All Things Psycho Circus
The album, the song, and the video game
No one leaves until the night is done
The amplifiers start to hum
The carnival has just begun!
Glam heavy metal band KISS are currently on their End of the Road World Tour. Well, musicians never truly retire, but the feeling of farewell is always a bittersweet one and you just never know if this is really going to be your last chance. For those of us who live in Melbourne, Australia, we got not one but three opportunities to see the heavy metal icons perform one last time. I attended the second of these three sold out shows, but I kind of wish I was the type of fan who devotedly (literally!) follows the band and attends every single show in the country. It sure must be fun being that guy.
These guys are supposedly their 7os. Yet, I felt like I had travelled back in time to 1982 to witness these performers in their absolute prime. With the face paint and costumes on, these aging (or aged?) rock legends turned back the clock to deliver a relentless performance with unreal energy. Gene Simmons was breathing fire as 'The Demon', and Paul Stanley surfed into a crowd while riding on a zipline as 'The Starchild'. Yet, those were not even the best parts of the show.
The setlist had all the classics, everything from the stadium stampede 'God of Thunder' to the piano balled called 'Beth', and yet my personal highlight was their performance of the song 'Psycho Circus', the title track from their 1998 album. The song and the album are not considered classics by diehard fans by any stretch, but it was part of the band's reunion efforts and return to form, and a fantastic introduction to a (then!) new generation of fans such as myself. This was the album and song that got me into their music, and so hearing it perform live as part of a perfectly curated song selection was a personal high for me.
The album was only just one part of the band's epic comeback package and world tour, as this extended to further cross media promotion and merchandise. The first was a comic book tie-in which was also titled 'Psycho Circus', which isn't an unusual thing for rock bands to do and KISS weren't exactly the first to do this. What was unexpectedly cool was how the comic book served as the source material for video game adaptation which launched roughly two years after the album. Now KISS has long been associated with excellent pinball machines, but a video game adaptation was something very few bands have done.
KISS: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child (yes, that's the full title with not one, but count 'em, TWO semicolons!) launched for the PC and Dreamcast to modest fanfare. It was a first person shooter, a very much by the books experience which emphasized mindless shooting action all dressed in the music and aesthetics o f KISS. It didn't need to be anything else, it did exactly as advertised, serving as a fantastic collectible for fans of the band and a fun introduction to newer fans at the time. Reviews ranged from poor to favorable, but honestly if a KISS reskin of Doom sounds like something you would love, the The Nightmare Child delivers this unapologetically with a heavy metal punch.
Since then, other bands have dabbled into a video game adaptation with Iron Maiden's surprisingly successful Legacy of the Beast mobile game and even Ozzy Osbourne briefly dabbling into a browser style game. But as a full fledged first person shooter released on Sega Dreamcast of all things? Only KISS can ever claim that among their many other firsts.
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