Posted on November 10, 2009 -
Bruce Kulick makes a triumphant return with BK3, his first solo release since 2003’s “Transformer.” From the first note, it’s apparent to the listener that BK3 is an entirely different animal from any of Kulick’s previous work. While Kulick has always been criminally underrated as a guitarist, his true talent lies as much within knowing when NOT to play as when to plug in and shred.
The opening track, “Fate,” gets things off to a rousing start, with blistering leads, a fast and fierce vocal delivery unlike anything we’ve heard from him before, and lyrics that declare his refusal to live in the shadow of his past. A ghost from that past, KISS’ Gene Simmons, appears on the next track, lending his distinctive vocals to the soaring “Ain’t Gonna Die.” Rock radio programmers should rejoice and welcome this one with open arms.
Next up is a collaboration with frequent partner John Corabi (who has worked with Kulick in Union and ESP) on the moody, atmospheric “No Friend of Mine.” Corabi and Kulick are also joined on the track by another Union cohort, drummer Brent Fitz. Nice lyrical twists, along with a memorable musical hook, make this one a winner that will please both old and new fans.
The lead single from the album, “Hand Of The King,” brings another Simmons family member to the microphone…the very talented Nick Simmons, whose deep and soulful voice gives the straight-out-of-Fantasia lyrics a sultry, sexy undertone. Kulick shines on this one as well, complimenting the lyrics with a moody solo that has just the right amount of bite to it.
Kulick slows things down and takes over the vocals for “I’ll Survive,” inspired by his near-death experience during a random shooting in Los Angeles in 2003. Great backing vocals give this track an extra lift near the end as the choir sings the refrain “I’m alive…I’ll survive” with both dignity and defiance. Kulick next recruits Knack frontman Doug Fieger for the excellent “Dirty Girl,” which is the kind of song bands like the Click 5 dream about writing some day. A perfect example of how to create a power pop masterpiece. Another mid-tempo number, “Final Mile” is up next, with a touching lyric and guitar leads reminiscent of the Kulick-era KISS classic “God Gave Rock And Roll To You II.”
“I’m The Animal” takes things in a much heavier direction, with a great vocal provided by Edguy/Avantasia frontman Tobias Sammet (look him up if you don’t know who he is) and a powerful drum track from KISS’ Eric Singer. If any of the songs on the album are a shred fest, it’s this one, with Kulick taking multiple solos, each one meaner than the last.
Two tracks previewed (along with “No Friend Of Mine”) on Kulick’s special BK3 EP appear next. “And I Know,” like the aforementioned “Dirty Girl,” proves that Kulick hasn’t forgotten any of his pop sensibilities after years of grinding out metal chords. The bouncy riffs are nicely contrasted by slightly darker lyrics. The album’s only instrumental, “Between The Lines,” is another guitar lover’s delight featuring Kulick sharing leads with the legendary Steve Lukather. The pair are nicely complemented by some additional star power in the form Jimmy Haslip on bass and Kenny Aronoff on drums for what is easily the album’s funkiest track.
Wrapping things up is the very Beatlesque ballad “Life,” featuring Kulick waxing philosophical before ending the album with a multi-instrumental explosion of sound that can only be described as pure genius. An absolutely stunning end to an incredible listening experience.
To say BK3 is the best KISS-related release in years sells it short. BK3 is one of the best rock albums released in recent years, and fans who have never picked up a KISS album will enjoy it just as much as the die-hard members of the KISS Army.
A special mention should be given to producer Jeremy Rubolino, whose brilliant sonic shading on the album gives it the kind of dynamics that prior Kulick (and, for that matter, KISS) projects have longed for.
A brilliant and inspired piece of work, from one of the classiest and most talented guitar players of our time.