When we were Animalized

Some of the more popular posts on this blog have been the remix posts. I realise that this is in part because the posts about Double Platinum have been linked to on Wikipedia and Discogs, but there’s been quite a lot of traffic apart from that. People seem to like these deep dives into some aspects of the recordings and minor details in songs they (may have) never noticed almost as much as I enjoy writing them! About a year ago I put together a little something for the Swedish fan club magazine Destroyer which detailed my entry into KISS fandom by way of Animalize. It was a piece of writing that, apart from a general story of my childhood as it related to KISS, delved deep into a lot of musical aspects of the album that made me a fan. This post is an abridged and slightly altered version of that article.

Which way drums?

Back in the first installement on the Double Platinum remixes I looked at the two basic ways of mixing drums: player or audience perspective. Fun fact about Animalize, it has a different stereo perspective depending on the pressing/CD issue you happen to put on. Just to be perfectly clear this is NOT how things usually go. Unless there’s a Double Platinum-style remix the stereo field doesn’t just change and if it does it usually that individual parts are moved a little within the stereo field. Different pressings will use the same 2-track stereo master and different CD issues will work from the same 2-track stereo digital file so the overall panning will almost always be the same. But something went wrong with Animalize.

If you compare original 1984 pressings of AnimalizeI have the English Vertigo pressing (VERL 18/822 415-1) and a Dutch Casablanca/Phonogram (822 495-1) at my dispoal—you will, not surprisingly, find the same stereo field. The drums are in audience perspective: the hi-hat is on the right of the stereo spectrum and tom rolls high-to-low pan from right to left. It’s like you’re standing in front of Eric while he plays. The first CD issue in 1987 (Casablanca 822 495-2) was the same and if you listen to the Animalize songs on Chikara or Smashes, Thrashes & Hits you’ll find this same perspective.

And then came the 1997 Remaster (Mercury 558 859-2) and, lo and behold, the stereo field has been reversed. (Animalize was actually part of the batch of remasters that was released in 1998 but I prefer to view them all as 1997. It’s an OCD thing, as is taking the time to write an ellipsis detailing this.) Something went wrong during or after the analog-to-digital transfer and the channels were flipped. It’s a bit like putting your ear buds in the wrong ear, on the 1997 Remaster the hi-hat is on the left and the tom rolls pan from left to right. (It’s a shame that CDs quit using the SPARS code after a while, it would have been interesting to see how the 1997 Remaster would have been labeled.) As of this writing (December 2022) this ”player perspective” version of Animalize is the one that is on Spotify.

If that was the only weird thing and any digital issues after the Remaster had that flipped perspective it would be bad enough. Just a bone-headed mistake that had some ”minor” repercussions. But this is KISS and if this blog has managed to show anything at all it is that things are never simple with this band. A quick look at some later CD issues (in chronological order) reveals complete confusion. The Animalize songs on The Box Set (2001) have the hi-hat on the left but the 20th Century Masters compilation (2004) has the hi-hat on the right. The Japanese Animalize SHM-CD (2008)? Hi-hat on the right. And lastly, the compilation 40 Years: Decades of Decibels (2014) has the hi-hat on the left.

The explanation here is that this all comes down to which analog-to-digital transfer has been used in each project. The original CD from 1987 had one transfer and the 1997 Remaster had another. The person tasked with putting together, say, The Box Set simply picked one. In one sense this is fine. It doesn’t really detract from the listening experience and it’s a weird but cool wrinkle. There is a fairly decent chance that this is the only album in existence where we can listen to different stereo perspectives without having to use a DAW and flip the channels ourselves. But in one specific sense this is not OK. See, the 2014 Back to Black Remaster (Mercury 00602537715473) is a vinyl pressing and it has the hi-hat on the left. That almost certainly means that the analog vinyl was mastered from a digital file! Egad! Bad form! It’s possible but highly unlikely that the Back to Black Remaster was done using all analog material. But it would have been the work of a truly sick mind to switch the channels of a 2″ tape during mastering.

