Kiss – Hotter Than Hell (Casablanca, 1974) – CD review –
Hotter Than Hell? Flaming turd is more like it. This is, quite possibly, the worst-sounding album in the history of recorded music. Okay, that’s excessive, but you get the idea.
Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise had done a not-so-good job producing the first Kiss LP; that record is muddy and tinny — it’s obvious the producers had no clue how to harness a loud band like Kiss. But inexplicably, they were asked back for the followup. Instead of trying to improve on their debut, Hotter Than Hell sounds worse. The opening guitar riff of “Got To Choose” is tinny; it sounds like it was recorded over the telephone. Peter Criss sounds like he’s drumming on cardboard boxes throughout the record, even his cymbals have no shine to them. The guitars are muddy; there’s no punch to them and no meat either. Ever have a cassette player where you accidentally left the Dolby button on and everything sounded muffled? That’s Hotter Than Hell.
It’s a damn shame too; this is some of Kiss’ finest moments. “Coming Home,” if it had been recorded properly, could’ve been a breakout hit for the band, while “Parasite” has one of the best riffs Ace Frehley ever created. Listen to the guitar at the beginning of “Watching You”; it’s downright laughable how awful it sounds. It’s no wonder that many of the songs here would benefit greatly from a live setting in Alive! where they could actually breathe, and be the songs they were meant to be. No knock on the actual songwriting or performances here; it’s the god-awful production sound that ruins it. If ever Kiss considered re-mixing their back catalog, this should be the first in line. –Tony Peters