The Year Of KISS: Hotter Than Hell (1974)

“You’re so young and so much different than I….”

Just a few months after releasing their debut album in February of 1974, KISS’ second album, Hotter Than Hell, hit record store shelves on October 22nd. Sales of the album were worse than the group’s debut. Live shows weren’t the problem and many critics then and now believe that the album’s poor performance was due to the production quality and lack of any major promotion. In any case, the album would reach gold status in 1977 much like the debut.

The album is perhaps best known for its iconic front and back covers. The front cover features the band (all inebriated except for Gene) surrounded by Japanese images and phrases. It’s been said that in the photo Peter Criss is holding Paul Stanley up in order to prevent him from falling due his excessive drunkeness. The back cover features an illustrated mock up of all four members’ face paint and images of each member from a huge photo shoot that allegedly turned into a big orgy.

The gang having a lot of fun.

There were ten tracks on the album. Only one of the album’s tracks, “Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll,” was released as a single. Despite this, many of the album’s tracks remained in the band’s tour playlists over the years, especially “Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll” and “Hotter Than Hell.” The album peaked at #100 on the Billboard charts.

Track Listing:

  1. Got To Choose
  2. Parasite
  3. Goin’ Blind
  4. Hotter Than Hell
  5. Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll
  6. All The Way
  7. Watchin’ You
  8. Mainline
  9. Comin’ Home
  10. Strange Ways

Personnel: Paul Stanley (vocals, backing vocals, rhythm guitars), Ace Frehley (lead guitar, backing vocals), Peter Criss (drums, vocals), Gene Simmons (vocals, bass, backing vocals).

Even though this album has been criticized for its “sludgy” production quality, I personally believe that this sludge actually improves the album overall. There’s something rawer about this album that almost all of the other releases from KISS lack. From the plodding guitars on tracks like “Goin’ Blind” to the rapid fire lead in on “Parasite,” this album sounds like it was made by a hungry band wanting to make it big and that’s exactly what KISS was when this album was produced.

Note Ace’s half makeup. Due to an accident prior to the shoot, Ace’s face had to be altered on the album cover because he couldn’t apply makeup to the right side of his face.

I really like this album. Standout tracks for me are “Parasite,” “Goin’ Blind,” and “Mainline.” I really love the guitar work on “Parasite.” It’s a meaty rocker that, at least to me, is one of KISS’ best songs from their entire catalog. The bizarre and rather creepy lyrics of “Goin’ Blind” had me a bit perplexed, but I love how it just slowly rolls along without a care about what you think about it. It’s a cool track. “Mainline” is simply a great rock n’ roller that is only strengthened by Peter’s amazing vocals.

Oddly enough, my least favorite track is the album’s lone single, “Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll.” The entire album is gritty and I love the sound. Gene and Paul handle most of the lead vocal duties but Peter shines on his two lead vocal performances on “Mainline” and “Strange Ways.” Ace wrote “Parasite” and “Strange Ways” and co-wrote “Comin’ Home.” Those songs feature some of his best work on lead guitar.

Another shot from the album’s photo shoot. Note Ace’s “patched up” makeup.

Hotter Than Hell best captures KISS’ raw grit and power on a studio album in my opinion. Only one other album comes close, 1975’s Dressed To Kill. I’ll be talking about that album next month. If you haven’t heard Hotter Than Hell before, I highly recommend giving it a listen. It might sound a bit off initially but, given time, I’m sure that you’ll grow to love it.

Thanks for reading my review!


Published by kenfontenot

I am a husband, a father, and a major nerd. I enjoy science fiction, fantasy, comics, cosplay, and attending conventions. I'm also a huge Disney fan. I am growing to enjoy working out, and hope to include that joy in some of my posts.

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