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VISTA RECORDS :: ALBUM REVIEWS AND MUSIC DISCUSSION :: Album Reviews :: KISS - Asylum (1985)
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Erik Rupp
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 KISS - Asylum (1985)
« Thread Started on Mar 28, 2010, 5:00pm »
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While their 1982 release, Creatures of the Night, was KISS' best album since Love Gun in 1977, it failed to reach Gold status in it's first year of sales. The band regrouped, dropped the make-up, and had a minor hit album with Lick it Up in 1983. They followed that album with their biggest hit of the decade, Animalize, which was released in 1984.

After having been written off earlier in the decade, KISS was once again a commercially successful band.

So how to continue that success? Continue with the same musical formula. And that's just what KISS did in 1985 with Asylum.

Once again the album would be self produced. No outside producer would be hired to draw a salary or dilute the band's musical intent. This was their album. Only this time Gene Simmons would be there full time (unlike Animalize, when he left the recording sessions early to film the movie Runaway with Tom Selleck).

The results? An album that had a stronger pop sensibility, but a rawer, more Hard Rock sounding audio production than it's predecessor. While Animalize was all over the map in musical quality, Asylum was more uniform. The highlights were just about as good, but the low points weren't as low.

The opening cut, "King of the Mountain," starts off with a brief, but thunderous drum solo intro and segues into a song with a more mature musical style than had been heard on Animalize. "King," features some great vocal melodies from Paul Stanley, and some fantastic drumming and guitar work from Eric Carr and new KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick. The two of them are amazingly locked in together, so much so that the instrumental break before the solo is an intricate, prog-worthy bit that wouldn't sound all that out of place on an Iron Maiden album or even a Yes album. It's clear from the opening track that this line-up was the most cohesive KISS line-up since their glory days of the mid 70's.

Gene Simmons' first kick at the can comes in the form of, "Any Way You Slice It," which is a decent track, but nothing to write home about. An upper mid-tempo song, "Slice," features a good riff, some decent vocal melodies, and a great vibe. It isn't as strong as Paul Stanley's material on Asylum, but it's better than most of the songs that Gene brought to Animalize the year earlier.

While Gene's first song isn't anything earth shattering, Paul Stanley's next song, "Who Wants to be Lonely," is a great song. Co-written by Paul, Desmond Child and ex-Plasmatic Jean Beauvoir, this is a monumental song that stands out as one of the highlights in the entire KISS catalog. It's got a great funky groove, some great guitar parts, and vocal melodies to die for. The chorus hook is also one of the best on any KISS album to date. The song is poppy, but it absolutely rocks. Bruce's guitar solo on this song is one of his best. It's flashy, but has a strong foundation in the kind of melodies that guitar solos in KISS songs were known for back in the 70's. Everything works on this one.

Up to this point KISS is doing very well on Asylum, and seem to be on a roll. But by song number four that roll is over. It doesn't come crashing to a halt, but, "Trial By Fire," sounds like Gene's attempt at writing a, "Lick it Up," kind of song. It's similar to the title track of their 1983 album in style, but in terms of the quality of the song it falls short. Even so, it isn't a bad song, just a mediocre one (almost a bland Hard Rock track) that drops the quality level of the album down a notch.

Fortunately, Paul Stanley was there to rescue the album and get it back on track with, "I'm Alive." "Alive," is an uptempo, double-bass drumming fueled monster of a song. The riffs are great, the vocal melodies are strong, and the chorus hook is very memorable. The substance of the song isn't as strong as, "Lonely," (the lyrics are typical 80's, "Getting the girls," kind of thing; real goofy, throwaway stuff - but fun throwaway stuff), but the musical base of the song is fantastic. Side one of the album ended in fine style, and made for one of the best sides of KISS music since side one of Love Gun eight years earlier.

Side two? Well, while it doesn't start out as well as side one did, overall, it's almost as strong.

"Love's a Deadly Weapon," is another uptempo song (this time from Gene) with some double-bass drumming. It's a burst of energy just like, "I'm Alive," was, only it's not as good. Again, this isn't a bad song at all. It's actually pretty good and is better than a couple of Gene's songs from the previous album, but it's not up to the standards that Paul Stanley was setting for Asylum.

Standards that Paul would continue to maintain with the next song, "Tears Are Falling." It was the album's lead single, and with good reason. "Tears," is a mid-tempo song filled with amazing melodies and hooks. Paul's vocal is emotional and powerful, and Bruce's solo is one of his very best. Again, this is one of KISS' all time best songs - one that is up to the standards of their best albums from their 70's heyday.

Gene finally steps his game up with, "Secretly Cruel," a song that would not have been out of place on Rock and Roll Over back in 1976. While this isn't a great song, it is a very good one, and it's perfect for the album.

Paul's next song is one that gets mixed reactions. "Radar for Love," is a very Led Zeppelin-esque track (particularly, "Black Dog"), and features some good riffs and vocal melodies. Is it a Zeppelin rip-off? Not really. It's just as much KISS as it is Led Zeppelin in style. Lyrically, it's (again) a little goofy, but it's just the kind of thing that was really common in the 80's. While not as good as Paul's other songs on Asylum, "Radar," is a good track that's at least as good as Gene's best song on the album.

To close out the album KISS chose to use probably the goofiest song of the album in, "UH! All Night." Yeah, this one isn't exactly intellectual or subtle, but it is fun and musically it has echoes of 1970's KISS (particularly Rock and Roll Over and Paul Stanley's 1978 solo album).

Perhaps the best way to describe Asylum as a whole would be to note that it's a lot like Rock and Roll Over done 80's style. It's got that raw Rock and Roll sound and vibe, but it's also got some 80's double-bass drumming here and there, as well as the 80's guitar stylings and Pop Metal melodies.

And it's just a darned good album, even if a largely overlooked one when people look back at the 80's.

4/5

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