For more than 35 years, trend-setting supergroup Kiss has stood as the gold standard for over the top, rock ’n’ roll outrageousness.

With their fantasy fuelled grease-paint drenched personas (abandoned in the early ’80s but resurrected in the ’90s), flamboyant, fire breathing stage shows and thundering, anthemic, amp shredding sound, the band — formed in the early ’70s by Brooklynites Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons — still command a rabid, million strong following around the world, known collectively as the Kiss Army.

Now, after an astonishing, well publicized, performance on American Idol last season, the band has hit the road again for another monstrous world tour that includes numerous Canadian dates (recent sold out dates in Windsor, Ottawa and Montreal have received rave reviews and will be followed by a two-night stop at Orillia’s Casino Rama tonight and tomorrow).

Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, who replaced original member Ace Frehley in 2002 (session drummer Eric Singer officially took over for departed drummer Peter Criss in 2004), believes this to be the leanest, meanest Kiss incarnation yet.

“I don’t think the band has ever sounded better,” says Thayer, relaxing in between shows.

“The show is incredible, the visuals are fantastic and Paul has a renewed energy. We’re all devoting 110 per cent of our time to this band.”

Thayer is somewhat controversial amongst diehard Kiss cultists, due to the fact his stage persona is a direct crib of Frehley’s trademark “Spaceman” character. But with a new studio album due out this fall, which is being produced by Stanley, the guitarist’s status as a vital member of Kiss will be cemented once and for all.

“This is a killer album, totally rough and mean,” says Thayer.

“There’s no ballads, no filler, no bid to chase commercial chart success, it’s just full throttle, straight up, unpretentious rock ’n’ roll, the heaviest since Love Gun (released during the act’s popular peak in 1977). I’m just really, really excited about it. It’s vintage Kiss.”

Due in no small part to Simmons’ unyielding efforts to mass market the Kiss brand onto everything from credit cards to coffins, Kiss has become virtually mythical, with three generations of fans now thrilling to the brand of pulpy, pyrotechnic hard rock.

“I think Kiss will continue to endure,” Thayer believes. “We have parents, kids, grandparents all coming out to the shows. Kiss has become an institution, part of the collective pop culture psyche.”

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