KISS – Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions
1997, Mercury Records
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3. “Master & Slave”
4. “Childhood’s End”
5. “I Will Be There”
7. “In My Head”
8. “It Never Goes Away”
9. “Seduction of the Innocent”
10. “I Confess”
11. “In the Mirror”
12. “I Walk Alone”
Paul Stanley – Vocals, Guitar
Gene Simmons – Vocals, Bass
Bruce Kulick – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Eric Singer – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Producer: Toby Wright, Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley
The subtitle of this album is a bit misleading as the only thing “final” about it is that it is the last studio recorded by the Stanley/Simmons/Kulick/Singer line-up and it is also the last album from the band’s non-makeup era. The album was recorded in late 1995/early 1996 and was scheduled for a release in ’96 but then the big reunion with the original four members took place and this album was quickly forgotten about… just not by the fans. Bootleg copies of the album began circulating and despite the fact that KISS had put the make up back on and Ace & Peter were back in, this album was quietly released this album in October of 1997 because of demand for it. “Jungle” was released as a single and actually made it to #8 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts, despite the fact that the band wasn’t really promoting the release and they certainly weren’t playing any of these songs live.
Carnival of Souls shows a band definitely trying to keep up with the times, much as they were doing in the 1980s. This time around, the band was mimicking the grunge/alternative rock scene, specifically bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. You can even hear elements of Black Sabbath. I can imagine “It Never Goes Away” during that band’s Tony Martin era. The tone of the music and the lyrics are angry, serious and heavy. It’s a bit weird seeing KISS look so grungy and dour on the cover of the album. This is one of the band’s heaviest albums and I actually think it’s one of their best as well. Admittedly, KISS was already in the process of toughening up their image in 1992 with Revenge, so Carnival of Souls is just the next step. To point out the Revenge connection even more, I’ve always felt that “Hate” & “I Will Be There” were the next evolution of “Unholy” & “Every Time I Look at You”.
Granted, when you think of KISS, the sound and style on Carnival of Souls is probably not what you’d expect (or even want) to hear from the band. When I first heard it, I thought was weird but there was still something about it. I kept spinning it over and over and I started to become a big fan of the album. My first time hearing the album was probably somewhere between 1998 and 2000 and it’s something I still reach for every now and then all these years later. Songs like “Hate”, “Master & Slave”, “Jungle”, “I Will Be There” and “I Walk Alone” (Bruce Kulick finally get to shine!) still randomly pop up my head and bring me back.
Had the reunion not taken place, it would have been interesting to see how this album would have been received had it gotten a full promotional push and if KISS would’ve continued with this sound. Carnival of Souls is something different but also something good.
Highlights: “Hate”, “Rain”, “Master & Slave”, “Childhood’s End”, “I Will Be There”, “Jungle”, “Seduction of the Innocent”, “I Confess”, “I Walk Alone”