Why Paul Stanley Was ‘Dead Set’ Against Kiss’ ‘Carnival of Souls’
Try as he might, Paul Stanley was unable to break Kiss' trend-chasing ways when it came time to record 1997's Carnival of Souls.
"I was dead-set against doing that kind of an album," Stanley said of the heavily grunge-influenced effort in the 2001 book Kiss: Behind the Mask. "I never believed the world needs a second-rate Soundgarden, Metallica or Alice in Chains."
However, Stanley ultimately acquiesced to the desires of his longtime bandmate Gene Simmons, who was enthralled with the early '90s alternative-rock revolution. "Gene and I had discussions where he said, 'I want to be like Billy Corgan!" producer Toby Wright recalled in the same book. "They were looking for something a little darker, a little edgier, more angry."
It wasn't the first time Kiss had attached themselves to an era's biggest musical trend to increase their popularity. Each time they reached for these golden rings – including the full-on disco of 1979's "I Was Made for Lovin' You," the Pink Floyd-aping 1981 concept album flop Music From 'The Elder' and the Bon Jovi-inspired keyboard pop of 1987's Crazy Nights – Kiss wound up having to course-correct with a straight-up hard rock record such as 1982's Creatures of the Night.
Listen to Kiss' 'Rain'
They'd just completed such a recovery with 1992's Bob Ezrin-produced Revenge, but when it came time to record a follow-up Simmons was eager to strike out into new territory once again.
"Was it as honest and authentic as our other stuff? No. It's like going to another country," Simmons admitted to UCR in 2021. "You love the way East Indians dance, and you go, 'Oh, that's cool.' Then you get up on the dance floor and you try to do it. Can I dance as well as somebody who has been dancing East Indian dances all of their lives? No."
Several tracks on Carnival of Souls effectively mix the more serious approach of grunge with the heavy riffing of Revenge – most notably their lead single "Jungle" and the Bruce Kulick guitar showcase "In My Head." But the sludgy pace and gloomy mood of tracks such as "Rain" and "It Never Goes Away" aren't the most natural fit for the band's skills.
In addition to disagreeing about the new album's direction, Simmons and Stanley were distracted during its recording by discussions about a potentially lucrative reunion of Kiss' original lineup.
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"Gene and Paul’s attention by the time the record was being mixed was [with] the reunion tour," Kulick told EON Music in 2022. Drummer "Eric Singer and myself speak many times about when we look at Carnival of Souls, a lot of the rough mixes after we recorded sounded closer to Revenge – because Toby took it one more step when he mixed it."
When the return of Ace Frehley, Peter Criss and the band's famous makeup was made public in early 1996, Carnival of Souls was shelved. Bootleg copies of the album began circulating among collectors, however, and Kiss rather unceremoniously released it on Oct. 28, 1997. A new extended title, Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions, commemorated the end of their non-makeup era.
The original lineup quickly began packing stadiums and arenas all over the world, so there was no tour in support of the LP, which made little dent on the charts and quickly faded into obscurity. According to Setlist.fm, the band has never played a single song from Carnival of Souls – even during their rarities-heavy Kiss Kruise performances.
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