It's been just shy of four decades since KISS released their eponymous debut album. But as Gene Simmons says, the hard rock titans – who are set to drop their 20th studio album, Monster, on October 16th – are still firing on all cylinders.
"The band is more focused than ever," Simmons tells Rolling Stone. "The weather looks great for the band – reinvigorated, redefined, refocused and reborn."
While Simmons and lead singer Paul Stanley remain the band's only original members, Monster marks the second consecutive KISS record, following 2009's Sonic Boom, created with a lineup that includes drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer. Simmons insists the new album ranks up there with some of the notoriously outlandish crew's finest work. "If this was a first record by a new band, I'd be floored," he says.
Monster was recorded at studios in and around Los Angeles and, like Sonic Boom, was co-produced by Stanley and Greg Collins. Though it has been finished for a few months, the bassist and perennial self-promoter says there was no point in rushing out something this epic. "Just because you have a lot of ammunition doesn't mean you have to shoot your wad right away," he says. "You have to pace yourself."
Monster itself does not pace itself: it's a full-on aural assault, from the first note of the opening track and lead single "Hell or Hallelujah" ("I rode the highway to heartache/ I rode the ship of fools" ) to the appropriately titled "Wall of Sound," a barn burner anchored by a snaking guitar lick. The album doesn't let up until Stanley lets out a final jarring wail on "Last Chance."
"If you like guitars and drums, this is right up your alley," Simmons explains. "Which is better than right up your ass. It's relentless til the end. We're not doing thrash. We're not doing any of that stuff. It's straight meat and potatoes. No messing around. And no ballads, no string choirs, no little boys doing a cappella, no eunuchs singing background." Simmons adds that Monster is less intricate than their classic 1976 album Destroyer, and that it hearkens back to the band's first three records. "Destroyer was a more produced studio record," he explains. "To reproduce Destroyer live, we would need keyboards. We love that, but it's more produced material."
Simmons admits he's taken inspiration from other classic rock acts performing their iconic albums in their entirety. To that end, he is toying with the idea of playing Monster from start to finish on tour.
"It's an interesting idea," he says. "It would sound the same as the record because that's the way it was recorded. You wouldn't have to add anything."
For now, Simmons is relishing being on the road with Motley Crue, one of several legendary bands, including Bon Jovi and AC/DC, he says he's proud to have brought out on their first massive tour years ago. "It's been phenomenal," he says of the two band's worldwide jaunt, dubbed The Tour, which kicked off its U.S. leg last week. "We come out there and we will kick you in the nuts as soon as we can." As for what it feels like for Simmons to be onstage at age 62? "I am the god that walks the face of this planet," he declares.
In decidedly KISS fashion, a mega-tour and a forthcoming new record are not all that's on the horizon for the rockers. In addition to a guessing game of sorts on the band's Facebook page that will slowly uncover Monster's cover art, in the coming months KISS will release a remastered edition of Destroyer, a DVD entitled Kissology and a mega-sized Monster book, a limited-edition 45-pound behemoth of a read that features never-before-seen photographs and will be signed by all four band members.
"You don't need a coffee table book," says Simmons of the over-the-top collector's item. "This is the coffee table."
- Gene Simmons