KISS | Sonic Boom (KISS Records)

kiss-sonicboom.jpgStrong enough to make both fans and detractors want to rock and roll over, the Paul Stanley-produced disc is just what the doctor ordered.

Is it really possible for a band to reclaim its legendary past with a new album nearly 40 years into its career? Members of the KISS Army were speculating on this once news hit that the band was recording its first album in eleven years, the appropriately titled Sonic Boom. After all, the band’s last recording (1998’s Psycho Circus) left many wondering if the kabuki-faced rockers still had enough musical firepower to blow their fans’ minds.

Well, as it turns out, KISS has delivered a slam dunk of an album. Strong enough to make both fans and detractors want to rock and roll over, the Paul Stanley-produced disc is just what the doctor ordered. What makes Sonic Boom particularly unique is the sense that the band really got back in touch with early influences like Slade and Humble Pie to create an album in the classic KISS tradition. There are no ballads, no keyboards, no co-writers, and no attempts at a big radio hit. What we do have is the sense that the band really did play together and play off of each other, giving the music a big-time shot of energy and fun.

Letting us know we’ve landed squarely in KISSville USA, Stanley shouts "Yeah, yeah!" as a killer central riff kicks off "Modern Day Delilah." Simmons is next up to bat, with the tempo-shifting "Russian Roulette". Yes, the innuendos are there as only Doctor Love can deliver them. As it turns out though, Simmons is one of the album’s really pleasant surprises. There is a grit and a wink present here in both his voice and his growling and melodic bass playing that has been missing for quite some time. When he sings "I’m an animal" a few tracks later, I have to tell you—you pretty much believe that he is.

Not content to sit in the back seat while Stanley and Simmons drive the KISS Chevy van, the 21st century Spaceman and Catman pony up and knock out some great vocals themselves. Drummer Eric Singer absolutely smokes a raspy-voiced performance on "All For The Glory" and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer sends "When Lightning Strikes" into the stratosphere. Their solid work helps lend verve and punch to the arena fist-pumper "Stand" and the pop-the-top summer anthem "Say Yeah." The band have succeeded in taking what worked best from nearly all of their eras to make what is unquestionably their most consistent album since the ‘70s. No small feat for a band that’s been around the block as many times as these guys have.

The $12.00 set is available at Wal-Mart, and comes packed with a disc of re-recorded hits, and a DVD of a show in Buenos Aires earlier this year. The hits will be of interest to long-time fans, as it gives a nice sonic-overhaul to the band’s earlier tracks. In 2009, KISS proves their once and future relevance by showing that there’s no time like the present, to rocket back to the past. | Jim Ousley

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