Hotter Than Hell


Casablanca Records, 1974

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


As much as I've enjoyed Kiss's music over the years, I've found the resurgence in their popularity difficult to understand. (This coming from the same idiot who, courtesy of an extra ticket from Bill Ziemer, went to see them last year in concert.) They've always been a band who could put out entertaining songs, but when it all boiled down, they were cock-rock at its loudest in the '70s.

Nevertheless, I too got wrapped up in the '90s Kiss craze, and updated a few of their albums to CD. (The vinyl still has a safe home in the Pierce Memorial Archives.) But one particular disc, 1974's Hotter Than Hell, shows why some albums are best listened to on vinyl.

Producers Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise should be hung by their manhood for the muddy, clogged sound this CD has. (The disc has since been remastered, though I wonder how much of an improvement could be done to it. As my dad always told me, "You can't polish a turd.") While you can still make out Peter Criss's drum work and the guitar antics of Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley, it almost sounds like you're listening to it in mono. At least with the vinyl, it tended to bury shitty work like this - and if it didn't, you could always blame the sound on the condition of the record.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If only the production work were the only thing I could rip on with this album. Unfortunately, Kiss falls into the dreaded "sophomore slump" that has hit so many bands since rock and roll burst onto the scene. "Goin' Blind" is a terrible attempt at slow hard rock (and an early lesson that mixing hard rock and slow tempos doesn't work). "All The Way" is a half-assed Kiss track, while "Mainline" sounds like an early attempt at commercializing their sound.

Even some of the hits that Kiss has played for almost 25 years live haven't held up. "Let Me Go, Rock 'N Roll" is not the best work of Gene Simmons et al, while "Got To Choose" sounds a little too slow for me. On the other hand, the title track (which made me buy the vinyl copy in the first place) is entertaining (though, again, too slow), while "Got To Choose" is a decent track - that is, once you wade through the shitty production.

And, in Kiss's defense, this album isn't as oriented around getting laid as many of their other works - in one way, maybe this is why Hotter Than Hell isn't as powerful as other Kiss albums like Destroyer. (Then again, I've always said it gets tiring hearing bands who were getting parallel with groupies damn near every night singing about how they wanted to get laid while others - like rock journalists - went home alone every night.)

Kiss would rebound from this turkey to hit the high point of their career - and they would even improve on many of these tracks on Alive. But unless you're a diehard fan who must own every album Kiss has recorded, Hotter Than Hell has about as much fire as an ice cream cone. Stick with one of the "greatest hits" packages.

Rating: C-

User Rating: B-



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Casablanca Records, and is used for informational purposes only.