KISS: ‘Sonic Boom’

KISS
SONIC BOOM
Released on October 6, 2009 (KISS / Roadrunner)

Review by Greg Troyan in October 2009:
It’s 10:30 PM. It’s been a long day at work but the day is now done. Times are tough in this economy. Sure, I have no debt, but I have no money either. I can barely afford to put gas in my tank. I realize that Wal-Mart is across the street, and I know I won’t have to work for a couple days because I’ve got my classes and my internship, and it wouldn’t be worth the gas money to go back home and go back to Wal-Mart. So I go in the store.

I go to the entertainment section in the back of the store and ask if I can buy the new KISS album (which features a bonus disc of re-recorded songs and a bonus DVD) at midnight. I’m told I’ll be able to buy it at 12:20, because that’s when the registers switch over, but they can take a copy up front and leave a note to sell it to “the blonde in the work uniform.” I wander around the store, go outside to do homework, talk with a friend on my cell and then talk to a woman who works at the store who happened to be named “Beth”. I fill up the time between 10:30 and 12:20 the best I can. And then, when the time arrives, I purchase my copy of Sonic Boom. My first new KISS album. The lineup of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer was the first concert I had ever seen, on their 2004 Rock The Nation tour (I was 14), and it’s the concert that got me into music. And here it was. The new KISS album, 11 years in the making. I go to the car and open it on the way. I check out the discs and notice that the bonus DVD is scratched up like the opposite side of the Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits CD. I go back into the store and exchange it for a new copy.

I knew what to expect. I had heard “Modern Day Delilah” a while ago and put it on a couple mix CDs, and I had heard the whole album on YouTube a couple days before buying the CD. And I had someone send me the Jigoku-Retsuden tracks, so I knew what I was buying before I bought it. But, let me tell you something, YouTube does not do the production of the album justice. It has phenomenal production. Recording in analog wasn’t a gimmick, it is truly one of the best produced albums of the new millennium.

KISS has returned with one of the band’s most solid releases ever. A mish-mash of all eras of KISS, it’s an album full of rockers, and there’s not a single ballad or outside songwriter to be found. The album starts off with “Modern Day Delilah”, the first single, which is a great album opener with a riff reminiscent of 70s KISS. There’s a very cool break-down in the song where Paul does a metal scream behind only the drum part before kicking back in to the rest of the song. “Modern Day Delilah” lets you know that KISS is back and that they are ready to rock, but I don’t necessarily think it’s the wisest idea to let the song stay as the single for long. It’s a very cool rocker, but not a very commercial or radio friendly song.

“Russian Roulette” is the first Gene Simmons song on the album, and also his strongest offering. The walking bassline is on of The Demon’s coolest in Kisstory. “Never Enough”, another Paul song, is a huge rip-off of Poison‘s “Nothin’ But A Good Time”. Still a good song, but an obvious steal. “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)” is a fun Gene song reminiscent of the Rock And Roll Over era.

“Stand” is one of the coolest songs on the album, an anthem that rocks pretty hard with an epic chorus. KISS anthems are usually about standing on your own, but this offers the new lyrical theme of relying on other people. A friendship anthem, and a well done one at that, it is one of the best on the album.

“Hot And Cold” wins points for having the most 70s sounding chorus out of any of the tunes on the album. It sounds like it could have come off of Rock And Roll Over. “All For The Glory”, sung by Eric Singer, is quite possibly the best song on the album and one of the songs with the biggest likelihood of being a hit in today’s market. It’s a cool song that appeals to basically everybody. It rocks hard, but it’s also catchy and epic and anthemic. So they probably won’t release it as a single.

“Danger Us” has an extremely corny title, but after reading the lyrics and listening to the song, you get completely behind it. “I’m An Animal” is a slow, plodding Gene number with elements of Black Sabbath. It’s an obvious attempt at a demonic character song for him, and the worst song on the album. It’s not because it’s a bad song, it’s simply because the album is very good and something has to come in last place.

“When Lightning Strikes”, on the other hand, is one of the album’s highlights. For everybody who heard Tommy Thayer sing bits of “Shout It Out Loud” live and were afraid of him taking over lead vocals, this track should silence the critics. He sounds killer and the song has that great 70s glam rock groove.

