Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

The Vault: Great Or Garbage?

What you’re about to read is the most honest review you will find for The Vault by Gene Simmons. A friend of mine who purchased The Vault let me listen to the CDs extensively, for the purpose of this review. Since I didn’t purchase a Gene Simmons Vault Experience for $2,000, $25,000 or $50,000, I have no obligation to rationalize the quality of this product as a way to convince others, or myself, that it’s worth buying.

It’s worth noting that I’m not reviewing the Gene Simmons Vault Experience, which, by all accounts, is excellent. According to the Gene Simmons Vault website, for the $2,000 price tag, the purchaser gets the following:

  • Gene Meet & Greet: You and a guest will spend one-on-one time with Gene in your area
  • “Songs & Stories” Playback Session and Q&A: You and a guest will attend an intimate Vault preview
  • Gene photo/video/autograph session
  • Gene hand delivers your limited-edition personalized Vault
  • Vault Pre-Pack: Signed Golden Ticket, T-Shirt, Download Card (with “Are You Ready”), And laminate

The Vault includes 166 “never-released-before songs,” spread across 11 CDs, packaged in a large book, which includes liner notes from Gene about each song, as well as “never-seen-before images of Simmons over his 50-year carer.” Additionally, you get a Gene Simmons businessman action figure, an “In Gene We Trust” oversized coin, and a “one-of-a-kind, hand-selected original piece of memorabilia from Gene’s personal collection.”

Is The Gene Simmons Vault Experience Worth It?

If I had decided to purchase the Gene Simmons Vault Experience, I would have attended the one in Philadelphia, which took place on February 18. People at this event got to spend five minutes with Gene Simmons, one-on-one, which isn’t much time at all, and he presented them with their Vault. Many of them got the exact same “one-of-a-kind” items: cardboard 3D KISS glasses and an all access pass from a recent KISS tour. Also, unlike other Gene Simmons Vault Experiences, the one in Philly didn’t feature any special guests. While it would have been nice to have gone, it seems like I didn’t miss out on much by not being there.

As any KISS or Gene Simmons fan will tell you, what matters most is the music. It’s a shame that Gene, so far, has chosen to only make this music available to those that can afford to spend $2,000 or more, which is a lot of money. As I mentioned to Gene when I interviewed him, a fan can spend $399 to meet him at a solo show or $1,250 to meet KISS at one of its concerts. That’s $750 more than a KISS meet and greet and a whopping $1,601 more than a Gene Simmons solo meet and greet. So, if you want access to this music, which is really the only major difference between these meet and greets, Gene is forcing you to spend an exorbitant amount of money to do so. With this in mind, I decided that, for me, it’s not worth the price of admission.

Marketing Genius

Many KISS fans will tell you that Paul Stanley’s songwriting capabilities are vastly superior to Gene’s, and they’re correct. When Gene originally announced the idea of a box set of demos many years ago, fans groaned thinking it would be filled with a ton of poorly-written reject songs – not exactly the most enticing musical product to put on the market.

I believe that Gene was fully aware of fans’ perception that the music in his long-awaited box set wouldn’t be top-shelf quality. So, he decided to turn it into the Gene Simmons Vault Experience with a big emphasis on the experience part. This was a stroke of genius as it takes the focus off the music, and it it worked like a charm. Any press or social media coverage about the Gene Simmons Vault has been about everything but the quality of the music. Now it’s time to answer the most important question: Is the Gene Simmons Vault music great or is it, as Pod of Thunder jokingly worded it, a “box of garbage”?Music Review Grading System

I listened to every song on all 11 CDs numerous times, and I’ve graded them as either “great” or “garbage.” If a song is “great,” that means I’m willing to listen to is over and over again. If a song is “garbage,” I never want to listen to it again. I’m not going to tell you my grade for each individual song because then this article would never end. Instead, I’m going to provide the ratio of “great” to “garbage” songs for each CD and let that determine whether or not a particular CD is “great” or “garbage.” Then, I’ll add up the number of “great” songs and the number of “garbage” songs and compare the numbers to determine whether or not The Vault is, you guessed it, “great” or “garbage.”The first CD kicks off with the best and most polished song on the entire box set: “Are You Ready.” However, in my opinion, 13 of the 15 tracks are “garbage.” I’m shocked that Gene would put so many bad songs on the first CD, especially when there are many terrific ones to follow. Not the best way to set the tone for this mammoth collection of music.

CD 1 Grade: “GARBAGE”The second CD on The Vault features multiple versions of several songs, which is an interesting way to see how they evolved over time. My favorite song on this CD is “Bells Of Freedom.” However, like the first CD, this one features a ton of throwaway tracks. I find 10 of these songs to be “garbage,” while the other five are “great.”