(The 2014 vinyl Remaster is all kinds of wrong. I don’t know about you but I think it’s borderline travesty to alter the KISS logo on the front cover like that. Didn’t notice? Put any pre-2014 vinyl issueor CD, or cassette with the animal hide coverside-by-side with the 2014 Remaster and look closely at the logo. Again, bad form!)

I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire)

This song kicks all kinds of ass! Even though the riff and the accents are just variations of a hard rock staple it’s just so good. It grabs the listener by the throat right away and when Mark hits that natural harmonic (which is doubled) and slowly dips his whammy bar before going into the intro solo… I don’t know about you but I was along for the ride from the moment I first heard this song in 1985. And about that first solo. It belies the standard knock on Mark St. John that he couldn’t play the same thing twice because that entire lead is doubled. The ”problem” with Mark seems to have been that he was averse to constructing solos from his improvised takes. He came from a completely different school of playing, one rooted in fusion, where the improvisation was, if not paramount, then at least highly valued. Planning and writing a solo wasn’t really part of his style and that’s where he ran afoul of the way KISS used to work. It’s not that he couldn’t play the same thing twice, he had, after all, played in a top 40-style band; rather, he had an idea of what it meant to be a rock lead guitarist, and that idea was that off-the-cuff leads was the shit. But we’ll get back to that.

In interviews for the album Paul said that the album title Animalize was a comment on the rising popularity of sequencer-based music. ”Real” rock ‘n roll wasn’t technically perfect och machine-like, it was forged in the sweat of humans playing actual instruments. Nowhere is this human element more apparent than on I’ve Had Enough (Into the Fire). Eric has to work hard with the sixteenth-note hi-hat work throughout this song. He reinforces the snare hits with the kick but the hi-hat work means that he often ends up a little late on the snare which gives rise to a flamming-type effect. It lends a slight feel of uncertainty to the song which is amplified by the somewhat unconventional note choices in the bass line.

The bass line in the chorusthe main riff reallyhas a slight dissonance. The guitars play four muted sixteenths and then an 8th note power chord so it’s basically revolving around a dotted quarternote. Against this the bass plays a riff that centers on straight quarters. (It’s more rhythmically nuanced than that but for all intents and purposes it ”reads” as a straight quarter-note bass line.) That’s heavy metal/hard rock playbook 101, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Nor is playing what amounts to a pedal tone E. It’s the end of the phrase that matters. Each two bar phrase the bass plays ends on a D while the guitar plays an E5 for the first round and D5 for the repeat. Listen closely to one of the choruses and you’ll hear how the first repeat of the riff, right at the vocal line ”…into the FIRE”, rubs the wrong way while the second, at ”…stopping ME NOW”, feels right, like a release of sorts. It’s unconventional and more harmonically adventurous than KISS have usually been.

The general consensus is that Paul played the bass on this song but that doesn’t feel right, I have a really hard time seeing that he would have made these choices. That dissonance seems out of character for him. (That said, the mistake in the bassline just before the chorus in C’mon And Love Me was left in.) No, I think that Mark played the bass here. To his ears, coming as he did from a Holdsworthian school which is infinitely more harmonically complex than almost all hard rock/heavy metal, this dissonance was just par for the course. (And it’s not an uncommon move in r’n’b or jazz to have this type of harmony.) In an unpublished interveiw for the fanzine KISS Force (partially quoted by Carl Linnaeus in his book Den Osminkade Sanningen) Eric had this anecdote about the recording of Animalize:

I think he was just over-qualified, you know. […] They get a little arrogant, they get a little derogatory, which is what was happening [with Mark], you know. […] Gene offered Mark the chance to play bass on Exciter [sic.]… that’s what it was. Just to make him feel good and because he was fast enough to do the part. He [Mark] was doing it and I was sitting next to him in the control room and Gene was right next to me. And he played like a passing note going into a verse coming out of a chorus. And then he stopped the tape, you know, to take a rest. And I said, you know, there was a note in there that sounded wrong. And he got defensive and arrogant right away. And I said, ”Look, I understand, I play guitar, I understand music”, I said, ”the note itself may be the correct note that fits, you know, passing through the chord, but to my ears it sounds like a mistake. People may think it’s a mistake”. And, quote-un-quote, he goes ”How the f**k would you know? You play the drums, you don’t know what the f**k you’re talking about. […] And, Gene almost fell out of his chair. He [Gene] tried to be, you know, nice and diplomatic about it.

