An album review by Maze Matthews; Accompanied photo: artwork from the KISS album “Carnival of Souls”
CARNIVAL OF SOULS is a KISS album that was recorded around 1994-1995. It was an album that didn’t get much of a push by the band, nor by their label at the time.
This album was the last to feature a non-make up musical version of KISS featuring GENE SIMMONS & PAUL STANLEY–along with drummer ERIC SINGER (who has again been in the band since 2004, now being limited to mimicking both the drumming styles and CATMAN persona of Peter Criss; along side guitarist Tommy Thayer doing the same in Ace Frehley’s place) and the very talented and versatile guitarist BRUCE KULICK (now a guitarist for GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, and has also been a member of his own band UNION plus also acting as a sometimes solo artist).
CARNIVAL OF SOULS was quietly released in October 1997, a few months after KISS completed a highly successful year and a half world-wide reunion tour with original members ACE FREHLEY & PETER CRISS–recreating the band as a brand: complete with retro-styled 1970′s makeup, costumes, huge stage performances and tons of KISS themed merchandise.
As for promotion for the album? Just a handful of radio interview stops by Simmons and Stanley in the US–And appearances by Kulick and Singer at KISS expos around the world. One great thing did occur for the album: When the single for the album, JUNGLE, was released, it actually hit number eight on the billboard charts!
It’s a shame that this album was not given a proper release and tour to promote it, for I feel it was the last great KISS studio album to have been recorded. Produced by Toby Wright (Alice In Chains; Taproot), KISS brought to us a great (at the time) modern sounding, dark album–filled with surreal lyrics (gone were the songs about partying and sex), heavy riffs, hard, gun-shot type & crash riding drums and amazing in your face guitar solos.
Simmons brought to the album (though much of the bass-work was handled by Kulick) songs lyrically mirroring styles found by punk acts and the Beatles (CHILDHOOD ENDS; SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT; IN MY HEAD; HATE), Stanley’s vocals shined and astounded on many tracks (RAIN, MASTER & SLAVE, IT NEVER GOES AWAY), Kulick debuts as a lead vocalist on the track I WALK ALONE and brings the listener to their knees with great guitar solos (RAIN, HATE, MASTER & SLAVE, JUNGLE) and Singer attacks the drums with brutality and fury (IN MY HEAD, MASTER & SLAVE, HATE and IN THE MIRROR).
Unlike the failed attempt to bring us a reunion album recorded by SIMMONS, STANLEY, FREHLEY & CRISS –entitled PSYCHO CIRCUS (which was nothing more but an album by Simmons, Stanley and whomever they could get to play drums and guitar–just with bare minimum contributions by Frehley & Criss) and the mediocre releases of SONIC BOOM and MONSTER (with Thayer & Singer playing roles other than themselves under the direction of Simmons and Stanley), CARNIVAL OF SOULS was a breath of fresh air brought to the KISS music collection. Like the release before CARNIVAL OF SOULS (REVENGE), The album was a true band effort.
The CARNIVAL OF SOULS album brought KISS into heavier musical territory and showcased Singer’s great drumming abilities and allowed Kulick to shine both as a lead guitarist and songwriter. Though this album may be considered a bit outdated, many saying it’s “KISS-Gone-Grunge”, I feel the album is one of their best musically and fits well between such titles as CREATURES OF THE NIGHT and REVENGE.
Though I love the spectacle of KISS and was grateful to them doing the 1996-1997 Reunion tour (so I could finally get the chance to see the originals in action), I wish KISS would have taken off the make-up once again to continue KISS with Kulick and Singer, thus moving forward rather than staying in commodity mode.
If you like KISS, heavy material and great musicianship, give CARNIVAL OF SOULS a listen–You may just be surprised at what a great album it is…