The last song on the album is quite possibly the album’s ‘classic’ tune. A song that could be a huge hit, and a song that is practically begging to be played live. “Say Yeah” is a powerful anthem that borrows the ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ from The Beatles song “She Loves You” for its chorus, and it has a wonderful a powerful epic feel to it.

Each song on the album is tight and sounds great with Paul Stanley‘s production. Sonic Boom is a strong, consistent album that ranks in the same league as the band’s 70s material. One of the most solid albums in the band’s history. Was it worth waiting around Wal-Mart a couple hours after work? I’d say so.

Review by Edward Cieplinski in October 2009:
When the recording of Sonic Boom was completed, the four members of KISS promised an album of ‘meat and potatoes’. No outside writers. No ballads. No keyboards. Not only did they deliver on those promises, they also managed to cram the best of every era of the band into an 11 song CD.

The opening track “Modern Day Delilah” is the perfect way to get things started. With a steady groove that thumps along, the song is symbolic in a sense that it is reminiscent of the Creatures Of The Night album, as well the Lick It Up release, a time when KISS were finding themselves again. It was the re-birth of KISS and this tune says exactly that. “Russian Roulette” is Gene Simmons at his ambitious best. From mid tempo, to slow, to fast, it’s both catchy and crushing at the same time. “Never Enough” could have fit nicely and stood tall on Destroyer, Crazy Nights or Hot In The Shade. “All For The Glory” is a fast one with a killer melody. On this track, not only did Eric Singer almost do away with the smashing double bass style and become a more melodic and tasty drummer, he also continued a tradition of raspy voiced singing drummers that KISS have had throughout the years.

“I’m An Animal” is Gene in a “Rock And Roll Hell”, “God Of Thunder”, “Unholy” kinda mood, with such a badass scream at the end that even if studio trickery were involved, it would still be damn cool. “Lightning Strikes” is the Tommy Thayer sung song on the disc, a cool mid-tempo tune which sounds as if it could’ve been hatched during his Black ‘N Blue days. You can put “Danger Us” on any of KISS‘ non-makeup releases and it would not only have mixed well, but crushed most of that material. “Stand” is a new type of song for KISS as Gene and Paul Stanley trade lyrics on this track about camaraderie and friendship. This song and “Say Yeah” are two that hit you in the face with that anthemic, simplistic, giant chorus style that KISS have made their trademark. “Yes I Know” and “Too Hot, Too Cold” are two Gene songs that takes the listener back to a time when he wrote fun, catchy songs about sex. As a result, these two tunes could go on any KISS album from their debut up to Love Gun.

Sonic Boom is an album that is 11 years in the making and it does not disappoint. It’s what people want from KISS, simple, ballsy, and catchy hard rock songs. Paul‘s range is the same as it has always been, but it’s a rougher sounding Paul. It’s a voice that has grown old gracefully, which we all can either identify with or will identify with. Tommy is obviously influenced by Ace Frehley, but he has been able to bring in elements of Bruce Kulick as well. Molding those two styles, along with his own, allows us to enjoy the entire KISS guitar playing family history.

Sonic Boom sounds like a CD from a band that’s motivated again and willing to be a band again, not just a marketing brand. I don’t know if we’ll have to wait another 11 years for their next release or who will be in KISS at that point, but I do know that after we all hear Sonic Boom, we’ll all be anxiously awaiting it.

Review by Lance Lumley in October 2019:
When I was younger, even in college, I remember having an excitement for record release days. I would rush to my local store where I bought cassettes and CDs in anticipation for the newest release of my favorite act (no matter what genre) after months of hearing the single on radio, or seeing the video on the video shows. There was something about getting to the store and holding that album, carrying it to the checkout counter while staring in awe at the covers, signifying a common bond to all other music lovers around the world. Even though those days seem gone to me, either because of the lack of physical stores, videos, or just my older age, very few CDs excite me enough to the point where I have to rush out and find it on the day of the release. One of the last recordings that I remember giving me this feeling of extreme passion was Sonic Boom by KISS.

