KISS Studio Albums Ranked Part Three: The 90s & 2000s

Header image courtesy of KISS Facebook (official)/Jay Starr

By Andrew Daly

Header image courtesy of KISS Facebook (official)/Getty Images

“Many would say that in the early 90s KISS further downed their selves on the ladder, but others beg to differ. In a sense, they perhaps were just recovering from the mess of glam metal and moving onward to a heavier sound and eventually…a reunion.”

At the dawn of a new decade, KISS, like many bands, once again found themselves at a crossroads. The 80s had proved tumultuous on many levels, with the band surviving sonic challenges, lineup changes, and commercial adversity from all angles.

In fact, KISS hadn’t just survived it, they’d found their way back to platinum-level success with Lick It Up, and Animalize, but beginning with Asylum, and Crazy Nights, and ending with Hot in the Shade, KISS found themselves beginning to slide down the mountainside once again.

In the face of grunge, and alternative rock, many of KISS’ contemporaries folded their proverbial tents, and either went home or clamored to the sidelines to sit a few plays out. But KISS had another approach, which basically amounted to the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

For some, the turnover from the wild party that was the late 80s, to the more sullen, alternative stylings of the early 90s was a death sentence, but for KISS, it was an opportunity to reinvent themselves once again and create something that harkened back to their meat and potatoes roots but still elevated them to contemporary levels.

While KISS might have had a blueprint musically, as was the case at the dawn of the 1980s, the band found themselves without its long-time drummer, this time fan favorite, Eric Carr. Unlike Peter Criss who had been jettisoned from the band for bad behavior, Carr, unfortunately, took ill with cancer, and succumbed to his illness in late 1991, leaving a nearly unfillable void in an era where they needed him most.

True to form, KISS faced the challenge head-on, and solicited the services of veteran drummer Eric Singer, a virtuoso player who would prove critical to the styles heard on Revenge, and Carnival of Souls, as well as the supercharged version of the band that hit the road in support of their newly minted albums.

As the decade wore on, commercial challenges continued to mount, and in a Hail Mary moment, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons hit the proverbial panic button and summoned founding members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss to the stage once more, and in one fell swoop, effectively ended both Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer’s time in the band.

From 1996 through 2001, the Reunion era proved to be one steeped duality – hell on earth for the members of the band, and heaven in a cup for fans. And after one “reunion” album in Psycho Circus, and three tours, in 2002, Stanley and Simmons had a choice to make: end KISS as it was, or once again shed Frehley and Criss, and move forward by any means necessary.

As one would imagine, the duo chose the latter, and with the help of old friends Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer, KISS has soldiered on for 20 years stronger, tighter, and more bombastic than ever.

In the present day, KISS, as a band, is a group of four men who truly love playing together, and it shows both on stage, and through the lineups two latter-day classics, Sonic Boom, and Monster. While what will probably prove to be the storied outfit’s final incarnation has oftentimes been considered polarizing, the real fans know the truth: all eras of KISS are essential, relevant, and important.

To close, true KISS fans love all eras. Keep that in mind as we run through the final installment of this series, this time ranking KISS’ 90s and 2000s studio output.

5) Monster (2012)

A derivative final gasp, or a triumphant gut punch to an industry left wanting more?

Ranking Monster last on this list is by no means relegating it to the shadows or banishing it to eternal damnation. I’m of the opinion that Monster is actually an outstanding effort, and I revisit it often, but in the face of the other records featured in this segment, choices have to be made. For its 20th studio record, KISS chugged into Conway Studios on a high having just completed an outstanding run of shows in support of its previous record, Sonic Boom.

As the sessions began, Simmons was quoted as saying, “We’ve been in the studio for three weeks. We went in with 20-25 songs, and all of them are ready to record.” The chemistry the band had harnessed onstage together over the previous decade was readily apparent, and to my ears, it’s translated in spades, with Thayer being quoted as saying, “We went in with the intention of creating an album slightly heavier than Sonic Boom, as well as recreating the vibe that existed on the KISS’ earlier material.”