CD 2 Grade:”GARBAGE”The third CD is where business starts to pick up. There are 10 “great” tracks and only five that I consider to be “garbage.” This is where we finally hear the tracks featuring Eddie and Alex Van Halen: “Christine Sixteen,” “Tunnel Of Love,” and “Got Love For Sale.” Hearing these songs, along with some of the demos from the 1980s is a pleasure.

CD 3 Grade:”GREAT”The greatness continues on the fourth CD with more excellent KISS and Gene solo demos. Only four tracks on this CD are “garbage.” The rest is “great.” Highlights on this CD for me include “It’s My Life,” “Charisma,” and “Radioactive,” among others.

CD 4 Grade:”GREAT”The quality starts to waver on the fifth CD, with seven of the 15 tracks being “garbage.” The first six songs on this CD are winners, but then it sags in the middle. However, “We Are One” and the fascinating “Bob Dylan and Gene Simmons Writing Session” push this CD into “great” territory. The Bob Dylan track is a real treat because Bob Dylan is to Gene Simmons what Gene Simmons is to us. So, listening in on their interaction provides us with a glimpse of how Gene is when he assumes the role of a fan speaking to one of his idols.

CD 5 Grade:”GREAT”The quality slips even more on the sixth CD, with eight of the 15 tracks being “garbage.” I enjoy the Asshole demos on this CD, probably because I think that album is underrated. My favorite track on this CD is “Hold On.”

CD 6 Grade:”GARBAGE”This is the worst CD in the The Vault, with 13 of the 15 tracks being “garbage.” The only two songs that make this CD worth listening to are “If I Had A Gun” and “Pride.” Everything else is forgettable or not worth listening to more than once.

CD 7 Grade:”GARBAGE”The eighth CD makes up for its terrible predecessor by featuring 10 “great” songs and only five “garbage” tracks. The first eight songs are winners, but the highlight for me is the instrumental demo of “Thou Shalt Not,” a phenomenal song from the KISS album Revenge.

CD 8 Grade:”GREAT”The consistency continues on the ninth CD, with only five songs being “garbage” and 10 being “great.” My only complaint is why didn’t Gene include the Psycho Circus demo of “I Wanna Rule The World”? It’s widely available and it sounds vastly superior to the two versions on this CD. Maybe KISS is saving it for a deluxe edition of Psycho Circus. Speaking of that KISS album, my favorite song on this CD is “Kids With Painted Faces,” a demo that was considered for Psycho Circus. It’s a wonderful song, with great lyrics, a cool Beatles vibe, and a terrific guitar riff.

CD 9 Grade:”GREAT”Just when I thought all of the bad demos were behind me, the tenth CD brings with it 12 “garbage” tracks and only three that are “great.” In my opinion, the three “great” songs are “We Won’t Take It Anymore,” “Howling For Your Love,” and, the best of the three, “Love Came To Me.”

CD 10 Grade:”GARBAGE”Here we are – the final CD! There are seven “garbage” songs and eight “great” ones. It’s fascinating to hear “Mina-San, Mina-San” because it’s the song Gene submitted for KISS to record with Momoiro Clover Z. Paul Stanley’s “Samurai Son” beat it out, so this is the first time it’s seeing the light of day, and it’s pretty damn good. I also love “Gypsy Nights,” which is incredibly infectious. And it’s nice that the first song Gene ever recorded closes out The Vault: “My Uncle Is A Raft.”

CD 11 Grade:”GREAT”Final Grade

Six of the 11 CDs contained within The Vault are “great” and five of them are “garbage.” In total, there are 89 “garbage” songs and only 77 that are “great.”

It’s also worth noting that the audio quality of the tracks on The Vault vary significantly. Some sound excellent, while others have the audio quality of a song being captured with a cassette recorder under a comforter on a bed across the room from where the music is being played. Keep this in mind if you plan on buying The Vault or you’ll be disappointed.

According to the “Music Review Grading System” I laid out at the beginning, the final grade for The Vault is “garbage.”

Final Thoughts

Gene Simmons has done a fabulous job of marketing The Vault, and people are buying it in droves. However, there are millions of KISS and Gene Simmons fans that can’t afford to buy The Vault at its current price point. And according to my analysis of the music, it’s worth nowhere near $2,000 dollars, especially since the “garbage” songs outweigh the “great” ones. One can only hope that, down the road, Gene releases a pared-down version of this box set at a reasonable price (i.e., no more than $200). If he does, he should separate the wheat from the chaff to make The Vault worth the price of admission.

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2 thoughts on “The Vault: Great Or Garbage?

  1. Dave four fingers on said:

    I downloaded the vault the other day as no way im paying 2k , and a few things struck me skimming through the tracks – its alot of garbage and no wonder they didnt make the albums… and the sound quality is shocking on alot of tracks. If it was freddie mercury demos then yes as he has a great voice, gene simmons not so much …

    • It definitely isn’t worth $2k and the “experience” part has gotten worse over time, according to fans. And about 50% or less of the Vaults produced have sold so far, which is disappointing since Gene thought they’d all be sold by the end of 2018.

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