I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
KISS—Creatures of the Night (1982)
KISS was one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970s, but their empire was on shaky ground as the decade turned. Two consecutive studio albums had failed to reach the lofty sales heights KISS was accustomed to—1980's radio-friendly Unmasked briefly cracked the top 40 but then struggled to reach Gold Record status, and 1981's disastrous concept album Music From "The Elder" sank without a trace.
The band was also struggling with personnel problems. Drummer Peter Criss was dismissed in 1980, and though the superior skills of his replacement Eric Carr had proved to be a musical shot in the arm, guitarist Ace Frehley was also looking for the exit door after the Elder debacle.
Amidst all this turmoil, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley realized that they'd managed to alienate much of their loyal fanbase by flirting with pop, disco, and art-rock on their past few records. They resolved that their next album—to be titled Creatures of the Night—would be a "back to basics" LP filled with the raucous hard-rock anthems that had been KISS' trademark.
KISS began recording Creatures in July of 1982 with producer Michael James Jackson (no relation to the "other" Michael Jackson), a prolific producer and songwriter with credits that included work for such diverse artists as Little Richard, the Animals, and Paul Williams. Due to Ace Frehley's lack of participation in KISS business at the time, the band produced Creatures as a trio, with a number of studio musicians contributing uncredited guitar leads.
One of these fill-in guitarists—Vincent Cusano, a.k.a. Vinnie Vincent—contributed heavily to the songwriting on the album and was eventually chosen to be Ace Frehley's permanent replacement, taking on an Egyptian styled "Ankh" makeup design for the subsequent concert tour. Several tracks were co-written with outside songwriters, including Adam Mitchell, Jim Vallance, and Bryan Adams (yes, that Bryan Adams!).
The resulting album was KISS' hardest rocking album since the glory days of the early '70s. Heavy metal was on the rise again at this time, thanks largely to the newly-created MTV network, and KISS certainly seemed poised to take advantage of its resurgence with Creatures.
Side 1 Tracks
The title track opens the album and immediately makes a bold "We're BACK!" statement. Featuring soaring vocals by Paul, it sets the album's tone and paves the way for Gene's first vocal contribution, the sinister "Saint and Sinner."
"Keep Me Comin'" suffers from an irritating chorus—but again, Paul is in great voice. Gene's "Rock and Roll Hell" is up next, and it's a satisfying slab of fire and brimstone rock with Simmons' growly vocals providing the usual amount of leering menace. "Danger" ends side 1 and is a fast-paced rocker with Paul screaming for all he's worth on the chorus.
Side 2 Tracks
Side 2 is mainly Gene's show. "I Love It Loud" starts things off, and this thumping anthem has gone on to become one of KISS' signature tunes. Yeah, the lyrics are ridiculous, but you can't argue with Eric Carr's cannon-fire drumming.
Things slow down a bit on the ballad "I Still Love You," which just may be the finest vocal performance of Paul Stanley's career. Listen to the way he wails out the chorus towards the end and see for yourself. "Killer" picks up the pace again with another crunchy riff and more thunderous Carr drum work, before closing with the absolutely bad-ass "War Machine," which echoes the grandeur of "God of Thunder" (from 1976's Destroyer).
When the smoke cleared at the end of this album, the message was obvious: KISS was firing on all cylinders, and they were packing enough ammunition to kick your ass into next week!
The Critical Reception
Creatures of the Night was met with tepid initial response upon its release. The album stalled after reaching #45 on the Billboard chart. Ticket sales for the Creatures U.S. tour were also less than spectacular. Several dates on the tour were played to half-empty arenas, while other shows were cancelled due to lack of interest.
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The band's profile may have been suffering in their homeland, but KISS learned that their overseas following was still as fanatical as ever when they traveled to Brazil in early 1983 and packed massive soccer stadiums with crowds that numbered in the hundreds of thousands. These Brazilian shows were the last concerts KISS would play in makeup till the 1996 reunion tour.
When KISS returned home, they prepared their next album (Lick It Up), publicly "unmasked" for MTV, and spent the next decade and a half rebuilding their brand without the war paint.
The Many Creatures Covers
The Creatures album cover has become one of the most iconic images in the KISS catalog, featuring the four band members' faces staring menacingly out at the viewer, bathed in an eerie blue glow. However, this image is totally inaccurate due to the presence of Ace Frehley in the cover photo. Ace had nothing to do with the making of Creatures, yet, due to behind-the-scenes contractual wrangling, he was still obligated to appear on the album cover and in the music video for "I Love It Loud." These would prove to be Ace's last activities as a member of KISS, as he was officially replaced by Vinnie Vincent by the end of 1982.
Adding to the confusion, Mercury/Polygram remixed and reissued Creatures in the mid '80s, to capitalize on their resurgence in popularity. The original cover was replaced by a new photo of the makeup-free quartet, including then-new guitarist Bruce Kulick—who didn't play on the album either! The original cover was reinstated when Creatures was remastered and reissued along with the rest of the KISS catalog in 1997.
Bootleg "Brazilian Promos"
In the mid-2000s, collectors began salivating over rumors of a newly discovered stash of so-called "Brazilian Promo" copies of Creatures that featured Vinnie Vincent in Ace Frehley's place on the cover, wearing his "Ankh" makeup. Legend had it that these "ultra rare" editions were only sold in Brazil when KISS performed their final shows in makeup there in early 1983.
The LPs quickly began fetching premium prices on eBay and other auction sites, until it was revealed that these so-called "Brazilian" pressings were merely the creation of a bootlegger with better-than-average airbrushing skills.