Once again, to my ears, KISS succeeded to that end. Tracks such as “Hell or Hallelujah,” “All for the Love of Rock & Roll,” “The Devil is Me, and “Take Me Down Below,” manage to drive home KISS’ intent with conviction, while also sounding modern, and fresh. Also, I must say, or rather, I must defend Tommy Thayer for a moment. Far too many fans disparage Thayer for one reason or another, and as always, I ask the question, “If you were in his shoes, and given that opportunity, what would you do?” I usually hear crickets at that juncture. I’d also like to point out that there’s a case to be made that Thayer’s track, “Outta This World,” is perhaps Monster’s finest moment, and it’s in keeping with the vibe that KISS intended to keep going in.

The reality is, this version of KISS is by far and away musically superior to the Reunion era version, and that is nothing short of obvious on a record like Monster. As for Simmons and Stanley, they appeared reinvigorated, and their songwriting is some of the most true-to-form since the late 70s. To that end, was asked about the importance of Thayer, and Singer, KISS longtime manager, Doc McGhee has this to say, “You can say, ‘Well, I would rather have this person up there,’ well that’s your opinion. The fact of the matter is that Tommy and Eric have stepped up, and brought KISS to a new level musically, and that makes Gene and Paul’s lives so much easier. It makes it so that they can just walk out there and do their thing. They wouldn’t be able to do that with the backbone of the band, which is Tommy and Eric.”

4) Sonic Boom (2009)

Chasing the ghosts of past success, or the explosive spoils of a band reinvigorated?

Going into 2009, as rumblings of KISS recording and releasing their first studio album in 11 years were afoot, the band’s founder, singer, and guitarist Paul Stanley had this to say, Psycho Circus was such a nightmare to make that it kind of turned me off to the whole idea of making another album But then at some point I thought, I don’t want that to be our last album. It’s not a good memory. Although “Psycho Circus” has turned out to be a great song; it’s terrific.” It’s important to understand that by 2009, KISS was long past the reunion era, and well past the horrors of the Psycho Circus recording sessions, which produced what I feel is a great record, but were no doubt mentally taxing on all involved.

In the aftermath of the reunion, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer had been brought into the fold and had worked their magic to stabilize a band on life support. In a stunning turn of events, KISS went from a miserable group of former heroes, who were ready to throw in the towel, to a world-dominating machine akin to its 70s glory. Once again, if you’re one to hate on Thayer and Singer, remember that.

And so, 7 years into KISS’ healing period, the symbiosis between the members was clear, and finally, it came time to make an album, which would become Sonic Boom, with Stanley being quoted as saying, “The band’s never been better, and it really seems like a time where we could actually – if we put our minds to it – put something together that would be definitive and something we could be proud of.”

Listening back to this record now 13 years later, I have to say, Sonic Boom has aged incredibly well. At the time, like some fans, I was unsure how I felt because, like always, it can be hard to judge a brand new album by an elder band, especially when said band had been away from the studio for so long. But as I said, Sonic Boom truly is a sublime listen, and if you’re a fan of good old-fashioned rock music, this is definitely one for you.

While Singer already had two KISS records under his belt, this was Tommy Thayer’s foray into KISS studio fare, and the guitarist had the following to say in retrospect, “It had been 11 years between Psycho Circus and Sonic Boom. I think Paul wanted to get it right and make a cohesive record once and for all. Records like Hot in the Shade, Carnival of Souls, and Psycho Circus were all over the place stylistically. The cool thing about Sonic Boom and Monster was that we recorded them as a band in the room together. Gene played bass on every tune; Paul played guitar on every tune, etc. For Sonic Boom, I started going to Paul’s house every few days and we’d sit down, and he’d play riffs. I’d help him arrange his riffs or I’d add a few of my own ideas. None of the tunes started with an idea of mine. It was cool to see Paul do his thing and watch his process. Gene wrote most of his tunes on his own. I remember he, Paul, and I sitting down writing together too (“I’m an Animal” and “Russian Roulette”), which was unusual because evidently, they hadn’t done it that way in a long time. “I’m an Animal” started out as a tune called “Balls” (I’ve got balls…). The idea with Sonic Boom was to get back to making a classic-sounding KISS record. In retrospect, I think some of it sounds too derivative, but again, that’s what we were trying to do. I wrote, “When Lightning Strikes,” with that mindset, too. In the end, Sonic Boom was sonically great; I thought Greg Collins did a nice job on the mix.”

