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Ranked: KISS Albums Of The 80s

KISS released 8 studio albums during the 1980s. These albums cover a lot of territory including the albums that most likely saved and re-invigorated their career as well as the ones that almost ended the bands’ career altogether. So keep scrolling to find out which album from the 80s made our # 1 spot.

# 8 “Music From The Elder” (1981)

Released in 1981, KISS tried to create something different. The results were less than stellar when fans and critics heard it. The sales for this album were so disappointing that KISS didn’t even tour upon its release. This was the last album to feature Ace Frehley and the first to feature drummer Eric Carr. The album was an attempt at a concept album. It was a concept that failed. Initially, there was supposed to be a matching movie that was never filmed and this probably lead to this album seeming even weirder. There are actually some music critics who rank this album among the worst albums ever released by a major band. Luckily, KISS didn’t sit on their hands for very long and returned with one of the best albums of their career.




# 7 Unmasked (1980)

Drummer Peter Criss didn’t play on this album by KISS and the album was recorded with Anton Fig who would later play on the debut album by Frehley’s Comet and be part of the in-house band on David Letterman.  Unmasked reached Gold in album sales but didn’t make it to Platinum status.  By this point, the novelty of KISS and the image had worn off and the bands’ sales were starting to decline. Surprisingly, it would get even worse with their next album. A lot of fans seemed to find the output of KISS as being boring and repetitive by the beginning of the 80s.





# 6 Hot In The Shade (1989)

Hot In The Shade would be the last album to feature Eric Carr while he was alive. Previously recorded material by Carr would turn up on the Revenge album later. This album would feature KISS’s biggest hit single during their time period without makeup. The ballad “Forever” was actually written by Paul Stanley and Michael Bolton and made it all the way to #8 on the singles charts in 1989. Despite the success of “Forever” the album only reached Gold in sales. Most fans felt that it was a step in the right direction overall with fewer keyboards and heavier rocking songs with “Forever” being the exception. Future KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer (Black N’ Blue)  co-wrote two of the songs, “The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away” and “Betrayed” even though Bruce Kulick handled the main guitar duties on Hot In The Shade.




# 5 Crazy Nights (1987)

Glam metal was king in 1987 and KISS was listening and paying attention. Maybe a little too closely. During this time period, Gene Simmons was busy working on becoming a Hollywood actor on the side and it took him away from working with the band a little more. KISS went in a more keyboard-driven direction on this album. While the band still rocked, it did soften their sound somewhat. Fans were divided on this album because of the change in direction. However, KISS managed to make it to #18 on the Billboard charts and it achieved Platinum sales status. Actually, “Crazy Nights” was the biggest selling KISS album of the 1980s, but not necessarily the most popular.




# 4 Asylum (1985)

Asylum was the first album to feature Bruce Kulick as lead guitarist. The album cover was bold and colorful reflecting the glam metal, big hair, and makeup that was consuming the rock scene at that time. MTV helped the band reach that very same audience with videos for songs “Tears Are Falling”, “Who Wants To Be Lonely” and the overtly sexual “Uh! All Night” Asylum reached Gold in sales status and helped maintain their presence as a band that still had something to prove in the 80s.





# 3 Animalize (1984)

Animalize was the only album to feature Mark St. John as the band’s lead guitarist. Unfortunately, St. John was forced to leave the band after being diagnosed with “Reactive Arthritis”. Propelled by the hit single “Heaven’s On Fire”, Animalize reached Platinum sales status. While most critics complained that KISS was leaning into the pop-metal category with their sound, KISS reached a larger audience than ever before during the 80s with Animalize.  Even though Stanley and Simmons were often at odds over Simmons’s acting career and his lack of involvement, the band continued to be highly successful.




# 2 Lick It Up (1983)

Lick It Up was the first KISS album to feature the band without makeup. This was also the first album to feature Vinnie Vincent as the lead guitarist, even though he played on the album “Creatures Of The Night” the year before, Ace Frehley was featured on the cover. Kiss released the title track “Lick It Up” as a single and they followed it up with “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” in music videos that received heavy airplay on MTV, which basically re-introduced KISS to the generation of the 80s kids. Initially, “Lick It Up” went Gold in sales but would reach Platinum album sales by 1990. “Lick It Up” was a hit with fans and proved that KISS could endure without the trademark makeup and outfits that had been their entire image prior to this release.




# 1 Creatures Of The Night (1982)

While “Creatures Of The Night” featured Ace Frehley on the cover of the album, new guitarist Vinnie Vincent was actually unofficially doing the work. Vincent’s guitar work would help elevate the songwriting of both this album and “Lick It Up” and it saw KISS rocking with a sound harder than ever before. Kiss released “I Love It Loud” as a single and shot a video that was played in serious rotation on MTV. The single reached #22 on the rock charts and the subsequent release “Creatures Of The Night” also did well on the singles charts. However, the album was not a huge commercial hit and actually didn’t reach Gold record sales status until mid-way through the 1990s. Creatures Of The Night was a turning point in KISS’ career and lead to the band pushing further into hard rock territory without makeup on their next album. 

About the author

Bobby Caughron

Bobby Caughron is a music journalist and Editor-In-Chief for XS ROCK. He began a life-long fan of hard rock and metal music after hearing KISS as a kid. He is still an avid fan of the 80s metal scene and continues to discover and write about new music in all rock genres today.

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