Kiss - Revenge

Kiss – Revenge


‘Revenge’ is frequently hailed as Kiss’ best unmasked-era album. To me, that award goes to ‘Lick It Up’. Although it is a vast improvement over the lame ‘Hot In The Shade’, this is on par with Kiss’ 80’s output, no more.

Written by: Dave T

ALBUM: Revenge
LABEL: Mercury
SERIAL: P2-48037
YEAR: 1992
CD REISSUE: Reissue List

LINEUP: Paul Stanley – vocals, guitar * Gene Simmons – vocals, bass * Bruce Kulick – guitar * Eric Singer – drums * Eric Carr – vocals (God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II), drums (Carr Jam 1981)

Additional Musicians: Dick Wagner – guitar solo (09) * Kevin Valentine – drums (02)

TRACK LISTING: 01 Unholy * 02 Take It Off * 03 Tough Love * 04 Spit * 05 God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II * 06 Domino * 07 Heart Of Chrome * 08 Thou Shalt Not * 09 Every Time I Look At You * 10 Paralyzed * 11 I Just Wanna * 12 Carr Jam 1981

RATING: 75/100

WEBLINKS: Official Site


I remember how disappointed I was upon 1989’s ‘Hot In The Shade’s first listening. Lacking in quality songs and production, only ‘Forever’ and a couple more tracks, namely, ‘Rise To It’ and ‘Silver Spoon’ appealed to me. About The rest, ‘Read My Body’ and ‘Cadillac Dreams’ may be the worst songs in the entire Kiss catalogue. However, the 1990 HITS tour was a success with the band returning to vintage material and embracing its past with pride.

Fan-favorite drummer Eric Carr‘s illness that led to his untimely death on November 24th (the very same day Freddie Mercury also passed away) was sadly the most relevant fact of 1991. During that year, the band had recorded a version of a 1973’s Argent classic renamed ‘God Gave Rock and Roll to You II’ for the ‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’ OST with Eric Singer on drums and Eric Carr providing vocals for what would be his last studio contribution. Singer recorded the drum tracks for ‘Revenge’ in mid 1991 before becoming a permanent member by the end of that year.

‘Revenge’ seemed to be the right title for the album finally released in May 1992. An album I highly praised upon its release due to its heaviness and impact. My current view is slightly different after 25 YEARS. Paul Stanley stated in a 1985 Faces magazine interview that ‘You can’t create spontaneity; it’s not a contrived thing’.

And I think that, besides the tragic circumstances and all the pressure Kiss (Stanley & Simmons) were under in the early 90’s – when ‘arena rock’ became unpopular, they took themselves too seriously on ‘Revenge’, a clenched-teeth album, maybe too much for its own good.

Simmons in particular was very self-deprecating around this time, even bashing the whole Kiss’ 80s output, a view I do not share at all. Surveys conducted by Kiss’ management at the time (Oh, dear!) showed fans wanted more presence and singles from Simmons.

The Songs

First sonic impressions are Bob Ezrin’s stellar production and Eric Singer’s superb drumming – the driving force behind ‘Revenge’, albeit in a more subtle way than Carr’s showcase on 1982’s ‘Creatures Of The Night’.

Kulick’s contribution is also remarkable, not surprisingly as I consider he had consistently delivered since 1985. I’ve read funny statements on the subject such as ‘he abandoned his firefly-fart-like tone in favor of a rougher edge’.

Opener ‘Unholy’ was the first Simmons single since 1982. An ominous, menacing tune co-written by the Demon and Vinnie Vincent that includes a devilish tritone as main riff and a brilliant guitar solo.

The Who-influenced ‘Take It Off’ is Stanley’s first contribution. A good catchy rocker inspired by strippers where the first cracks show up in the form of excessively juvenile lyrics and slightly forced vocals. ‘Tough Love’, including nods to Led Zeppelin‘s ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ sounds like it was modelled after the superior ‘Heart Of Chrome’.

Both sung by Stanley and reminiscent to my ears of COTN’s ‘Keep Me Comin’, they share cool riffing, the latter (the second Vincent co-writing) is a more lively affair with Kulick’s monster sounding lead and the unforgettable line ‘You taped our sexy conversations and you sold ’em to the BBC’, way ahead of its time and very suitable for the current social-media-dominated times.

Simmons’ Zeppelinesque ‘Spit’ smells like filler with a heavy blues riff, some of the vocals shared by Stanley and pieces of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ as part of the guitar solo. Seems like too much for me, I’d rather listen to ‘Asylum’s ‘Radar For Love’ instead regarding Kiss’ Zeppelin influences.

On the other hand, ‘God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II’ is stunning. An ‘All The Young Dudes’ relative in melody, the best I can say is this is neither better nor worst than Argent‘s original, this truly sounds like a Kiss original, something that had already happened on previous albums’ covers (e.g. ‘2,000 Man’ and ‘Is That You?’).

I can also hear Queen‘s overtones in Kulick’s guitar and the impassioned a cappella break – an emotional peak as Carr’s heavenly vocals can be clearly heard.

‘Domino’ is a Simmons’ rewriting of Black ‘N Blue‘s ‘Nasty Nasty’. The main riff falls into AC/DC‘s territory and the highlights are Kulick’s finger-picked intro, his warm fat tone and a clever solo within a nice rocker.

