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21 Years Ago: Kiss Gets Their ‘Revenge’

Kiss Revenge
Mercury Records

‘Revenge,’ the most consistent, hard-hitting and critically acclaimed album ever released by the non-makeup version of Kiss, celebrates its 21st anniversary today (May 14).

The Bob Ezrin-produced album pulled Kiss out of the second creative slump of their career. Just as they had been influenced too much by outside trends such as pop and disco in the late ’70s, albums such as 1987′s keyboard-heavy ‘Crazy Nights‘ found the group following current pop-metal trends far too closely.

1989′s ‘Hot in the Shade‘ showed improvement, but the band realized a more drastic step was needed to improve their place in the rock hierarchy.

In addition to hiring legendary producer Ezrin (who had worked with them twice before, hitting a homer with 1976′s ‘Destroyer‘ and whiffing with 1981′s ‘Music from the Elder‘), they also hired marketing consultants to find out what fans wanted from the group.

One clear answer: more Demon. For the first time in a decade, a Gene Simmons-sung track, the sinister and grooving ‘Unholy,’ was chosen as a Kiss album’s first single. The band also abandoned any remaining traces of their glammed-up ’80s look, shifting instead to more traditional black leather jackets.

Most importantly, they delivered their most cohesive and heavy album since 1982′s ‘Creatures of the Night.’ Tightly-focused, riff-heavy and borderline metallic songs such as ‘Take it Off,’ ‘Paralyzed’ and the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’-referencing ‘Spit’ proved Kiss was better off being themselves than trying to fit in with the times.

The album also marked the temporary return of the band’s second guitarist, Vinnie Vincent, but not as you might expect. Realizing his songwriting contributions on ‘Creatures’ and the 1983 album ‘Lick it Up‘ were among the band’s recent highlights, Simmons and Paul Stanley collaborated with him (separately) on three of the album’s best tracks – ‘Unholy,’ ‘Heart of Chrome’ and third single ‘I Just Wanna.’¬† Sadly, Vincent and Kiss soon wound up angry at each other again, and they haven’t collaborated since.

The album is most notable for marking one of the most difficult personnel transitions in Kiss’s history. Drummer Eric Carr, who had been with the group for a decade, passed away shorty before the recording of ‘Revenge’ after a battle with cancer. Soldiering on with new drummer Eric Singer, Kiss dedicated the album to his memory and in a most fitting tribute, ended it with ‘Carr Jam 1981,’ his only known studio-recorded drum solo.

Next: Motley Crue's 'Girls, Girls, Girls' Turns 25

Watch Kiss Perform ‘Unholy’

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