One of the reasons I felt this way was that the release was not only the band’s first studio work in 11 years, but it was also the first with the current line-up after the original members went their own ways again after Psycho Circus. Regardless of whatever feelings you have towards the previous album (where Ace Frehley and Peter Criss played limited roles again on it), Sonic Boom was another part of the KISS legacy where the band had to prove that the current line-up of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer could put out a quality product. There was no doubt in my mind that Singer proved his worth in the band, from his previous stint in the band before the reunion, but Thayer was a question mark for me at the time. The other reason why I was excited was that this release was firstly sold with a deal through Walmart, where the record section was turned into a KISS store within the store, filled with CDs of the back catalog, toys, and T shirts surrounding the new product. Plus, the CD release included three discs — the new release, a six-track live DVD, and re-recording of some classics, all for the price of one CD. Even though it felt like the 1970s as the KISS merchandise circus was back, it’s the music that mattered most.

The opening song, the first single off the CD, “Modern Day Delilah,” starts the music on a heavy note, with a catchy riff as well. This could have been put on the Revenge release, which in my opinion is one of the heaviest KISS albums, and one of my all-time KISS favorites. The song also brought the band back onto the US charts, along with tons of airplay in my area of Ohio, where most stations ignored new material from almost any rock act. Paul‘s scream on the song is powerful as well. This is a great opening track to silence the early critics. “Russian Roulette,” the first Simmons song, has strong backing vocals, and Thayer provides a nice guitar solo. The heavy feel in the music continues with this song. Lyrically, the theme of sex is here, especially with a Simmons‘ song. The lyrics are not the best, but musically the song is a nice continuation from the first track.

“Never Enough” is one of my favorites on the record. This song has a catchy sing along chorus, and drummer Eric Singer keeps the song going with a steady, solid beat, especially coming out of the solo from Thayer. This is a three and a half minute gem.  It was the third single released, but for some reason, I never heard it played anywhere in my area. This is a great song that has a similar structure to “Heaven’s On Fire” where the drums carry the song during the verses. The song has a simple formula, but it definitely works. The next song “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect),” has more of the classic KISS lineup style from the 1970s, with a bluesy / rock guitar riff carrying the song. The drumming by Singer, and the guitar solo enhances the song. This is a better Simmons song than his first attempt on the record. The Ace Frehley style of guitar solos is obvious here. This song fits well in terms of placement right here. Another short song, which is good at times, throwing back to the days where songs had to be around three minutes long, and which is another tribute to the 1970s style of the song.

“Stand” seems to be in the formula of “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II,” from the Revenge release, but doesn’t hold up. Although heavier than the 1992 song coming out of the guitar solos, where the music slows down and focuses on the vocals of the band, once the chorus comes in, the song loses it for me. Although it is nice to hear Gene and Paul split vocals on the song,  which they have done in the past with “Shout It Out Loud,” and ” God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You,”  this song (at five minutes long) isn’t as strong compared to the previous five songs.

Simmons takes lead again on “Hot And Cold.” When listening to the album again for the review, I can’t help but wonder if the band purposely went back to their original style of songs and playing, because this has another style from the 1970s. The song’s chorus is nice to sing along. The slower style of the guitar solo is very much in the style of Frehley, along with the drumming playing on every beat at first ,and with the cowbell playing throughout had the style of Peter Criss. I am not saying that all KISS songs with cowbells or a slow guitar solo is due to Frehley and Criss, but it seems that back to basics was the theme of the CD with a heavier edge to it. Many fans of the original line-up will use the fact that Thayer and Singer using the makeup of Frehley and Criss is an example of this, but I want to focus on the music, not the live act. In my opinion, if Singer and Thayer would have refused to do the makeup the way Gene and Paul wanted, they would have found someone else to do it, and I think anyone would love to get paid for playing in a major rock band instead of working 9 to 5 regardless of what was asked of them. This ending of the song fades out, where most of the songs before this just ends. This is a solid song once it gets going. When the first chorus kicks in, it flows better.

“All For The Glory” is a song I was very excited to hear when the CD came out, with Eric Singer singing lead. Many do not know how unique it is for a drummer in any band to have a lead vocal song on an album, more less a band like KISS. Look at Eric Carr‘s “Little Caesar” from Hot In The Shade. It took him many years to be able to get a track on a KISS album. I met Eric Singer when he was playing with Alice Cooper, and he was very nice (although I stupidly didn’t have anything for him to sign, which is a big regret). Being from Cleveland, Ohio, which is a little over an hour from where I live, I think it’s awesome that someone near me made it in the business (or any business).  This song is more of a KISS anthem in lyrical style, and is one of the best songs on the CD. Singer has a raspy style voice, similar to the other KISS drummers. The solo on the song is very nice, and isn’t like the Frehley style that some of the other songs had. This is a great solid song, that shows that Singer and Thayer musically has what it takes to be in the band.

