No other hard rock band in the world today knows how to celebrate (and some might say “exploit”) their heritage quite like the New York Godfathers of shock rock, KISS.

I suppose the flood of modern-day ephemera all started with the release of their epic KISSTORY book around the time that the initially shelved ‘Carnival Of Souls’ album saw mainstays Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley reach out to their old band mates Peter Criss and Ace Frehley to set up the reunion tour to end all reunion tours.  During that record breaking worldwide adventure a bazillion and one merch ties ins hit the KISS Army from all angles with perhaps the series of truly excellent KISSOLOGY DVD box sets being the highlight of that era for yours truly. There have of course been many “End Of The Road” tours by the band since then, but as the rescheduled post-Covid shows made their way around the globe for one final time, up popped a series of (to date) four ‘From The Soundboard’ official bootlegs that have seen some career defining concerts from the band finally getting a general release. Even if the packaging on those releases leaves a lot to be desired.

Which is something you really cannot level at the Super Deluxe Edition box set the band released in 2021 to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of their ‘Destroyer’ album. Spread across multiple formats, it is the 73 track, 3CD and Blu-ray Audio version that really set the bar at an all new high for these kinds of releases. Packed full of exclusive posters, trading cards, plus a whole host of interesting nick-nacks all topped off by a fantastic 68-page book, what had most KISS fans reaching for their credit cards to acquire this bad boy, was the fact 48 of the 73 tracks were previously unreleased and ‘Destroyer’ itself had been newly remastered at Abbey Road Mastering Studios.

Releases like this obviously command a hefty price tag, but when it came to the ‘Destroyer’ box, I honestly think it was worth every penny of the £120 I paid for it. Something you sadly can’t always say these days when purchasing Deluxe Editions of albums (I’m looking at you Seal).

Fast forward to the summer of 2022 then, and whispers started to circulate of KISS doing something similar for the 40th Anniversary of their tenth studio album ‘Creatures Of The Night’. Expanded to 5CDs and once again with Blu-ray Audio, when the price point of the Super Deluxe Edition initially broke via KISS Online however it was enough to make even the most die-hard of fans take a deep breathe. BUT, with 103 tracks in total and with 75 tracks being unreleased, plus all the usual fare KISS excel in producing, I finally settled on securing a copy for around £230, which was far, far less than that original jaw dropping price point.  Of course, as always with KISS there are versions to fit every KISS Army member’s budget, and along with the Super Deluxe Edition there are also a 3 LP Deluxe, 2 CD Deluxe, 1 LP 180gm Half-Speed Master, 1 CD Remaster, as well as a 5 CD Super Deluxe Edition digital download and streaming plus a 2 CD digital download only version, oh and let’s not forget there’s also a colour vinyl exclusive too. Phew!

So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, ‘Creatures Of The Night’ really was the pivotal record that saw KISS once again reconnect with their core hard/heavy rock fanbase following a series of forays into such musical genres as disco, powerpop and indeed progressive-tinged concept rock. I remember hearing a couple of tracks from the album being previewed on Tommy Vance’s Friday Night Rock Show back in the day and even on my old beat-up ghetto blaster those tracks sounded HUGE, not least due to the pounding drums by the band’s newly acquired sticksfox Eric Carr. It is a testament to that infamous Michael James Jackson production job that it is that monstrous drum sound that immediately greets me like some long-lost friend as I sit back and play the album in full for the first time in ages. And, whilst Ace Frehley would feature on the original album cover and in the video to the album’s lead single ‘I Love It Loud’ it’s worth remembering that ‘Creatures’ the album is very much the sound of one Vinnie Vincent, working alongside Simmons and Stanley with the (by then) usual array of guest players, ranging from blues guitarist Robben Ford to Mr. Mister guitarist Steve Farris, to produce the heaviest KISS record to that point.