Interview with KISS Force June 1985

In the interview Eric claimed he got so angry he had to leave the room for fear of physically hurting Mark. Now, Eric obviously got the name of the song wrong but I think it’s reasonable to think that he just picked the wrong first song on an album and that he actually meant I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire). There are really only two fast songs on Animalize and it seems harder to mistake Under The Gun for Exciter. We obviously don’t know if Mark’s part and that note choice was retained, but I think this anecdote refers to the D against E5 dissonance I mentioned above. But, in the interest of completeness we should note that when Mark was later interviewed by KISS Asylum he had this to say.

My musical background, you know, I have some schooling and a lot of foundation of fundamentals in music and harmony and theory. KISS’s musical backgrounds is, well… it’s like street, you know? Half the stuff they say they can’t explain, and it’s [harmonically] wrong. And I’d try to help them and they’d be like, ”What do you mean that note is wrong? Do you know who we are?” They get into that type of thing… ”do you know who we are?” Stupid stuff like that. Ok, fine. Play that wrong note that’s not in the scale, I don’t care. They don’t understand things musically. They don’t hear things.

KISS Asylum interview 1999

Since there are vanishingly few instances of dissonance on most KISS albumsLick It Up is the outlier in that Vinnie added a lot of itit seems likely that Mark was talking about this particular song. But if Mark had ”a lot of foundation of fundamentals in music and harmony and theory” he wouldn’t have thought that the note played in the bass wasn’t ”in the scale”. D is the flattened seventh in the E minor scale, and theoretically a Em7/D chord isn’t odd. It just doesn’t sound like we’re used to. The same is true of the F# against C in the verse and the bridges that flank the guitar solo. It is technically dissonant in that it is played together with the G so that it becomes an add#11 (no 3rd), but it’s part of the E minor scale so it’s perfectly fine within the overall tonality of the song. Plus, it sounds AWESOME in both places. Try as I might I can’t find any other places on Animalize where there are notes that could be deemed ”wrong” so Mark’s quote is a little puzzling.

(This actually hinges on a farily common misconception about music theory. It’s often been touted as a badge of honor for some musicians that ”I don’t even read music” and that they have no use for theory. This attitude stems from a belief that knowing music theory is somehow limiting for a musician; that knowing theory somehow forces you to ”paint by numbers” and that knowledge of theory will stifle creativity. Music theory is descriptive, not prescriptive. That is, it allows us to describe and communicate the harmonic content of a piece of music but it doesn’t force rules on a musician. Music theory will allow us to understand why some things sound good to us and others don’t, and it will allow us to follow rules of, say, baroque music if we so choose. But generally speaking there are no wrongs in music theory. If we play a certain note that might not appeal to everyone, all that changes as far as music theory is concerned, is what we call it.)

Heaven’s On Fire

This is such a simple song. No dissonance, no odd time signatures (which appear elsewhere on the album), no weird ”angular” lead guitar. Just a simple, straight-up rock song. It might be a little cumbersome for a guitarist to tune to open-G to play it but when about 90% of the song can be played using only one finger (barred across varying number of strings), it is totally worth it. The song-writing, good as it may be, is not the star here though. That becomes obvious when listening to various cover versions, none of which, to my ears at least, come even close to the original. What makes the KISS version of Heaven’s On Fire such a great song is the drumming.

When we think of Eric Carr’s drumming I think most people instinctively think of the energy he brought to live performances. How the tempo increased but the execution never suffered (notably) because of it. That’s fair. Animalize Live Uncensored is an awesome watch partially because of the energy Eric provided. But I would like to focus on another aspect of Eric’s playing with KISS, one which has not granted him the praise it deserved: his groove and variation. In a nutshell, Eric’s work on the ”semi fast” songs is outstanding. Listen to songs like I Love It Loud, Not For The Innocent, On The 8th Day, or Heaven’s On Fire with a slightly analytical ear and you’ll hear a few things.

