Let’s get this started the right way, with a disclaimer. For transparency’s sake, I’ll start with informing you that I have never been a fan of KISS. In my opinion, they are up there with Tool and The Beatles as one of the most overrated bands of all time. Opinions are like assholes, though, and as you all know I’m an asshole. So, take that opinion, or go tell someone who cares.
Oh, the disclaimer bit is that I won’t let my feelings about KISS get in the way of an honest and unbiased review of Ace Frehley’s new album 10,000 Volts. Well, unless of course it sounds exactly like a KISS album.
Here we go with the title track, 10,000 Volts, and it kicks off with a rocking 4/4 riff that you’d expect from a guitarist with the legacy and impact of Ace. His vocals follow the riffs flawlessly, and they twist and turn to interact with each other throughout the verses. The chorus which rings out with “She hit me like 10,000 Volts” displays the songwriting abilities of a multi-platinum artist. He then hits us with a couple of guitar solos to show his multi-accolade winning guitar skills before wrapping up the song.
Walking on the Moon kicks back the pace a little, but the riff is still rocking and heavy. We get a good dose of cowbell throughout the chorus, which is never a bad thing. And here comes another solo before the song hits an extended chorus and finishes up. These first two songs both clock in at around 3:30, but feel like they are much shorter. I guess that’s what happens when you know how to write a catchy tune.
Oh no, is this the dreaded synth opening up Cosmic Heart? I guess if you were gonna use a synth, a song with that name would be a good place to put it. Luckily, some heavy guitars creep in pretty quickly and the song takes shape. It’s quite modern sounding initially and kind of reminds me of that journey Axl Rose tried to take us all through between Use Your Illusion 2’s My World and the 13-year-later follow-up Chinese Democracy. I’ve never really taken enough notice of KISS to discover how good a guitarist Ace actually is. I was just never able to get past the pop songs, costumes and face paint, but he sure as hell doesn’t mind showing off his skills with another solo at the end of this track.
Next up is Cherry Medicine, and while the riff is ok, the song and its lyrics seem just a little too corny for me. Maybe too much of a kiss vibe to it. It’s not a bad song, but I’m not sure if it “makes me feel better when you’re in your black leather”. Yeah, I can’t do this one. The fade-out and clap at the end is a nice touch, though.
As the next track kicks off, it reminds me of an Ozzy Osbourne song for some reason. It’s titled Back Into My Arms Again and unfortunately seems to be a carry on of the previous song. The album so far actually seems to be lyrically based around women and is maybe a tribute to the women in his life. I’ve got to mention here too that like tracks 1, 3 & 4, this track again fades out. I don’t mind the odd fade out, but when it happens on more than 1 or two tracks on an album, I start to doubt the ability of the songwriter to close out a track.
A quick thumping drum fill kicks off Fighting for Life before another heavy guitar riff launches the song at a rocking pace. I’m glad the album has picked up pace again because I was starting to get a little worried after those last two tracks. Yeah, this is much better, and another solo mid-song makes me take notice. As does the thumping double kicks, which lift the intensity to close out the song with a sharp stab. Thank fuck it didn’t fade out.
This album needs more cowbell, and we get it in the intro to Blinded. This one is another heavy rocker, but I’m not sure of the lyrical contact which includes “we are blinded by science”, “digital tug-of-wars“, and “you better watch your back because there are camera’s everywhere”. And apparently “we are victims in a world of despair”? Is Ace some kind of flat-earthing conspiracy theorist? Oh, I just googled that and something about “Astroworld Satanic Ritual” came up. I’ll leave that up to you to “do your own research”. The songs not bad though.
Constantly Cute kicks off with a bit of a grooving riff, but then it pulls back to become another corny love song like those couple of tracks earlier. I just can’t do it, hey, but the old girls will all love it while dreaming that Ace is talking directly to them. It’s a sales tactic that works, just ask every successful male solo artist and boy band in history. I mean, he was parts of one of the world’s most successful boy bands.
The riff in the intro to Life Of A Stranger gives me hope for a rocking dirty little blues number, but it again slows back down to become another love song. I’m listening to this through my studio headphones and one thing that stands out is that the snare is clipping on each hit, and I’m not sure if that is intentional or something that was missed in the mix and possibly again during mastering. Most of you won’t even hear it, but that’s the kind of shit that really tweaks us audio nerds out. Especially when the song isn’t spectacular enough to distract me from it. The solos are pretty damn good, though.
One, Two, Three, Four … meh. I was expecting something rocking and exciting with that big shouted out count in, but it just didn’t get there. Instead, I get a kind of ok riff, with an acoustic backing, which doesn’t accelerate as I’d really like it to. It doesn’t really matter what I want, though, does it. There are some cool running guitar riffs that twist in and out between the verses and choruses, which add a good touch of flavour. The choruses are again directed back to a girl, but then shift to us not being alone up in the sky.
Oh, and we “can’t trust the news, can’t trust the laws”. Ok, Ace.
And here we are at the final track, which starts with some alien sounding synth. And just like its synth intro predecessor Cosmic Heart, it has a similarly space-themed name. It’s called Stratosphere, and it turns out that it’s an instrumental, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
This album started off well, and then kind of lost me in the middle before dragging me back in ever so slightly. It’s a well-written album from an intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, guitar solo, chorus type perspective. As previously mentioned, though, it falls short on the whole outro/ending department with a few too many fade-outs.
Will some people love it? Probably. Will some people hate it? Probably.
I don’t hate it, and I managed to listen to the whole album, which is something I’ve never done with a KISS album. And that’s got to mean something, right?