At the end of the day, you can say what you like about this version of KISS, but it’s hard to deny that tracks like “Modern Day Delilah,” “Russian Roulette,” “Stand,” “Danger Us,” and one of my absolute favorite KISS tracks, “Say Yeah,” aren’t total barnburners. Is Sonic Boom on par with Love Gun, Creatures of the Night, or Lick It Up? That’s hard to say. I know that when it came out I didn’t think so, but listening back all the years later, I truly believe Sonic Boom is a classic.

Paul Stanley would agree as well, having been quoted as saying, “It’s an impossible question to answer. KISS Alive! was a pivotal album that took us from obscurity to front-page news and sold-out shows, so that’s really indicative of the foundation of this band. There were a lot of great albums after that. I have to say that the last two albums we did, Sonic Boom and Monster, are great albums, and it will take some time before those become classics. It’s always interesting – when a song comes out, it’s competing with songs that have memories for people and histories. It’s just interesting how it takes years for songs to get that patina, so to speak. “Lick It Up,” now, is a classic song. “Psycho Circus” is a classic song. Those were new songs at one point, but they’re not new anymore.”

3) Carnival of Souls (1997)

A bittersweet end of an era or death rattles brought forth via imitation?

I write this entry knowing full well that it will probably be one of the most polarizing bits of KISStory-related content I’ve ever penned, so I will just address the elephant in the room head-on: Carnival of Souls might not be the best record of KISS’ career, but it’s certainly the most authentic, raw, heavy, and indignant of its career. More so, while many fans trash the album, and all but ignore it, I feel that Carnival of Souls is one to be celebrated for its supreme musicianship, stripped-down studio production, back-against-the-wall attitude, and “fuck you” approach.

There is a certain finality to listening to the record knowing that these were the final days of Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer (for the time being) as members of KISS. Regardless of if they knew it or not, two seminal musicians, who had given so much to KISS – especially Kulick – were grinding out their final moments with a band on the rocks, which was on the precipice of a make-or-break move in the Reunion.

The kid in me, who live through the Reunion, he loves that it happened. But as an adult, listening back to Carnival of Souls, man, I would have loved to have heard where KISS took things. Tracks such as “Hate,” “In the Mirror,” “Childhood’s End,” and “I Walk Alone” are searing cuts, that are altogether unique when compared to the rest of the KISS discography.

If you ask Larry Mazer, KISS’ former manager, he feels the Reunion killed KISS as a creative entity, and when he was directly asked as much, Mazer was recently quoted as saying, “Absolutely. I mean, sure, there were some good songs on Psycho Circus. I liked a few tracks, and the title track was cool, but as for the rest of it, I could take it or leave it. There are a couple of good songs on Monster, and a couple of good ones on Sonic Boom, but those are not albums like Revenge, which is a perfect album from top to bottom, in my opinion. The reunion definitely halted KISS as a creative band.”