First, the hi-hat work. Even though Eric tended to work with straight eight-note hi-hat work on this type of song he varied how he played those parts depending on the section of the song. For verse parts he had a subtle swing (or groove) to the straight eights, the parts almost ”bounce” along. (A good example is actually Get All You Can Take.) He also had a tendency to accentuate so that the hits in between kick and snare hits were slightly emphasized and he didn’t close his hats as hard for verse parts. Once the chorus hit he tightened up the hi-hat a bit and played it more straight. Second, the placement of the snare hits. It’s subtle but for verse parts on ”semi fast” song Eric often delayed the snare—either the one on the ”2”, the one on the ”4”, or both—ever so slightly for a slightly laid-back feel. And then, for the chorus, he moves those snare hits up a little so that the beat is more machine-like and driving. (At times it feels as if he’s even a little early on the snare on choruses.) It’s a brilliant variation that manages to impart a little more energy to the choruses simply because the feel is slightly different.

On Heaven’s On Fire he doesn’t really do this. He still has the hi-hat slightly open for the verse, but he accentuates each quarter-note rather than the eights in between. In fact, he accentuates those hits so much that at times it sounds as if he’s just playing quarter notes on the hi-hat even though the part is straight eight notes. Here he also plays the snares fairly straight in the verse. Instead he changes things up for the chorus. He delays the snare on the ”2” quite a bit which really pulls the listener along, you’re drawn along with the vocal. Listen to it, you’ll find yourself kind of waiting for that snare, especially after the syncopated kick-and-toms. (You’ll feel it most right at ”…BU-URN with me”.) This contrasts nicely with how straight he plays the pre-chorus and the bridge. The man really was an absolute beast of a drummer. Plus, he had f***ing panther heads on his bass drums for the European Tour in support of this album. Legendary.

Get All You Can Take

I want to focus on the guitar solo here. Paul’s co-writer Mitch Weissman is the person who has spoken the most about this song through the years and he has also said the most startling thing. In Greg Prato’s boook Take It Off—KISS Truly Unmasked Weissman claimed that Paul played the guitar solo: ”Mark St. John could not get it, so on ‘Get All You Can Take,’ Paul actually plays lead”. When I read that my knee-jerk reaction was to ignore it. There is nothing in Paul’s playing before or since that suggests that he has the techincal ability to play like that, nor do I think he would have played something so disjointed. I have a feeling that Weissman might have been a little careless with how he expressed himself or that Prato chose to cherry-pick the quote to make it more sensational. When Weissman related the same anecdote to Mike Brunn in March 2021 the story was a little different: ”some of it is Mark, some of it is Paul. […] Get All You Can Take was a great comp of mostly Paul and a little bit of Mark”.

There is at least one outtake floating around on which Mark seems to be trying out things and he basically plays a variant of the solo that ended up on the album. Several of the basic elements of the solo on the recorded version are present but in a not-quite-finished way. In Face The Music Paul is quoted saying ”When I was recording with Mark I found that there was no thread. To get something that followed a direction was very difficult. Sometimes there were notes and passages that didn’t quite work so I would record little parts of my own and piece it together”. Thus it seems likely that this guitar solo is a composite of a few takes from Mark with added ”sweetening” from Paul. It sure sounds as if someone pieced it together.

Considering how much work Paul evidently had to do to put together serviceable guitar solos, and I think we hear some composite work on some of the other leads as well, it’s mindboggling that they offered Mark a five-year contract straight up. We obviously know what the party line was at the time. Everyone can recite the line about playing Beethoven and making it sound like the ultimate boogie. (Which, I must admit, I can’t see as entirely relevant to playing in KISS but whatever.) In a 1984 interview Eric said that Mark was ”absolutely astounding on guitar, he’s brilliant. And he’s got a really good sense of melody too”. It’s a little hard to appreciate that ”good sense of melody” in most of Mark’s solos because they feel so disjointed. There are some absolutely wonderful melodic nuggets here and there—the lick at 2:52 in Get All You Can Take is a good example—but they are never allowed to develop, Mark just runs headlong into some more fast runs and heavy whammy bar work. Except for the solos on I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) and possibly Thrills In the Night I don’t think that Mark’s solos have any real flow. (His work with White Tiger was more straight-forward but they were still mainly fast runs and heavy whammy bar abuse.) According to that 1984 interview with Eric they actually auditioned a few guitarists so one has to wonder what they saw in Mark that none of the others had. Talking to Rock Fever in 1985 Paul said that ”I got tapes from ten [guitar plyers]. We listened to them but most of them sounded like clones of other people. […] What was great about Mark was that there was something distinctive about what he was doing.” Guess we can’t really argue that point, the work Mark did on Animalize doesn’t sound like anybody else.

