"Carnival of Souls takes the raw roots era KISS of REVENGE and updates it. "Hate" is the offspring of "Unholy" and "Spit" off of REVENGE, and "Jungle" is a darker version of "Who Wants To Be Lonely" from ASYLUM, only with a much better groove. In fact, almost every song on COS has a precedent in KISS' back catalog. "In My Head" is somewhat reminiscent of "Mr. Blackwell" from "the ELDER," and "It Never Goes Away" is a Black Sabbath style cruncher like "Strange Ways" from HOTTER THAN HELL. Other standouts inclue "Master And Slave," "Rain," and the Hendrix inspired "In The Mirror." The theme on COS is experimentation, but experimentation within the framework of what KISS has done before. The perfomances of Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick are excellent as well, particularly the performance of Eric Singer, who really brings this album to life. If you are willing to take a chance on a Darker, and Heavier version of KISS, you will not be disappointed by CARNIVAL OF SOULS."
The Seattle inspired lost gem
Daniel Maltzman | Arlington, MA, USA | 11/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While KISS certainly proved to be innovators and trendsetters with their classic early albums and shows, they have also proved to be trend followers as well. Since the late 70s, KISS has jumped on whatever bandwagon was the flavor of the month in order to stay relevant. In the late 70s it was disco-pop with "Dynasty" (1979) and "Unmasked" (1980). In the late 80s it was glossy pop-metal, with "Crazy Nights" (1987). So, what kind of album do you think KISS would make in the mid-90s? Yup, you guessed it, a grunge album.
Released in 1997, "Carnival of Souls" had been recorded two years earlier. The lineup for the CD includes Paul Stanley, (vocals, rhythm guitar) Gene Simmons, (vocals, bass) Bruce Kullick, (vocals, lead guitar) and Eric Singer (drums). "Carnival of Souls" had been intended for a 1995 release, with an accompanying tour to promote it. But those plans were cancelled when original KISS members Ace Frehley (guitar) and Peter Criss (drums) rejoined the band for their massively successful 1996 reunion tour. Kullick and Singer were dismissed from the band and "Carnival of Souls" was put in the can. Throughout KISS's reunion tour, bootleg copies of "Carnival of Souls" started to appear in various forms and quality. Sensing enough interest for an official release, "Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions" was released in 1997.
KISS's longevity can be attributed to the fact that they have proved to be good musical chameleons over the years. Even if KISS does shamelessly follow musical trends, they can still, overall, do so with considerable success. If KISS can incorporate disco-pop into their sound with "I was made for lovin' you" and make it sound like KISS, then KISS can certainly make a grunge sounding album in a KISS mold as well.
"Carnival" is a grunge sounding album, but with a metallic edge. Many reviewers/fans/critics have correctly stated that the album sounds like "Badmoterfinger" (1991) era Soundgarden. The album overall is quite dark, and not of the celebratory nature of most KISS albums. "Carnival," also demonstrates the dark, cheerlessness of KISS's "Music from the Elder" (1981). But whereas "Elder" was a progressive concept album, "Carnival" is a more stripped-down, straight-forward affair. Indeed, "Carnival" shows the band going for a minimalist approach. The whole album sounds sparse and stripped-down. All-in-all, "Carnival of Souls" can therefore be seen as "Badmoterfinger" meets "Music from the Elder" meets "Led Zeppelin III" (1970).
The title of the album "Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions," may lead one to conclude that it is a CD of demos from those '94-'95 sessions. Not so. The CD is a finished product and could have received an official release as is back in '95.
Stanley and Simmons each sing about half the album, with Bruce Kullick giving his first (and only) lead vocal performance with the closing "I walk alone." Stanley, Simmons, and Kullick co-wrote the album with Curt Cuomo, Scott Van Zenn, Jamie St. James, Ken Tamplin, and future KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer.