This said, on the flip side of that coin, current KISS manager Doc McGhee rebutted that sentiment by saying, “When you’re at the top, everybody wants to take shots. So they go, ‘Well, they’re not being creative,’ or they say, ‘They aren’t doing what they did when they recorded Revenge.’ Me, personally, I thought Revenge was really good – if was really good if it wasn’t KISS doing it. This wasn’t The Beatles going from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” to Sgt. Peppers. [Laughs]. With KISS, you never had that one massive record or that one single massive song that we couldn’t beat. Instead, we have a lot of great, classic songs that mean so much to a lot of people. I know it sounds corny, but it comes back to the idea that you can be what you want to be. That’s how KISS got there. They couldn’t compete. They didn’t feel like they could compete in blue jeans against the rest. So, they went the route of alter egos, and they did that so they could go and be that person that they wanted to be, and it was awesome.

At the end of the day, I look at Carnival of Souls as Bruce Kulick’s last stand, and to me, it’s obvious that he had a huge hand in the album’s sound. Some might call it a waning band chasing the likes of Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam, but I call it a damn good band, making a damn good record.

As I said earlier, part of Carnival of Souls’ dark tone, for me at least, comes in knowing that Kulick and Singer’s fate was sealed, although they may not have at the time. In a recent interview, Kulick was asked about the sounds heard on Carnival of Souls, and the guitarist was quoted as saying, “I feel that music was really changing at the time, and it was getting darker and grungier. We know this, and I think that Gene was really embracing that stuff quite a bit. He liked some of that darkness that some of those bands had. He was attracted to the drop-d tuning and all those things, but Paul was not so sure. He was not a big fan of flannel shirts and all that. [Laughs]. So, when we started to work on songs, Gene was the one that was really writing and being creative and working on stuff, and I worked a lot with Gene. Eric [Singer] would be involved, and we would jam in these kinds of funky studios and come out of there with ideas. With Carnival of Souls, I was working really hard when they were looking for riffs. I kept jamming to my drum machine. I d-tuned the guitar. I got creative, and I’d say, ‘Paul, what do you think of this?’ He would say, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ I started working with a guy that Paul liked, this guy, Curtis Cuomo. And the next thing I know, we’re presenting some really cool ideas to him [Paul]. And then he jumped right in, and he came up with “Master and Slave,” but he’s missing a bridge. So, I jump in, and Curtis is working on some melodies with Paul. So hence I wind up with nine co-writes on an album that almost never came out, as you know.”

2) Psycho Circus (1998)

One of KISS’ finest hours, or an unmitigated disaster steeped in trickery, deception, and strife?

The way Psycho Circus was presented back in 1998 vs. the stark reality that’s been exposed in the present day is a pretty tough thing to reconsile. For me, as a kid who grew up loving the band in the late 90s, and was extremely excited when Psycho Circus came out, it’s also kind of a hard pill to swallow.

I guess, in many ways, Psycho Circus was a learning experience in regards to understanding the reality behind your heroes, and it was very telling in that it washed away a lot of the mysticism I had built up around that era, and that’s something that I don’t believe I’m alone in.

Going in, Psycho Circus was advertised as KISS’ “reunion album,” one that was set to see KISS’ original four members in the studio together for the first time since 1979’s Dynasty. In reality, though, Frehley, Stanley, Simmons, and Criss hadn’t completed an album together cover to cover since 1977’s Love Gun, so it was with that in mind, that Psycho Circus was even more special, right? Wrong.

Sure, if you look at Psycho Circus’ Album credits, or just stare at the cover, you’ll see that supposedly, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley played on this thing, right? Wrong. As the years have gone by the truth has come out, and the reality is that Frehley and Criss barely played on Psycho Circus. It seems that the wild success of the Reunion Tour had some ugly effects, which resulted in contract holdouts, arguments, legal proceedings, and more, leaving the sessions at a standstill, which caused Stanley and Simmons to pivot to some old friends, namely former guitarist Bruce Kulick, who had the following to say, “While I did not play the lead work on Psycho Circus – only the backward guitar parts on “Within” as they came from the demo I did with Gene – I did playsome bass, on quite a few tracks. I also co-wrote a song, and it was an honor to participate in the making of that CD.”