Under The Gun

The drum sound on this album isn’t conducive to double bass drum playing. Eric rarely used his double bass drums on KISS songs but here they drive the song and it doesn’t really work. There’s too much low end and not enough attack. Michael James Jackson was involved in Animalize but unlike the previous two albums he only worked on the drums. (He was scheduled to produce Armored Saint.) The basic sound MJJ got is excellent, I especially like the toms which has a really nice attack. But the kick is a lot like on Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up in that it is a really solid hard rock kick with a lot of body. Overall this worked really well but not here. You can hear the difference in the first ten seconds of this song. The kick-and-cymbal hits in the beginning sound really good, there’s both a nice edge (attack) and body to the kick. But once Eric hits the double kicks the hits all start bleeding together, the attack can’t ”penetrate” the low end so it ends up sounding more like an indistinct rumbling. The kick drum sound for this song could have used a little tweaking.

Under The Gun has my favorite drum fill on Animalize. Something that I think defined Eric’s tenure in the band is that the drum sound for any given album inspired him to play a certain way, he tailored his playing to the sound he got in the studio. On Creatures Of The Night the ridiculously bombastic drum sound led to Eric play a certain type of fill. I always think of it like an elephant walking down a flight of stairs and tripping on a step or two. The fills are kind of lumbering. For Lick It Up Michael James Jackson managed to get a sound that had a very even attack across all the toms and Eric responded by playing more traditional, high-to-low sixteenth note rolls. Just listen to Gimme More, Eric pretty much plays the same fill the entire song. On Animalize Eric’s fills lived on the higher toms.

I doubt that Eric suddenly had twelve extra high toms but that’s kind of what it sounds like. The lower toms and the floor toms are used quite a lot but mainly as part of a beat—like the chorus of Heaven’s On Fire—and the fills are all high toms. There is more or less a signature fill on this album, a fill where Eric kind of ”revs up” the start: BrrrA-da-ba-da-Ba-da. You can hear it at 1:03 in Murder In High Heels and a variation of it after about 5 seconds of I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire). There are a few fills similar to that signature fill in the middle of Under The Gun but the most awesome (and funniest) moment comes at the end of that section, right before the guitars solo starts. At 2:15, after some really nice playing, it’s as if Eric suddenly gets stuck on one of his highest toms and just does a kind of quarter note count-in to the guitar solo. It’s so unexpected and easy to miss. But once you hear it it will bring a smile to your face every time you play the song.

Thrills In The Night

This song was such a missed opportunity. The ideas here are just wonderful. A good verse, a superlative pre-chorus and a good hook. (Have you ever noticed how three of the four singles issued from Lick It Up and Animalize had the same basic idea, that the chorus melody just mirrors the guitar riff?) But Paul didn’t manage to get the parts to really fit together, it doesn’t form as cohesive a song as they could have. And this is fairly uncommon for a Paul song. He was a craftsman, a tinkerer, when it came to song-writing. He didn’t write ideas, he wrote SONGS. That’s partly why we have so few demos of Paul’s, he prefered to finalize a song and then record it. In this case he wasn’t quite finished.

Now, before I get hate mail from Thrills In The Night fans I should probably explain. The problem is in the transition to the chorus. Most of the song have riffs that are played fairly ”straight”, they start on the ”one”. The verse riff has a little eight note pickup but it’s still a straight riff. The same is true of the pre-chorus right until the vocal line ”livin’ inside”. The rhythm changes there so that the last bar is two dotted quarters and then the D5 lands on the ”4”. And there’s the rub. The vocals (”Thrills in the…”) start on the syncopated eight note at the end of that bar but the backing track—drums, bass, guitars—land on the ”one” of the next bar. It just doesn’t feel right. It feels much better when the backing track hits that syncopation along with the vocals. (Compare the transition at 1:54-1:56 to the repeat at 2:11-2:14. The latter just flows better.)