Summing It Up
Creatures' reputation has slowly grown over the years. KISS fans and band members alike agree today that it ranks as one of the band's finest hours. Gene Simmons has stated that KISS is best represented by three albums: Destroyer in the '70s, Creatures in the '80s, and Revenge in the '90s. The album was eventually awarded a Gold Record (for sales of 500,000 copies in the U.S.) in 1994, and songs from it still turn up in live sets to this day.
This writer feels that it's their most bad-ass record of the 1980s and quite possibly their most bad-ass album overall. Newcomers to the KISS Army (as well as anyone who might have passed on it the first time) are well advised to give this underrated classic a spin. As for everyone else . . . well, if it's too loud, you're too old!
© 2012 Keith Abt
Bjoern A on August 21, 2017:
Great review - even though you could have praised the sheer awesomeness of "Danger" a bit more. Anyway, I still can't get over the fact that the ten-year old me absolutely had no clue that these warp-speed, Floyd-Rose-heavy solos were NOT played by good old Ace ...
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 17, 2014:
Hi shramiac - you're probably right, since I wrote this piece I have learned that Bob Kulick worked with them on the four new songs that were added to the "Killers" compilation, which were recorded prior to the "Creatures" sessions.
shramiac on June 16, 2014:
Bob Kulick didn't play on the album! Danger and Keep Me Comin were often credited to Bob but were in fact played by Vinnie. Bob in a 2011 interview confirmed none of his playing is on the finished album.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 27, 2013:
Hi again, BlackDiamondCheesehead - thanks for your comments. Glad to hear "I Love It Loud" and "War Machine" are getting airtime on the current tour!!
BlackDiamondCheesehead on July 27, 2013:
I had the "non-makeup" cover cassette back in day - it was all you could get in the late '80's - lol.
One of KISS's most solid albums, for sure - and a great showcase for Eric Carr's power drumming skills. Most fans think this album saved their career - this or "Lick It Up" - so thanks, Vinnie Vincent - you earned your paycheck!
You Creatures fans will be happy to know "I Love It Loud" and "War Machine" feature on the latest Monster tour - saw it this week and these two songs were phenomenal!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 01, 2013:
Hi Keith - the debate on whether or not KISS is "metal" depends on which fan you talk to, haha. However you want to classify them, CREATURES was definitely their most METAL sounding record, if you know what I mean. Thanks for reading.
Keith Ham from Niagara Falls, Ontario on April 01, 2013:
I'm going to bite my tongue as to the fact of if KISS was anymore then Rock, if that. But hey, good article and lots of information. You love your music.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 31, 2013:
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on May 22, 2012:
Cool man, glad you liked it. KISS geeks unite!
OldWitchcraft from The Atmosphere on May 22, 2012:
Wow! Great info. on a great band - one of the first concerts I ever saw. Love these guys!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 13, 2012:
Last I checked, "I Love It Loud" from this LP still makes it into KISS set lists on occasion... no idea if they'll be playin' it on their upcoming tour though.
ScurvySkalliwag from Judith River, Montana on April 13, 2012:
The drum sound was "MONSTER" on this lp. I was privledged to see an ampitheater show this tour in So. Cal with Motley Crue opening up. It was a pleasant surprise when I heard the first sample of this lp on the radio. A DJ on KCAL FM in Redlands, Calif. played "Danger" on his late night show. I went down to GrooveTime Records the net day and bought it. Like Freddy stated, the opening tune made a statement. The KISS albums have always been trios to me. The first three studios. Destroyer, R n R over, and Love Gun. Then ya got Dynasty, Unmasked and (Music From) The Elder. All of which I dug on, by the way. Which then brings us to this trio of lps. Creatures, Lick it Up and Animalize. The "tres metallis" as I call them. I will also add that KISS would be smart to include some tunes from Creatures onthis upcoming "The Tour". They probably won't. KISS has unfortunately became calculated and pretty far removed from what fans would like to hear.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on January 17, 2012:
Thanx Brett. Sounds like you had a cool Dad!
Brett on January 17, 2012:
Great review! I love the hard edge that KISS gave to this album. I didn't get into KISS until 1985, but in contrast to several of the other people here, whose dads disapproved of their taste in music, I was able to boost my KISS collection by borrowing albums from my dad and taping them.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on January 15, 2012:
Thanx Manny. I experienced a similar reaction from my Dad many times when he'd pick me up at the Mall and I'd show him my latest LP or cassette acquisition -- "THIS is what you spend your money on? Good Lord." Haha.
mannyalice on January 15, 2012:
My favorite KISS album of all time, and the first KISS album I bought as a new release, when I brought into car, my dad just rolled as his eyes at the cover and my older sister sneered, 'God please tell me you don't like that heavy metal shit!'
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on January 12, 2012:
Hi QTR! Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad you dig!
QuothTheRaven on January 12, 2012:
Just recently started reading your hub. Great stuff! "Creatures" is one of my favorite KISS albums and I agree with your statement that "I Still Love You" might be Paul's best vocal of his career. The performance of that tune on "Unplugged" is absolutely stellar!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on January 11, 2012:
Hi Joker... thanx for stopping by as always... I had a vinyl LP of this album forever, I refused to buy that no-makeup version (with Paul Stanley's ass on the back cover!) so I didn't have it on CD till the remasters came out in the late 90s. Haha.
theJOKERiv on January 11, 2012:
Another great hub!!!!! Excellent review of an EXCELLENT album!!!! I remember picking it up on cassette as a new release and being blow away at how great of an album it was! I wore out the cassette and replaced it with vinyl. And bought the re-mastered CD. I never bought the make-up less cover since I already had bought the album twice at the point! The album should have been a much bigger hit than it was, but KISS had turned away so many fans with the previous 3 releases that it hadn't repaired the damage. On a side note, I was really pissed that my parents wouldn't let me go to concert (Dad didn't want me to go because of "drugs" at concerts) - I had a bunch of friends that went. Night Ranger opened that gig. And I missed it.....