Sadly, the issues persisted, and once they entered One on One Studios, soon it became clear that someone was going to have to come in and play most of the lead work in Frehley’s absence, and it was at this point, that Stanley and Simmons called in another old friend, Tommy Thayer, with the guitarist being quoted as saying, “At the time (early 1998), I had been working behind the scenes for KISS. I remember there were a lot of unknowns; the Reunion Tour had just finished, and I was hearing the band wanted to record a reunion album, but Ace and Peter for whatever reason weren’t going to show up to do the record. Gene called me one day and asked me to come down and record guitars, which I was happy to do. It needed to be on the down-low, so I agreed to a buyout, and they wrote me a check. [Laughs]. They had to keep the ball rolling and this was the only way to do it. Bruce Fairbairn had been hired to produce, so Paul, Gene, and Bruce did preproduction and arranged tunes for a few weeks. I was looking forward to working with Bruce again because he’d produced Black ‘N Blue’s Without Love record years before. In early January ‘98, we set up at One on One Studios in North Hollywood and recorded almost all the tracks there. (Drummer) Kevin Valentine and I did all the basic tracks except, “Into the Void.” If it was a Paul tune, he’d play guitar on the basic, too. I don’t remember Gene playing much bass guitar, maybe a couple of tunes. Bruce (Kulick) came in and played bass on most of the tunes. I recorded most of the guitar solos and played bass on, “We Are One.” Eventually, they came to some sort of terms with Ace and Peter, so they came in and cut one track and did some vocals and a couple of guitar solos. At that point, most of the overdubs and lead vocals were done at A&M Studios in Hollywood. I thought the record sounded good and most of the tunes were great, particularly “Psycho Circus,” “I Pledge Allegiance…” and “We Are One.” One song I never got was, “You Wanted the Best.”’

Even with all the infighting, and oddities, I personally still love Psycho Circus, and while Simmons and Stanley both seem ambivalent about the album to this day, I think that like Sonic Boom, and Monster, Psycho Circus is one that’s really aged well and has become a true KISS classic over time, and 24 years later the title track is still a concert staple that people love.

Me, personally, I still look back on the Reunion era fondly, and I still feel Psycho Circus, as an album, is as strong as any KISS record to date. Tracks such as “Raise Your Glasses,” “We Are One,” “Dreamin;” and “Into The Void” are nothing short of awesome, and while it was a bummer to find out the original four didn’t record an album together, I would like to point out that this only adds to both Thayer and Kulick’s legacy within the realm of KISS.

As I said before, while Stanley has been known to sing the praises of Psycho Circus’s title track, overall, the Starchild does not look back on this era fondly and was quoted as saying the following in regards to how it all went down, “Everything was wrong. Psycho Circus was kind of like the result of a cancer that was building. We had gotten back together – we brought those guys back – and they were just completely apologetic and remorseful and thankful to be back. And we never said they were gonna be equal partners. Why would they be equal partners? The band had existed without them. So, that being said, nobody should start a collection, although they might need it now. Those guys won the lottery twice. And when they came back, they were pretty broke. And we could take ‘pretty’ out of that. And yet it wasn’t too long after things started to happen again that they started doing the same stuff. And it just became ugly and no fun The idea of doing Psycho Circus…the idea behind doing it was much greater than the reality of doing it. We said, ‘Let’s do an album together,’ but then it was, ‘Well, wait a minute…you’ve got guys who are trying to renegotiate deals, and we’re talking to lawyers more than we’re talking to them, and this idea of, ‘I should have this many songs on the album.’ And honestly, I’ve been writing songs for fifty years, and I’ve gotten pretty good at what I do. So, it just became ugly and sad. There was no band unity during the project. None whatsoever.”

1) Revenge (1992)

A veteran band rising from the ashes, or aging rockers assimilating to a regression-laden mean?

As was the case with both part 1 and part 2 of this series, when it came to the final spot, I’m not messing around, and as many might have guessed, KISS’ top record of the 90s and 2000s era was the now 30 years old, Revenge.

