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Kiss go gloomy (the underrated grunge metal sessions),
This review is from: Carnival Of Souls - The Final Sessions [Australian Import] (Audio CD)
This almost not released record is often unfairly lambasted. It is true that Kiss had almost run out of puff on more than one occasion (1985 with `Asylum', 1989 with `Hot in the Shade'), but `Carnival of Souls' is a different kettle of fish. It could not be further from the Kiss of the 70s or indeed the Kiss of the 80s. It sounds muddy, it is heavy and dirgey. The subject matter is almost nihilistic at times (`Hate', `Jungle' - both excellent) and the vocals have a 90s drawl to them. If 1992's heavy, dark and dirty `Revenge' lacked a sense of fun, `Carnival of Souls' was close to miserable in comparison.
Recorded somewhere around 1995, the frivolousness with which Kiss were equated was most definitely `out'. It was a time when the sounds of grunge, indie rock and grunge metal were the approach that gave a band cred. `Carnival of Souls' was coproduced by Toby Wright who was aligned with the likes of Alice in Chains, Slayer and Queensryche. So Kiss' intentions on this effort are pretty easy to read. Measured against those benchmarks, `Carnival of Souls' could easily be dismissed as a wanna-be effort. But measured against other Kiss albums, it is a far more intriguing creature.
This album is the band's greatest departure and contains some of their most interesting and unusual songwriting. They also go back to Kiss basics by backing one another on vocals and relinquishing the last dozen years of screeching in favour of their lower registers. Bruce Kulick even sings the final track (`I Walk Alone'). A great (and unusual) thing about it is that the six tracks co-written by Gene Simmons are all well crafted and among the strongest of his career. In abandoning silly sex romps as a subject matter, he seems to have really risen to the occasion and equaled himself with the ever-reliable Stanley. `Hate', `Childhood's End', `In My Head' and `Seduction of the Innocent' are all dark, durgey grunge metal with occasional melodic flourishes thrown in. Stanley's six songs are also good. The funked-up grunge of `Jungle' is excellent and, if it weren't for the subject matter, the closest to sounding something like a tradition Kiss song. The morose ballad, `I Will Be There' is also outstanding - a vast improvement on the equivalent on 1992's `Revenge'.
`Carnival of Souls' is a dislocating experience for the most part. It takes a lot of getting used to and is initially hard to get all the way through in one listen. It sounds under-mixed and it definitely doesn't sound like Kiss - which is probably why it has been so badly received - no pop rock melodies or fist-raising anthems here. Dark and gloomy, it is the only real heavy metal album they ever recorded. But if you are prepared to stick with it, you realize it is not only the riskiest and most intelligent thing they ever made, but quite riveting on its own unique terms.