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Carnival Of Souls: The Final Sessions

4.0 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews

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Kiss ~ Carnival Of Souls: Final Sessions

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Shortly before Kiss embarked on its nostalgic, highly profitable reunion tour of 1996, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley seemed to be planning a more contemporary route to world domination. Their album Carnival of Souls was recorded in 1995, prior to original Kissmen Ace Frehley's and Peter Criss's reentry into the band, and it sounds more like Seattle revisited than "Detroit Rock City." The album's lumbering rhythms, and ex-guitarist Bruce Kulick's quavering string bends, are reminiscent of Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden, and Stanley's vocals wobble and wail, stopping just short of rocketing into a high-pitch falsetto. As derivative as it is, however, Carnival of Souls is pretty gripping. Sure, the ballads are clunkers, but many of the other tracks are undeniably compelling, alternating between atmospheric verses and bracing, teen-spirited choruses. It's just a shame that Kiss's renewed emphasis on recapturing the box office with 20-year-old material will probably prevent the band from growing and evolving even further. --Jon Wiederhorn
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 24, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal Special Products
  • ASIN: B000001EXR
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,138 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Erik Rupp VINE VOICE on March 15, 2000
Format: Audio CD
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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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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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Format: Audio CD
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).
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