Hotter Than Hell

Hotter Than Hell

Releasing two albums a year wasn’t uncommon in the 1970s—which is why the second album from Kiss hit the shelves just eight months after the band’s 1974 debut. Often knocked for lackluster production—a criticism acknowledged by co-producer Richie Wise—Hotter Than Hell contains some of the band’s most inspired and effective songwriting. Propelled by a chunky metallic groove, “Parasite” is the heaviest song from the first three Kiss albums. Like “Cold Gin,” a highlight from the band’s debut, “Parasite” was written by guitarist Ace Frehley—but sung by bassist Gene Simmons, as Frehley wasn’t yet confident of his vocal abilities. Elsewhere on Hotter Than Hell, there’s “Goin’ Blind”—a unique entry in the band’s catalog, in that it’s the only true downer Kiss song. Written by Simmons and his former Wicked Lester bandmate Stephen Coronel, the lyrics depict the doomed relationship between a 93-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl. Covered in the 1990s by both the Melvins and Dinosaur Jr., “Goin’ Blind” remains a moody favorite among grunge-reared Kiss fans. Meanwhile, the album’s title track—written by Paul Stanley after being turned down by a married woman—is an undisguised rewrite of Free’s “All Right Now,” one that kicks like a mule. The album’s sole single, “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll,” has a distinct ZZ Top vibe (Stanley recorded a demo of the song for the previous album, but it didn’t make the cut). And “Watchin’ You” is a classically lecherous and catchy Simmons composition, propelled by a muscular riff and some prominent Peter Criss cowbell. It’s a template that Simmons would often revisit—minus the cowbell. It’s Criss who winds up with vocal duties on “Mainline,” a breezy Stanley composition that’s by far the poppiest song on the album. The drummer also sings the Frehley stomper “Strange Ways,” Hotter than Hell’s closing track. With a city-smashing riff that presages Blue Öyster Cult’s “Godzilla,” it proved early on that Kiss could deliver serious hard-rock goods.

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