The opening sluggish "Hate," and the gloomy "Rain" sound like "Badmotorfinger's "Rusty Cage," and "Outshined" respectively. "Master and Slave" has the band stripped down to its bare-bones. Simmon's hammering bass over Stanley's eerie delivery before its melodic chorus is quite cool. "Childhood's End" is one of the album's strongest tracks. Simmon's cocky, defiant delivery, with its melodic, sing-along chorus, ultimately makes it a triumph. The album's shinning moment is the stunning semi-acoustic "I will be there." A tribute to a father-son bond, this is one of the finest songs that KISS has ever penned. It is somewhat reminiscent of "friends" and "Since I've been loving you" from "Led Zeppelin III". The melodic hard-hitting, "Jungle" is effective and keeps up the momentum. "In my Head," and "It never goes away" comes straight out of the "Badmoterfinger" playbook. While not bad, they're rather sluggish and never really get off the ground, putting a wrench in the albums momentum. The melodic mid-east flavored "Seduction of the innocent" gets the album back on track. "I Confess" is both menacing an aggressive. Stanley and Simmon's duet in the chorus works very nicely. "In the Mirror" has a cool Zeppelin-meets-Soundgarden like quality. The Bruce Kullick song "I Walk Alone" closes out the album. A celebration of the loner, this is one of the album's most memorable songs. It's a shame that Kullick was never afforded the opportunity to sing it live with KISS.
While "Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions" will ultimately be just a footnote on KISS's legacy, it's still a memorable album. While it doesn't rank up there with such classics as "KISS," (1974) "Destroyer," (1976) and "Love Gun," (1977) it's still an excellent album that fans of the band should check out. "
KISS has something to prove?
Scott Hedegard | Fayetteville, AR USA | 01/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Prior to the reunion of the original line-up and seemingly endless tour that followed, KISS decided to show they could be as contemporary as the grungers of the period (1995). What could have been a cheap derivative in other bands' hands became the heaviest album KISS ever delivered, the Seattle influence present but not dominating. Riffs are more in the early Black Sabbath vein, but the chord work is definitely grungey in its downtuned guitars. Bruce Kulick saves the day, keeping his chops at the front, as if to say "I can play the dropped "D" tuning just like you flannel punks, but can you do this?" before burning off great soloes that know when to stop being vehicles for showing off and keeping the melody in mind. Sales for this CD weren't exactly stellar, but judged on its own merits, "Carnival Of Souls" is a damn good riff heavy and smart album. I have no problem believing KISS could do whatever they set their minds to, judged by the evidence on this platter."
Anvilheadsix | Virginia | 06/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am truly blown away. This album floored me. Best album of their career if you ask me. Many die-hard Kiss fans will disagree. This album is about music, good song writing, solid production, and KILLER RIFFS. Pound for pound, riff for riff, this is one of the best albums of the 90s. Carnival isn't a grunge album. It's too heavy and the songs are too well written to fall into that catagory. This is hard rock meets heavy metal designed for the post-thrash 90s. The main riff on "Master and Slave" would give Tony Iommi nightmares. "Hate" is Anthrax meets Destroyer-era Kiss. I also really liked the lyrics. No rocking and rolling all night here. Gene unleashes on the religious right on "Hate", "Seduction of the Innocent", and "In the Mirror". Check out this from "Hate":
So you're lookin' for a saviour But I'm here to tell ya You gotta save yourself
Lead a lamb to slaughter All you ever did was follow orders
All you martyrs and saviours Go through the same door Listen all you butchers, saints and sinners We've all been here before
Kulick's solos are some of the best of his career. Last. but not least, Singer proves himself a worthy heir to the throne of Carr. After listening to this, I can see why many people consider him to be the best drummer in modern rock.
This album is really worth picking up and at this price it's a steal. I've heard some people say that Union (Kulick w/ John Corabi) sounds a lot like this. If so, then I gotta check out Union."
The often forgotten best album Kiss ever had
Music Lover | USA | 04/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Kiss made their name in the early to mid 70's with their very creative live shows and fun, dare I say poppy, hard rock of the day. They continued putting out rock on the harder side but with a polished sound which made their music sound less hard rock than it could have. Their sound didn't change too much except for a song here and there (ex: Tears Are Falling with a disco sound).
In the mid-90's and their career moving along (as in not doing great but not doing bad) they decided to switch up the sound and try an album influenced by grunge which was very popular at the time. What resulted was 'Carinval of Souls' and their best ever. When you listen to Carnival of Souls you hear straight ahead in your face rock and roll like they'd never put out before and sadly will probably never put out again.
This album gets totally lost as they'd hardly released the album when they announced a reunion tour followed by retirement tours etc...To my knowledge they never toured on this album and I woudln't be surprised if they never played any of these songs live either since Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had nothing to do with them.
This is a great album and deserved to be promoted by touring and in my opinion, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer deserved to make cash off it as well. It's also my opinion that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley really owed it to Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer, the fans and the music of this album to promote it but the past is in the past. Luckily the music is still with us..."