On a personal note, Creatures Of The Night is a big nostalgic favorite. Even though I was only 11 when it came out in 1982, I had already zoned out of Kiss after Dynasty in ’79. By the time Creatures dropped, I had just started getting really into 80s hard rock and metal (pre-hair, of course). I was immersed in AC/DC’s Back in Black and For Those About To Rock, Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast, Def Leppard’s High And Dry, pretty much every Van Halen album released up to that point… and I wasn’t giving Kiss a second thought. That was until a friend played me “I Love It Loud” on his boombox, and I was floored. Those thundering echoing drums, thick distorted guitars, and Gene’s growling menace over vague and power-trippy lyrics? This was epic Kiss. The heavy metal Kiss that had been missing for years. Whoa.
There’s not a bad cut on the album. Three songs are great, three songs are really good, two are good and one is OK. This is the first Kiss non-solo studio album that doesn’t have a song I find in the mediocre-to-utterly-craptacular range.
So how’d this happen, exactly? Kiss was at a serious crossroad in their career. Their last two albums tanked (as much as I like Unmasked, it’s one of the lowest selling and least regarded entry in their catalog), and they were increasingly being viewed as a leftover relic (and bad punchline) from the 70s. Founding guitarist Ace Frehley had left the band (although he was contractually obliged to appear on the cover and in the album videos, and not breathe a word of his exit to anyone!), so guitarist/songwriter Vinnie Vincent was brought in to contribute to the production. Also brought in was a budding young songwriter named Bryan Adams, who later went on to some acclaim, if I recall correctly…
Kiss decided to ditch the pop, new wave, disco, epic bombastic concept album leanings, and get back to doing a hard-hitting rock/metal album, but apropos of the style of contemporary harder music. Something that could stand up to the Judas Priests, Van Halens, and Motorheads of the day. And with this mindset locked in place, with a fresh infusion of new songwriting blood, they succeeded.
The album’s title track also serves as the opener, and Creatures of the Night is a barnstomer of a track; a hell of a way to announce that the pop experimentation of the past 4 years was hasta-so-longa. Loud, powerful, uptempo with Paul’s soaring vocals, this is Kiss reclaiming their dark theatrical majesty. Saint and Sinner is a solid track, with fantastic drum work by Eric Carr. Gene sounds back in his element here. I wish the guitars were a little heavier on this song, especially during the riffing on the chorus. It would have elevated the song immensely.
With Keep Me Comin’, Paul drops his he-she affectations and just ROCKS. The band is totally aping early 80s Van Halen here, but successfully. Listen to this and tell me you couldn’t here David Lee Roth doing this song (with better lyrics and Eddie wailing the shit out of it). While the chorus/bridge gets a little repetitive, this is a still great song.
Rock And Roll Hell is the only song on the album I really don’t care for all too much, which is to say it’s not bad at all; it’s OK. You can totally can hear the Bryan Adams influence here, which is not a good or bad thing (depending on your point of view). Gene’s vocals match the song pretty well.
Danger is definitely the most “old school” sounding Kiss song on the album, and it’s a good one. The harmonies on the chorus are pretty sweet, the drums and guitars are thick enough, and the lyrics are silly but fun. Then we move into I Love It Loud, one of my favorite metal songs of all time, Kiss or otherwise. Anthemic? Absolutely. Dopey at times? No question. Does it bring the awesome? Served hot and steamy on the lithe tanned forms of barely legal Brazilian bikini models in a Bacchanal of coke-driven lust, shameful displays of vulgarian excess, and a meatball sub.
I Still Love You remains one of the best songs Paul ever did with Kiss. Slow, dark, minor-key, starting soft but erupting into self-righteous fury. It’s easily the group’s best ballad, dark and hungry and haunting, and an amazing tune.
Killer is so reminiscent of Paul Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden its not even funny (if in music, not lyrics. More like “Women In Uniform” Maiden rather than “Wrathchild” Maiden). It’s a decent song; not one of my favorites but definitely a worthwhile track. Finally the album closes with the epic War Machine, which is a Gene effort near the height of his greatness as a demon-showman. This song is rooted in a growling riff that just pummels you raw and keeps grinding away. It definitely showcases the influence of 80s power metal on the band, to thunderous results.
While Creatures Of The Night ended up as a commercial disappointment for Kiss, it was lauded among fans and is still revered today as one of their most celebrated albums. While the band would have a string of Platinum albums to follow throughout the 80s — this would be their last “in-makeup” album until Psycho Circus 16 years later — none except for 1992’s Revenge would retain the high quality and musical consistency of Creatures Of The Night. The album is so loved for one reason: it’s just that damn good. As a Kiss album — as an 80s hard rock/power metal album — it earns its stripes and then some.