Gods Of Thunder: A Norwegian Tribute to KISS (11/05)

Reviewing a KISS tribute album has become like a taste-test over the past few years. There have been so many that few ever stand apart from the rest. However, what has become apparent is that some producers of tribute projects are becoming more and more professional. Where the KISS Army Online's "Music From The Folder" CD set the standard for diversity and interpretation the 1997 tribute "Return Of The Comet" set the standard for professional packaging and presentation.

In late 2004 Sack Trick established a new standard for KISS tributes with their humorous and diverse "Sheep In KISS Make Up." As such I felt (at the time) that it would be pointless to review further KISS tributes - it had all been done. Boy, was I wrong.

Looking at KISS tributes now, there are sevaral parameters that I have decided to focus on: Production, Track-listing diversity, Era/Material-balance, Artist Interpretation, Presentation, and Packaging. "Gods Of Thunder: A Norwegian Tribute to KISS" is the first tribute CD to come under the KISSFAQ microscope analysis with these critereia.

Production (9/9)
"Gods Of Thunder: A Norwegian Tribute to KISS" get's 9 cats-lives out of 9. It sounds absoultely fantastic. The material is crisp, not-too-over-produced and is sonically balanced. It is sequenced properly and flows well...

Track-listing diversity (7/9)
The tough-one from a personal perspective. I'm sick of the same-old-same-old with tributes. I want something different, rather than a KISS setlist of the same old shit. "Gods Of Thunder: A Norwegian Tribute to KISS" does an admirable job of presenting a diverse selection of KISS' catalogue. "I Just Wanna" and "Mr. Blackwell" should jump straight out at you. Bonus points for the lack of "Love Gun" and "Deuce" (even though brief snips are included in the "Medley"), as good as those songs may be, but I wouldn't have minded something from "Carnival Of Souls" or "Psycho Circus."

Era/Material-balance (7/9)
12 of the album's tracks are from the "originals era." That may well be the foundation of everything else, but it's always nice to hear something from the 1983-97 period. Redemption comes in the form of "Uh! All Nite" and a killer "I Just Wanna."

Artist Interpretation (8/9)
If I wanted to listen to a KISS song that sounded like a KISS song, I'd simply play the original. For me, I like tributes to include re-interpretations of KISS' songs, rather than note-for-note imitations, even if imitation is the greatest form of flattery. "Gods Of Thunder: A Norwegian Tribute to KISS" has a good mix of artistic interpretations of KISS' songs. Notable is the KISSettes cut, "I Just Wanna," which finally adjusts the lyrics to a more appropriate and less subtle form. The 3856's cover of "Tomorrow" certainly applys a "The Darkness" style, for better or worse. "I Was Made For Lovin' You" gets the full sonic production that was missed by KISS' original. It doesn't hurt to have Bruce Kulick on the track. "Mr. Blackwell" is a drum 'n bass take on Gene's obscure "God of Thunder" clone. Very well done. Shirley's Temple have to be given a shout-out for their increased tempo version of "God Of Thunder" which is closer to Paul's original demo. Erlend & Steinjo provide a reward to the nausea of listening to "Roch And Roll All Nite" with a fresh and fun take.

Presentation (8/9)
The track order flows well, even with the mix of older and unmasked material. The gang who put this together have taken (appropriately) a page out of the Bob Ezrin school of album production providing a music intro. It just makes the whole thing feel more like an unified "package." Packaging (9/9)
"Gods Of Thunder: A Norwegian Tribute to KISS" had plenty of hype prior to it being available. Two words: Ken Kelly. Ken was responsible for several KISS album covers during the 1970s, notably "Destroyer." Ken has painted custom artwork for this album in the traditional KISS style, but with a definate Norse interpretation on the band's costumes. I wouldn't say it's the best artwork I've ever seen, but it's a damn site better than many other releases, including some of KISS' own catalog. Inside you get a properly silk-screened CD, fully featured booklet including pictures and performance credits. And a illustrated CD-tray picture of Ken's sketches of the album cover. Nice, though the KISSettes centerfold doesn't hurt my opinion of the packaging either. The packaging simply oozes quality and attention to detail.

Overall (8/9)
"Gods Of Thunder: A Norwegian Tribute to KISS" is a welcome addition to the KISS tribute collection. It has a reason to live. It establishes some new standards, by which future tributes will be measured, though it'll take some effort to beat, notably due to the packaging. The album has a reasonable mix of material from KISStory, and a decent selection of artistic interpretations of KISS' material. There's really nothing on the album that makes one wonder why they included it. The overall standout award goes to the KISSettes, not just because of their centerfold. Honest!~