There are a great many fans who feel Revenge is KISS’ best record, and honestly, it’s hard to argue it. I don’t necessarily feel that way, but I can completely and totally see it, and if that’s the stance you take, sure, I respect it. For my money, Revenge is a top-5 KISS record, and yes, it is KISS’ best album of this particular era.

In the wake of the Hot in the Shade Tour, before KISS could even begin to contemplate its next move, the band was saddled with a dose of bad news: their longtime drummer Eric Carr was sick with cancer, and sadly, the drummer succumbed to his illness in November of 1991, leaving KISS at an impasse.

KISS manager at the time, Larry Mazer, had the following to say regarding Carr, and what led the band to pivot to Eric Singer, “Well, it was obvious he was not going to recover, but we knew the band had to continue. Unfortunately, it’s just it’s the way it is. It’s something that’s faced by many bands where members have died, and those bands have had to go on. With Eric, it was obvious that he was not going to recover, and we needed to keep going forward, so we said, ‘Let’s go forward with Eric Singer.’ Paul had obviously worked with Eric Singer on his ’89 solo club tour, and I knew Eric because I had tried to manage Badlands, which he was in. It was just a natural thing for Eric Singer to then become the drummer of KISS, because we had a history with him, and he fit in well.”

In the wake of glam, and in the face of grunge, KISS pivoted and decided to shed the makeup, glitz, and glitter, clad themselves in leather, strip down their sound, and make their heaviest record since 1982’s Creatures of the Night. To that end, Mazer was recently asked about both his and the band’s approach to the album going in, “My record was Revenge because Hot in the Shade was mostly recorded by the time I was hired. In most ways, it was already a finished record, so there’s not much I could do there. I will say that to this day, I do not think Hot in the Shade is a great record. I think there are three great songs, and the rest of it is filler. The album that I really stake my reputation on is the Revenge record because that was me forcefully putting my foot down as far as Gene coming back into the mix was concerned. I said, ‘Guys, if we’re going to do this and do this right, Gene needs to be upfront. We have to get heavier.’ And we lead off with a Gene Simmons song for the first time since the Creatures of the Night record, and that was a Gene Simmons song called “Unholy.” We had another track in “Domino,” that I wanted to go second, but I got voted down, so “Domino” ended up being the third single. Again, my goal was to bring back the heavier side of KISS, and I think I achieved that.”

With renewed vigor, a new direction, and a replacement drummer, KISS entered Cornerstone Studios with a vengeance, and also, an old friend in Bob Ezrin, which on the surface might have seemed a bit of an off-putting choice given Ezrin’s failure’s associated with 1981’s Music from “The Elder,” but with Ezrin now sober, and clear-headed, Mazer felt that the producer was perfect for KISS at this juncture, “It was huge. I think the biggest impact on that record was getting Bob Ezrin in as producer. They had used him for the “God Gave Rock “N’ Roll To You II” single, and they just felt like there was a meeting of the minds. Then I said, ‘Absolutely, he’s the perfect guy.’ I mean, you have to remember, Bob did what I think is probably the best KISS album in history in Destroyer, so you can’t blame the guy for a perceived misstep with Music from “The Elder.” You know, there are people now who listen to The Elder and think it’s a great record. Look, with that album, it was just him coming off The Wall with Pink Floyd, and they were into this concept album thing. I guess Gene had a vision, Bob bought into it, and they made the record. That said, I still think that “A World Without Heros” is one of the greatest KISS songs of all time. I love that song. That’s a Gene song that I think is incredible. But a lot of people still like The Elder, and while it was considered to be a complete mess up at the time, they came back stronger with Creatures of the Night, so it worked out. I don’t think you can blame a guy for a misstep, especially if he’s a legendary producer.”