‘Thou Shalt Not’ is a sibling in lyrics to the aforementioned ‘Cadillac Dreams’, and luckily a far better song, almost metal, Simmons’ double-tracked vocals very dark and prominent. However, the problem is again the forced heaviness.

The Beth-like acoustic-driven ballad ‘Every Time I Look At You’ features a string quartet in full Ezrin’s fashion and Stanley’s imposed raspy vocals. Worthy and beautiful despite some criticism about its similarities to Peter Criss‘ signature song. Just listen to the slightly more stripped version on MTV Unplugged to confirm its beauties.

‘Paralyzed’ is a subtly funk-driven spirited rocker by Simmons, not spectacular but a welcome breeze of fresh air.

The last Vinnie Vincent‘s co-writing credit is ‘I Just Wanna’, tailor-made for live shows. This is a ‘Bony Moronie/Summertime Blues’-inspired three chord song aimed at hit status with Stanley’s enticing intro, infectious choruses and sweet guitar harmonies, one of Revenge’s high points for sure.

The last song is the instrumental tribute ‘Carr Jam 1981’, taken from Carr/Frehley’s demo that turned into the Frehley’s Comet ‘Breakout’ song released in 1987. A perfect showcase of the great drummer’s skills and a good Kulick overdubbed performance.

However, legal and copyright issues I may not be aware of aside, it would have been nice to listen to Frehley’s original guitar track as well.

In Summary

‘Revenge’ is frequently hailed as Kiss’ best unmasked-era album. To me, that award goes to ‘Lick It Up’. Although it is a vast improvement over the lame ‘Hot In The Shade’, this is on par with Kiss’ 80’s output, no more.

My main criticisms are the forced heaviness, a certain lack of stronger melodies and the band taking themselves too seriously. ‘Revenge’ debuted at #6 on the Billboard charts but struggled to attain Gold status. Undeniable is the fact that this was a really strong lineup that I had the pleasure of seeing live twice. Eric Singer’s performance in particular was amazing.

The band played to mostly half-empty arenas during the Revenge tour and Simmons/Stanley tried to harden their sound even more for the ill-fated ‘Carnival Of Souls’. 1995’s ‘MTV Unplugged’ was the preamble to the Reunion Tour with the original lineup.


God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II

Kiss - God Gave Rock And Roll To You (Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey)

Kiss - Unholy

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1 thought on “Kiss – Revenge

  1. [Dangerzone] I’ve never been able to get into this album. It was far too forced in the whole ‘we’re back to being a hard rock band’ vibe. It isn’t as bad as ‘Hot in the Shade’ but it leaves me cold all the same. It isn’t in the same ballpark as anything Kiss did from 82-87.

    [PatrickHemming] Lack of stronger melodies, forced heaviness and a contrived serious image overhaul about sums it up for me. I agree, the production & playing r stellar. What’s good is quite good what’s mediocre is average KISS at best.

    [Dave T] I still think Lick It Up is the best of the unmasked era albums, and I’ve got a soft spot for Asylum for its consistency. These are the two albums of the era I frequently listen to, closely followed by the melodic fest of Crazy Nights. 80s Kiss has heaps to enjoy, despite what Gene and Paul currently say about those times.

    [Sclockmania] Interesting to see the responses here. I haven’t listened to this front-to-back in years but it was my entry point into Kiss as an album act in the mid-’90s. I was impressed with its consistency from song to song, the blend of light (poppier tunes) and shade (heavy stuff) and that Ezrin-enforced level of quality in arrangements, vocals, guitar solos, etc. I’ll have to go back and give it a fresh listen.

    [PatrickHemming] I agree with a lot of the comments here.

    The songs I like, Unholy, Take It Off, Domino, GGRARTY, Every Time I Look At You & I Just Wanna, (more than half the album looking at it lol), I really like but the others just don’t do it for me.

    My go to heavy KISS album is Creatures. My two favorite 80’s non makeup albums r Lick It Up Crazy Nights. Asylum is really quite strong & Animalize has it’s moments & those moments don’t really involve Gene. There’s a good nine or ten song album hiding in Hot In The Shade’s bloated & undercooked fifteen songs.

    My biggest problem with Revenge is that the highs on their other 80’s albums are for the most part greater than Revenge & the lows are right in line with what I don’t dig from Animalize & HITS.

    Now, having said all that two of my favorite non makeup songs in the KISS oeuvre are Unholy and Every Time I Look At You.

    [Dave T] On a side note, the Revenge version of God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II was remixed by Bob Ezrin to match the vibe of the album, making both the Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey OST version and the 1991 single released on picture disc and CD a collector’s item.

    [PatrickHemming] The soundtrack version is definitely my preferred choice.

    ]Sclockmania] Gave this its first full listen in years… and I still love it. It’s definitely calculated, a careful blend of heavy stuff for those burnt out on ’80s glam with some tried-and-true pop metal aimed at the charts, including a made-to-order anthem with the Argent rewrite. However, it all worked for me because of the thorough craftsmanship: it reminded me of DR. FEELGOOD in that the band took its essential mandate – catchy, knowingly juvenile hard rock – and did the most precisely-crafted version of it, taking care to make sure each song had not only strong hooks, riffs and choruses but also interesting little middle-eights and extra ear candy like surprise counter-harmonies and unexpected shifts in tone or tempo. For my money, it was their most consistent album post-LICK IT UP and an interesting sister album to CARNIVAL OF SOULS in its determined heaviness (consider the heavy tracks here the gateway to that thick, molten sound of C.O.S.).

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