KISS followed up their strong Lick It Up (1983) album with another winner, 1984′s Animalize. It was to be the only KISS album to feature Mark St. John (guitar) as a KISS member. St. John’s stay with KISS was short-lived, as he was unable to tour the album due to a rare affliction called Reiter’s Syndrome, which hindered his ability to play guitar. (He was replaced by Bruce Kulick.) Mark St. John, unlike previous KISS guitarists Ace Frehley and Vinnie Vincent, did not write any material for KISS. It seems Mark St. John was but a hired gun. St. John passed away in 2007.
There seemed to be plenty of turmoil in the KISS camp during the early to mid eighties. There was sagging sales (which ended with the success of Lick It Up), instability at the guitar position, and reports that Gene Simmons’ dedication to the band was waning due to his delusions of Hollywood grandeur. Throughout it all, there stood Paul Stanley, the true heart and soul of KISS. The glue. The straw that stirred the drink. And in my opinion, it was Paul Stanley that made Animalize a rock solid KISS album. First of all, Paul Stanley produced Animalize (not very well I might add, more on that in a bit), but hey, at least he got the job done. Paul Stanley was also responsible for the album’s three best songs; I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire), Heaven’s On Fire, and Get All You Can Take. I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) kicks off Animalize in fine fashion. This high-energy tune (co-written by Stanley and Desmond Child) would have made a great montage song in one of the Rocky movies. I can imagine Rocky Balboa training for his big fight with Drago with I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) blaring through the speakers. F*CK YOU DRAGO! YOU KILLED APOLLO! After this kick-ass album opener comes Heaven’s On Fire, the biggest “hit” from Animalize. Again a Stanley/Child composition, this song is catchier than crabs on a tour bus thanks to the unforgettable chorus “chant”. Get All You Can Take was the fourth cut on side one of Animalize. Another high-octane rocker, this song was co-written by Stanley and Mitch Weissman. It was another “pump-you-up” song with lyrics about lapping up the best of life (much like Lick It Up). Gotta love Paul Stanley working that F-bomb seamlessly into the chorus! The first F-bomb on a KISS track? There were two other Paul Stanley tracks on Animalize that I haven’t mentioned; Under The Gun and Thrills In The Night. The first, a rather ordinary speedster, the latter the album’s weak sauce second single (released after Heaven’s On Fire). I think releasing Thrills In The Night was not a great choice. The song seems to lack any real spark. I read a great review of Animalize (written by Erik Rupp, here’s a link) in which the reviewer quibbles that Eric Carr didn’t use the snare drum in the song’s chorus, which seemed to weaken the song’s impact. Great point, and I agree with the reviewer. This song just doesn’t cut it for me.
Gene Simmons’ contributed four songs to Animalize, none of which were particularly mind-blowing, though they weren’t too bad either. I actually like the much-maligned Burn Bitch Burn. Sure, Gene’s lyrics and vocal delivery were retarded as hell (as was pretty much everything originating from Simmons’ whoring mouth hole), but the chorus (sung by Paul) seems to come out of nowhere to slap my ass. Gene’s Lonely Is The Hunter is probably my least favorite track on the album.
As I mentioned above, I don’t think Paul Stanley’s production job was all that great on Animalize. To me, this album is all mid-range; lacking in both a definitive bottom end and bright treble. Furthermore, the guitars sound muddy and dull. Nevertheless, I find Animalize to be a very good KISS album, and I prefer it over its two predecessors; Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up. My score: B+