The next song, “Danger Us,” has a strange title, starts off mellower than the other songs, but then kicks in after a few measures. Stanley takes the lead vocals, along with the songwriting credits for the song. Although the lyrics in the chorus are not to my liking, the music is what makes this song good, especially Thayer‘s solo. The band continues a hard rock flavor to the album. “I’m An Animal” is a typical Gene Simmons song, with it’s creeping rhythm that could only fit with Simmons‘ style of music. There is a little darkness to the song, which reminded me of something off the band’s Hotter Than Hell album. The build up to the chorus is nice, but lacks the final power when it gets there. Although the music is nice, the build up to the chorus is a little flat.

Tommy Thayer gets lead vocals on “When Lightning Strikes.” This is a fairly short song, at around four minutes long. Some critics have stated that the song is similar to the band Mountain, but I think it has more of a Head East style to it. The cowbell carries the song. The guitar playing, along with the lyrics, gives another nod to the Frehley formula. I am not saying that this was done intentionally, or as a knock on the band, but just mentioning that there are similarities to the things that Frehley brought to the band. Rain, thunder, high voltage, are all mentioned in the lyrics, where most of the CD is about relationships, which lyrically shows a different aspect to the album. Vocally, Thayer is credible, and  I can’t imagine Gene or Paul singing lead on this. The fact that this is Thayer‘s first studio album with the band, and gets a vocal track, is a credit as well to him.

The final song is “Say Yeah,” which was the second single off the album. Once again, in my area, I only got to hear the first single off the CD on my local stations. This is a nice way to end the CD, with this Stanley-led song. The song reminds me of the 1980s version of KISS (maybe Asylum period). After the bridge, the song tones down and then kicks back up again, like a few of the other songs on this release, where it doesn’t work on some of the songs, it fits here nicely. A great ending song.

Not only did KISS take a throwback level in regards to marketing this album with Walmart (The Eagles did it previously with one of their albums), but there are similar techniques used throughout Sonic Boom musically, but turned up a few notches heavier. Regardless of some KISS Army‘s personal opinions of the band’s visual decisions in the live show, the overall music on the album is solid. In terms of creating a return of KISS with a newer line-up, KISS succeeds here, where many bands could not achieve it with only one line-up change. I played this release again after it was over for the review, and enjoyed it a second time all the way through just as much as hearing it the first time.

Track List:
01. Modern Day Delilah
02. Russian Roulette
03. Never Enough
04. Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)
05. Stand
06. Hot And Cold
07. All For The Glory
08. Danger Us
09. I’m An Animal
10. When Lightning Strikes
11. Say Yeah
Kiss Klassics Bonus Disc:
01. Deuce
02. Detroit Rock City
03. Shout It Out Loud
04. Hotter Than Hell
05. Calling Dr. Love
06. Love Gun
07. I Was Made For Lovin’ You
08. Heaven’s On Fire
09. Lick It Up
10. I Love It Loud
11. Forever
12. Christine Sixteen
13. Do You Love Me
14. Black Diamond
15. Rock And Roll All Nite
Bonus Live DVD:
01. Deuce
02. Hotter Than Hell
03. C’mon And Love Me
04. Watchin’ You
05. 100,000 Years
06. Rock And Roll All Nite

Band Members:
Paul Stanley – vocals and guitar
Gene Simmons – vocals and bass
Tommy Thayer – guitar and vocals
Eric Singer – drums and vocals

Production:
Produced by Paul Stanley
Co-produced by Greg Collins

Band Websites:
Official Website
Facebook

Reviewed by Greg Troyan and Edward Cieplinski in October 2009 and Lance Lumley in October 2019 for Sleaze Roxx

KISS‘ “Modern Day Delilah” video:

KISS-Modern Day Delilah Official Video (HD)

Modern day Delilah of Sonic Boom HD!!! http://www.youtube.com/user/jampi1996