And Paul knew that something wasn’t quite right. There is a rehearsal of Thrills In The Night available to us and after the band has played through the song Paul bluntly states that ”I’m not sure if some of these are supposed to be pushed or not”. They really should have been ”pushed” (syncopated) and this is just the sort of thing where a traditional producer probably would have provided valuable input. Left to his own devices Paul chose poorly and the song suffers (slightly) because of it. When the band rehearsed the song for live performance the increase in tempo made this issue slightly more palatable and, despite some rough edges, I think the Animalize Live Uncensored version kicks the studio version’s a**.

As I wrote about when I looked at how the videos fared on MTV, this song/video was part of that weird group of songs where they released a single, recorded a video, and then proceded to not really play the song live. (We know of only three (3) occasions when Thrills In The Night was played live.) It’s such a weird choice. Even if we put aside the economic ramifications of putting out a single release, making the video cost money. Especially since they had to scrap the concept footage they shot in Lousiville, Kentucky. I understand if they felt that it didn’t quite work live, that can happen. If we’re honest with ourselves Paul doesn’t sound very good on the ”untouched” radio broadcast from Detroit and we know he thought it was hard to sing and play this song at the same time, so it makes sense. But show some grit. The song was the current commercial single and, despite my misgivings about the syncopation, it’s a really catchy song. And they could really have used some decent single sales and airplay to help boost album sales and recoup the money spent on the video. (Animalize had held fairly steady in the 20s on the Billboard album charts but was just starting a long, slow decline when the video for Thrills In The Night hit MTV.) Alas, it was not to be.

We also have to talk about the lead guitar on this song. I often describe Mark’s work on Animalize as angular (as opposed to linear); it veers whichever way at the drop of a hat and hardly ever develops any thematic movement. Except in I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) Mark’s fast playing also has a tendency to not follow the beat in any obvious way, he seems more invested in playing certain figures/clusters of notes than any specific rhythmic ideas. The guitar solos on Thrills In The Night are nothing like that. Here we find clearly defined phrases that stick fairly closely to sixteenths and sixteenth note triplets and the phrases follow the repeats of the riff. If you listen to the rehearsal above again and listen to the solo it’s just wildly going all over the place with nary a place for the listener to catch their breath. There is a later studio outtake with scat vocals which has an even worse guitar solo (and missing the intro solo).

Point is, even if Paul was wielding a whip I seriosuly doubt that he could have gotten the Thrills In The Night solo out of Mark. There are some elements in those rehearsals, specifically some fast pull-off runs and some whammy bar stuff, that are similar to what ended up on Animalize, but the majority of the licks are nowhere to be found. Not even close. There is also a tapped run at 3:02 that sounds so much like some of Bruce’s work on Asylum it’s not even funny. Problem is that Bruce, who has the best memory out of any of the members of the band, has never claimed to have played on Thrills In the Night. But maybe he was asked to put down some licks and then never told that some of them were used? I’m obviously just talking out of my a** here but I can’t see either of the guitar solos on Thrills In The Night coming from Mark.

Lastly, here’s a fun little exercise. Listen to the studio version of Thrills In The Night and count the number of times Eric actually hits the snare. I promise it’s a lot fewer than you thought!

While The City Sleeps

Eric obviosuly isn’t listed as a co-writer here but his playing makes this song too. Remember what I said about delaying the snare just a tad? Eric uses that to perfection here and the main riff gets a completely different feel in different sections because of it. In the verses Eric allows the beat to ”breathe” a little during the first two bars of the riff by delaying the snare on the ”4” just a little. This combines with how the vocal line is structured and the listener is kind of left ”hanging”, waiting for that snare hit. Then Eric straightens the beat a little for the remaning two bars. Pay attention to the variation in the hi-hat here as well. It’s a bit more laid back during those first two bars but for the second 2-bar section he tightens the hat a bit and doesn’t really vary the hits which makes the part more driving.