For KISS fans, the rest, as they say, is KISStory, and as we all know, the record that KISS laid to tape in Revenge is one of the nastiest, sleaziest, heaviest, and artistically significant of KISS’ entire career. Tracks such as “Unholy” are singular, with Mazer recalling, “I can tell you that putting “Unholy” out first got pushback from Paul, but I put my foot down and I said, ‘No, Paul. “Unholy” is going to be first.’ I wouldn’t be swayed, and I refused to be moved off my view. I said, ‘Paul, you hired me to do this. This is my decision. We’re going with “Unholy” first, and that’s the end of it.’ He wasn’t happy at first, but it obviously worked out.”

Moving on down the line, “Domino” and “I Just Wanna” are two more standouts, both of which are intrinsically linked, with Mazer going on to say, ”I Just Wanna,” that was the cut that Paul wanted as Revenge’s lead single. I didn’t agree with that either, I wanted to go with “Domino” as the second single. I was pushing for that, and again, Paul was not happy, even after “Unholy” had been successful, so “Domino” seemed like the obvious call. Well, Gene called me up one day, and said, ‘Larry, we have got to give a Paul song.’ I said, ‘Gene, look what we just did. We rebuilt this band. We rebuilt you. We’ve got to bring it home. We have this other track in “Domino,’ and it’s a great song. It’s a boogie song. It’s perfect. That’s got to be the second single.’ So, Gene said, ‘You’ve got to trust me on this. There’s peace in the valley that’s got to be kept. We’ve got to have a Paul song be the next song.’ And that’s why “I Just Wanna” was the second single, which I still don’t agree with. [Laughs].”

When we look back on Revenge, I don’t just look at this one as one of KISS’ best, I look at it as one of KISS’ most fierce lineups musically, doing what they did best, and firing on all cylinders. On the whole, there isn’t a single thing to disparage or change about this one. Case in point, like Destroyer, and Creatures of the Night, Revenge is a record that KISS haters even seem to like. And as I mentioned when speaking about Carnival of Souls, the lineup of Simmons, Stanley, Singer, and Kulick was special, and had the potential to do incredible things, and to me, Revenge, Carnival of Souls, and the scraps from those sessions that appeared on Psycho Circus serve as direct evidence of that.

To that end, it seems that Larry Mazer would agree, which is why he halted his tenure with KISS, and why he subsequently rebuffed Simmons and Stanley when he was offered the opportunity to manage the band during the Reunion era, “In 1996, much to my surprise, I was in the office one day, and the phone rang, and it was Paul and Gene. They said, ‘Hi Larry. You’ve probably heard that the four of us are going out on tour. We want to talk, and get your perspective.’ I said, ‘Yes, I have heard…’ but you know, I guess I probably didn’t give a very enthusiastic pitch because to me, that’s not what I thought was the right thing. My attitude dates back to where we were in the early 90s. It had not changed. They should have kept working with Ezrin, and they should have kept writing great songs. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I really believe the next album, if they had stuck with that plan, would have been, for lack of a better term, would have been their Sgt. Pepper. I really believe that the next album would have been beyond belief for KISS had they done that. I feel that way because everyone was dialed in. I was dialed in. Gene was dialed in. To this day, I really believe it. I wanted to then go to the next level, and to me, putting on the makeup and reuniting only amounted to bringing back two guys who were lesser musicians in my mind. Ace and Peter were lesser musicians than Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer at that point, and I just thought it was it was all about the money. Who are we kidding? Since ’96 or ’97, ask anyone, and they will tell you that it’s been all about the money. It’s been strictly about the money.”

Header image courtesy of KISS Facebook (official)/Getty Images

Andrew Daly (@vwmusicrocks) is the Editor-in-Chief for and may be reached at

One thought on “KISS Studio Albums Ranked Part Three: The 90s & 2000s

  1. Carnival of Souls was a desperate act, a band who had been leaders now lowering their sights and following the herd. Monster was some kind of redemption which Sonic Boom had hinted at. Revenge was a lean steel chased masterpiece.

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