When Destroyer came out it was hotly anticipated by what was quickly becoming “the Kiss Army.” Before their fourth release, the Alive! live album, there purportedly was a lot of worrying behind the scenes over whether they were going to hold on and make it. Their brand of hard rock (or shock rock) was not really in vogue yet, with only Alice Cooper managing to make inroads to sway the fans of glam to the grimier stuff. And Kiss was nowhere near the androgyny of David Bowie, T. Rex’s Marc Bolan, or Sweet so their oversexed hellraising had yet to be a thing in youth culture.
Alive! changed that, and Destroyer changed it more. The key was with producer Bob Ezrin whose grandiose, widescreen touch guided Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare and would help usher in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. He recognized that they were turning their back on a fundamental part of their image. Sure, they were flamboyant, but their sound was often thin and underwhelming, not overpowering or dangerous. They were not the sword-wielding kabuki yet; more like hard-rocking teens with Halloween facepaint, raging hormones, and cheap amplifiers. On Destroyer they finally got the amps they needed.
The opening track really tells that story better than any description, certainly better than “Detroit Rock City’s” own lyrics which, when read aloud, just are the usual chants of rocking, and wanting to rock, and oh crap I’m about to crash my car. What sets it apart is the sound effects intro before it promising escape and adventure from the boring, humdrum of average existence thanks to a fast car and a decent radio. What puts it over the top is the tripled-harmony of Ace Frehley’s solo; a sound so good Thin Lizzy should have sued. Then it is on to “King Of The Night Time World,” which is kind of the same thing lyrically.
I was never a big fan of “God Of Thunder” (or “Sweet Pain,” “Flaming Youth” or “Great Expectations” either, to be honest) so a whole chunk of the album goes up right there, but I jump back in with “Shout It Out Loud” and the closing “Do You Love Me?” And yes, put me down as someone who will defend “Beth” against the world. It is sappy. It is Mellow Gold, but it works. The band was dead set against it, again “purportedly.” So much about Destroyer is lost in that field of conjecture, but I can absolutely see Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons arguing over the track’s lack of balls, and can see Ezrin coming right back to say the album needed it, he demanded it, and so it was. And guess what? He was right. Without “Beth,” the album falls apart because, having set up this massive valhalla of guitar rock, they needed the left-turn only a mushy, strings-soaked power ballad could provide. Plus it wound up being the band’s breakout huge hit. So in the face of this massive success and turning point, what do they do?
That’s right. The next album returns to the drier approach of their first records without Ezrin, that taskmaster, on board and Rock N’ Roll Over, as a result, is not getting the deluxe remaster treatment like Destroyer: Resurrected is getting today (you knew I was going somewhere with this, right?) I will admit that the mix sounds a lot cleaner and a bit sharper than the original which sounded like it was, oh, recorded in the 1970s, but those moments of revelation one usually can eke out from a highly-hyped remaster are not really there. This is, above all else, my way of saying that if you are a huge fan of Kiss you probably already own Destroyer: Resurrected, if you don’t then you’re not missing any earth-shattering differences from the most recent remaster from the late ’90s, and if you’re mildly curious then this latest version is the preferred of the two.
It is a fun album for the most part, hardly a cerebral exercise into primal musical and psychological patterns in adolescent and pubescent males, and is on the timeline of the band’s releases far and away their best. You wanted it…here it is.
Destroyer: Resurrected is available from Amazon.com.