I wasn't blown away by the summer single "Hell or Hallelujah," but as a long-term member in good standing in the Kiss Army, I was still understandably excited about this 20th studio album. After two thorough listens, I *still* come up short on how to describe it! I definitely think it's the logical successor to "Sonic Boom," while at the same time I'm unable to compare it to ANY of their previous releases. When "SB" came out, it very clearly sounded like an attempt to recapture the glorious riffs of "Rock and Roll Over." With "Monster," I feel almost like I did when "Revenge" came out 20 years ago: it both sounded exactly like what ought to have followed "Hot in the Shade," and yet sounded *nothing* like its predecessor.
Paul Stanley has often said (although not in so few words) that he despises comparisons between albums: "Oh, that sounds like "Creatures" mixed with "Love Gun," or whatever. In the case of "Monster," I can see why. I could go out on a limb and say that "Monster" is what you'd get if you threw "Animalize" in a blender with "Carnival of Souls," then whipped in liberal amounts of Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and other blues-based early '70s rock. But even that kind of comparison falls weakly on my ears. I just...don't hear anything like this in the Kiss canon.
I DO think the songwriting took a big leap over "SB," and the intricate guitar work is thunderous. This is *definitely* a guitar-driven album! The singing is good, and although Paul sounds a little raspier in 2012, there's none of the hoarseness and vocal pops that have so dominated the Kiss live show over the last two tours. Tommy's guitar playing, while definitely out of the Blue Cheer/Ace Frehley school of melodic lead, sounds WAY less Ace-ish than it did on "SB." The reverb on the record is good without being overpowering, and in all I find the mix really easy on the ears (esp. compared to the painful way "Destroyer Resurrected" comes across). Eric and Tommy get their obligatory songs, each sounding more-or-less like their original counterparts: Tommy's ode-to-Spaceman "Outta This World" could almost BE Ace vocal-wise, and if Eric had abused his voice with booze for decades he'd be a dead-ringer for Peter. Still, their songs are pretty great, and point up an interesting thing: for me, I like the LAST five songs better than the FIRST five. Go figure.
In all, this album sounds refreshingly modern, even as it obviously exists locked in the temporal time-slip that is hard rock/heavy metal. I'm pretty sure I'll be listening to "Monster" on my daily commute for the next couple of weeks; it's a solid album, and worthy of the Kiss lexicon.