I’d honestly forgotten just how much of an impact this album (and the album that would follow it ‘Lick It Up’) had made on the fifteen-year-old me and hearing the likes of ‘Rock And Roll Hell’, ‘Saint and Sinner’ and ‘War Machine’ (a track the band have had on and off in their live set right up until the end) it’s great to hear Gene Simmons really at the top of his game before he then decided to become an actor, leaving Paul Stanley to run the band pretty much single-handedly through what would be commercially successful if the somewhat creatively sterile period during the mid to late 80s. Here on ‘Creatures’ though the Starchild turns in nothing short of a stellar performance on tracks like ‘Danger’ and ‘Keep Me Comin’ along with the band’s live showstopper for many years to follow, the emotional roller coaster that is, ‘I Still Love You’.

On the Super Deluxe Edition of ‘Creatures’ the original studio album is immediately followed by the four tracks the band had released earlier in 1982 as part of the ‘Killers’ compilation set, with all the tracks coming with Stanley lead vocals and ‘Nowhere To Run’ and ‘I’m A Legend Tonight’ perhaps being the standouts, it makes me wonder now why the post ‘Asylum’ years were perhaps such a big surprise to me when the early signs of what would become Stanley’s dominance of the KISS brand just a few years later were there all along.

It’s the previously unreleased tracks that many of you will be interested in within this set though, and like pretty much every other Super Deluxe Edition box set the 2 CDs included here are a bit of a mixed bag. When they are great, like the 3 Penny Lane demos of ‘Deadly Weapon’,  ‘Nowhere to Run’ and the funktastic ‘Feel Like Heaven’ (which sees Gene channelling his inner Freddie Mercury via song he would later gift to Peter Criss for his ‘Let Me Rock You’ album) then these curios really do excel, but by contrast there’s only so many “Takes” and “Alternative Mixes” that I can stomach, especially when you know just how good the finished product turned out to be.

Also worthy of your interest here though are four Gene demo(n)s ranging from the MOR/AOR pop of ‘Something Seems To Happen At Night’ through to the anthemic ‘It’s My Life’, a song which would initially go on to feature on the Simmons produced Wendy O Williams’ ‘WOW’ album recorded in 1984. I’m guessing some of these must have featured in Simmons ‘Vault’ set too, but that mammoth collector’s piece was way too expensive for me to ever consider buying it.  What I did buy though (pretty much on the day of release) was the ‘Lick It Up’ album, and the demo of ‘Not For The Innocent’ included here is one that is markedly different to the album version, containing a different opening, and a Simmons/Stanley duel vocal rather than a Simmons solo vocal, which unlike the multiple takes/mixes etc is the kind of thing I do find very interesting indeed.

With the aforementioned Soundboard series of releases that KISS have been releasing over the past year or so, CDs 4 and 5 of this Super Deluxe Edition feature the Creatures Tour Live ‘82/’83 set pulled together from three shows recorded in Sioux City, Rockford and Houston and are very much in keeping with the spirit of those soundboard quality releases. So, if you’ve enjoyed those, the chance to finally own an officially approved Vinnie Vincent line up live show must be a bit of a no-brainer really. There are 20 choice cuts contained within the main set with 5 blistering versions of songs from ‘Creatures Of The Night’ standing proud alongside older fan favourites like ‘Strutter’, Gold Gin’, the amazing ‘I Want You’ and perhaps the best set closing song ever written, ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’. There are 6 additional live cuts too, which are basically 5 songs from the main set captured on different nights plus a version of ‘King Of The Night Time World’ recorded in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, all making for a very compelling live listening experience indeed. And if you like KISS sounding red raw and just a little rough around the edges then this set really is for you. Plus, if you fancy staging your own version of the set at home (dressed up as your favourite KISS member of course) there’s the 7 sound effects used during the tour to excite the inner nerd in you.

I just wish my inner nerd could have been reviewing the full finished box set for you though, but as this release has been delayed until the 25th of November, and I’m having to review this from a stream sent to me by UMC.

Look, I’m not grizzling here, far from it, I’ve really enjoyed listening to this deep dive into one of my all-time favourite KISS albums, I just can’t wait to get hold of my pre-ordered copy now and hear the Blu-ray Audio disc in all its glory, as it not only showcases the first-ever Atmos and 5.1 surround mixes from the original album multi-tracks, but also a high-resolution newly remastered 1982 stereo mix of the original album.

I still love you ‘Creatures Of The Night’, I really bloody do.

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Author: Johnny Hayward