kiss sonicKiss – Sonic Boom (Loud & Proud/Roadrunner Records)

Expecting very little from the first Kiss record in 11 years was rushonrock‘s failsafe way of softening the blow and lessening the pain.

Surely a more optimistic outlook was only going to bring heartache and pain from a band which stopped making good records more than 20 years ago – even longer if you never really appreciated the band’s hair metal era. In fact this unbelievable return to form is one of the most unlikely rock and roll success stories ever.

Long since dismissed as a heritage act, caring more about the merch than the music, Kiss never looked capable of delivering another album of original material worth listening too. It seemed Paul and Gene had given up where the studio was concerned and, give or take the odd anniversary tour or one-off enormodome show, all but given up on the band itself.

So where the hell did Sonic Boom come from? Its roots are in the band’s cocky 70s heyday and it’s no surprise that Simmons and Stanley reference Destroyer!, Rock And Roll Over and Love Gun as the inspiration behind a belting batch of singalong classics.

Yet for those of us who grew up against a backdrop of Crazy Nights and were fortunate to see the Hot In The Shade tour (yes, it was that good) there’s enough of the band’s hair metal sound here to keep fans of both eras bouncing along well into 2010.

The lighter waving standard Stand would fit comfortably onto the Hot In The Shade tracklist but those who have dismissed the track as the one weak song on Sonic Boom are missing the point. Hair metal is experiencing a huge revival right now and Kiss were ready made to make that genre their own. Bizreely they did so with no make up and less hair spray but the music was brilliant nevertheless.

Of course tracks like opener Modern Day Delilah, the Sabbath-tinged I’m An Animal (Tony Iommi would be so proud of that riff) and Never Enough are what you could comfortably call vintage Kiss – music from another time and music welcomed back now with a deserved fanfare.

Guitarist Tommy Thayer’s classic rock stamp is right across Sonic Boom and just as Arnel Pineda has given Journey a fresh feel, so the shit hot axeman appears to have brought the very best out of ageing duo Simmons and Stanley.

This is no nostalgia trip because much of the best music here belongs to the new wave of rock breathing new life into a helathy scene. But there’s no getting away from the fact that Kiss have gone back to basics, revised the blueprint and come up with one of the band’s best records of all time. Perhaps they should finally call it a day on the back of this artistic high?

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Boom Time!