's "the Other KISS," the one we never quite got before and wouldn't hear from again, but it's a great album. Sadly, Paul and Gene have sort-of disowned the album in recent years, describing it as a musical misstep, but in the book "KISS: Behind the Mask" (which you really should read BTW), Gene is probably more honest when he says, "At that point.... we went... forget everything. Let's try to make a home for Eric (Singer) and Bruce (Kulick). To me it was a very brave record and I have no regrets."

And I think that's the honest core of this album. It is musically the most well-crafted, and lyrically the most mature album they have EVER produced. No lyrics about groupie sex this time around - for once we really get to hear something of what these men have been thinking about! The musical arrangements are challenging (in a good way) and there really are no fillers in here - how often can you say THAT about a KISS album? How many KISS albums embarrass you (even just slightly) with a Gene Simmons track that you just KNOW popped into his head because he thought of a "cool title" and then he slammed three chords together until it reached the 3-minute mark? None of that here.

"Tell me what you want me to be - I can't stand myself anymore. Tell me what you want me to see - I can't find my way off the floor. Truth is like a hurricane. I think it's gonna rain....."

When was the last time you heard words like that from the Starchild? But it absolutely kills.

This was the KISS album I had waited half my life for, in a way - not necessarily for the pseudo-grungy edge it had, but for the musical chops and lyrical sincerity that was so often lacking in their other offerings. And I have to admit, I was just a little bummed when they went back and did the makeup reunion thing - don't get me wrong, we all had a GREAT time of it while it lasted - but I was a little sorry they didn't stay the course musically.

I was just getting to know them as grown artists, and then we were back to leering at Christine. It was great and all, I get it - but "Carnival of Souls" is a real testament to what these four talented men can do when they stop caring whether or not it will sell.

Give it shot.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2003
this cd came out right when the reunion started so nobody really cared which is a shame because its probably their best since Lick It Up. This was the direction which Kiss was going in and i really thought it was cool. Unfortunately the reunion happened right after this was recorded and it just got lost in the mayhem. This cd is 100 times better than Psycho circus and it didnt even sell at all. It definately has a heavy vibe and some if it dark ala Alice in Chains. But its not commercial at all and the songs are really good. Bruce Kulick really shines here. its too bad that these songs will never ever be played live because theres no money in that. Too bad Kiss has become a tired oldies carnival act because this is where Kiss was really headed. Childhoods End is the best song on here and was cowritten with Tommy Thayer [kiss's new guitarist]. I like the overall sound and production which blows away the overproduced and horrible Psycho circus. Definately get this if you like your Kiss heavy.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2006
Kiss made their name in the early to mid 70's with their very creative live shows and fun, dare I say poppy, hard rock of the day. They continued putting out rock on the harder side but with a polished sound which made their music sound less hard rock than it could have. Their sound didn't change too much except for a song here and there (ex: Tears Are Falling with a disco sound).

In the mid-90's and their career moving along (as in not doing great but not doing bad) they decided to switch up the sound and try an album influenced by grunge which was very popular at the time. What resulted was 'Carinval of Souls' and their best ever. When you listen to Carnival of Souls you hear straight ahead in your face rock and roll like they'd never put out before and sadly will probably never put out again.

This album gets totally lost as they'd hardly released the album when they announced a reunion tour followed by retirement tours etc...To my knowledge they never toured on this album and I woudln't be surprised if they never played any of these songs live either since Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had nothing to do with them.

This is a great album and deserved to be promoted by touring and in my opinion, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer deserved to make cash off it as well. It's also my opinion that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley really owed it to Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer, the fans and the music of this album to promote it but the past is in the past. Luckily the music is still with us...
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2005
Some people accuse KISS of following trends like the in the late 70's (disco), in the 80s (hair metal, glam) and now this one (grunge) but the bottom line is it isn't 1976 anymore! How can you be innovative if you're lost in time some 3 decades ago? You may say they're just trying to be like everyone else, but just listen to this album. It's got such a heavy and dark feel to it, but there's no doubt that it's KISS! Songs about sex, and partying, are no where to be found on this album, as they should be. 30 years worth "fun" rock, and it's about time they came out with something that has a little more soul, a little more meaning. I think it's an excellent album and it shows how KISS can keep up with the times WITHOUT sounding like anyone else. Pick this one up, you'll like it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 1998
Carnival of Souls is one hell of a great album. I was impressed from the moment the feedback started on "Hate", which has the feel of "Unholy" except more powerful lyrically. It is nice to see that Gene is still growling and putting his heart and soul back into the music. Paul has done nothing but improve in all areas. "Rain", "Master and Slave", and "Jungle" are fantastic rock songs. I really love this album's lyrical content and exploration into darker themes - things that Kiss should have been writing about after losing touch with "Lick It Up". "I Will Be There" is a most impressive ballad about fatherhood. I think this is THE ballad that Paul's been trying to write and he kills on this one! "Seduction" and "I Confess" rock in a heavy beatlesque kind of way - once again, impressive! "I Walk Alone" displays the unbeleivable guitar work of Bruce Kulick and shows a little bit of Jimi Hendrix influence. Bruce and Eric played their asses off on this album. The limited production quality gives the album a raw, live feel that I enjoyed and have not heard from Kiss since the Hotter Than Hell album. I only wish that Kiss would have kept this line up. Now that Peter and Ace are back in the band, Bruce and Eric will have to be remembered by this album. But what a way to go out!!! I have heard Psycho Circus and feel it too is a great album - and I love ace and peter - but Kiss had finally geled into something special - which took many years. There is no way to recreate what they have done in the past...even with the original lineup. I hope paul and gene realize their mistake...SOON!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2005
What a shame that at some point someone penned the term "grunge" to describe this album, and then so many others could find no way to describe it other than using the term. To me this album is indescribable, but certainly not grunge. I have been a fan of KISS since the early years, and my musical tastes changed along with the 80's and 90's, I listened to every type of heavy music imaginable, and somehow I cannot see the relation of this album to any Seattle sound. Definitely a departure from the norm for KISS. Definitely darker and heavier than Revenge, but I think KISS was at a point when they knew their current lineup was about to disband (Gene and Paul had the reunion planned for years- don't kid yourself if you think otherwise) and they had nothing to lose. This is purely a stripped down, bare-bones metal album, very introspective and creative, and believe me, it takes alot to impress me musically, but I believe KISS fans of the future will look back on this album as a lost classic, much the way a hardcore group of fans clamor for Music from the Elder today. I agree that Mr. Simmons rarely does anything without seeing dollar signs behind it, but i think just this once KISS let everything loose and just jammed. After all, the reunion was a carefully calculated business move to reap more bucks before the band goes out with a bang for good, KISS knew the reunion tours would be successful, and they weren't hurt at all if Carnival of Souls was not a commercial success- as evidenced by shelving it for two years. Just my opinion.
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