Compare this to the guitar solo. Eric plays the snare hit on the ”4” straight throughout and there’s a slight change in the accents on the hi-hat which makes for a driving beat. It’s still the same guitar riff, but it hits differently because of how the drums play behind it. Did I mention that Eric was a beast? Unfortunately the snare sound on some songs on Animalize is the worst kind of 80s snare. There’s the required big reverb that’s cut off by a hard gate but on some songs it sounds as if there’s a mild phasing effect as well. This becomes painfully obvious in the verses of While The City Sleeps where that snare hit on the ”4” is so solitary and sounds so unnatural. But it’s hard to fault it, that was just the way mixes worked. In 1984 drums were supposed to be BIG.

This is one of my favorite solos on the album. It sounds more planned out than the stuff that I assume Mark played and it sticks closer to the beat. A lot of Mark’s playing sounds improvised in the sense that he often comes in a little late and doesn’t seem interested in taking cues from the riffs he played over. As I noted above I usually describe Mark’s playing as ”angular” and the one time I think the angular approach works is in Burn Bitch Burn. That riff has a stop/start quality so the abrupt changes of phrase kind of match the overall feel. Anyway, the phrases in the solo in While The City Sleeps has a little ”pickup” before the ”one” and the use of open strings for some licks doesn’t strike me as Mark at all (unless he had gotten input from Paul). There’s still some fairly heavy whammy bar abuse but for some reason it works better here. I’ve found nothing in interviews to suggest that this solo isn’t Mark but to my ears it sounds a little too ”neat” to be him. Could be that this is a Mark/Paul composite as well.

I’ve seen that some are of the opinion that KISS would have made a better album if Bruce had been hired instead of Mark in April but I don’t agree at all. Bruce’s (known) contributions to Animalize are really good. His style is more linear than Mark’s was at the time, it sounds more like we expect from a guitar solo in a hard rock song. But that’s just the lead guitar work. Granted, Bruce had a much more professional attitude towards being a hired gun since he’d already played that part and there is a small possibility that his playing might have led to slightly different arrangements here and there, but Bruce’s role in the band in that early stage would have been the same as Mark’s. He would have been there to play guitar. Period. According to Mark he was told in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t be part of the songwriting and the same would have applied to Bruce since it was an economic decision from Gene and Paul to keep the publishing to themselves. No, the only thing that would have happened if Bruce had been hired in April 1984 is that we would have missed out on the wonderfully absurd ”twin guitar player” concerts in November.


In the first half of 1985 I listened to Animalize in a way that I had never listened to any album before. I had gotten (or gotten to borrow) a Sony Walkman and a tape of this album was with me just about everywhere I went. Until I bought my first vinyl album (Destroyer) and dubbed it to a separate tape, Animalize was my album. I expanded my collection with a few cassettes bought in Italy in May and as I got more ”new” KISS music to listen to Animalize kind of faded into the background. As the coverage in OKEJ magazine started revving up in anticipation of Asylum all my attention focused on that upcoming album. Asylum would end up being the album I’ve heard the most times and it’s number one by a country mile. But there will always be something special about Animalize. Any time I cue up I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) and hear that noisy intro with double kicks, cymbals, and hard accents on the bass, it hits me right in the gut.

It’s kind of shame that the only song from this album that has had any legs is Heaven’s On Fire. Both Thrills In The Night and I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire) are worthy of being remembered even though I wouldn’t want to hear the current lineup try to play them. But at least we will never stop making fun of Gene’s lyric contributions to this album. Put that log in the fireplace, Gene!


3 reaktioner till “When we were Animalized

  1. An excellent review! I loved the technical perspective.

    Burn, Bitch, Burn was lyrically always questionable but I so love the viciousness of the opening riff and lead guitar bits and (and the lead solo proper). Also Murder In High Heels (go, Bruce, so they say but probably why that solo is something that sticks out to me and the parts in the fade out…).

    It was a very interesting time and I remember buying it on release day in 1984. They hit home with that lyrical message resonating in ny teen years.

    The drums on the chorus of HOF definitely heighten the impact of the chorus. I think of my samr feeling for Tears Are Falling and also it’s live treatment on the HITS tour where he made that rhythmic pulse felt.

    Thanks for this!



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