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Kiss - 1976 Destroyer

ALBUM: Destroyer
LABEL: Casablanca
YEAR: 1976
CD REISSUE: 1997, Mercury, 314 532 378-2


LINEUP: Paul Stanley - vocals, guitar * Gene Simmons - bass, vocals * Ace Frehley - guitar, vocals * Peter Criss - drums, percussion, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Detroit Rock City * 02 King Of The Night Time World * 03 God Of Thunder * 04 Great Expectations * 05 Flaming Youth * 06 Sweet Pain * 07 Shout It Out Loud * 08 Beth * 09 Do You Love Me


When sitting down to write this review, my absolute lack of enthusiasm for 'Destroyer' almost hindered even getting this far. Widely controversial among Kiss fans to this day, the circumstances surrounding the album have been discussed and analyzed to the point of overkill, making it gruelling for myself to rehash the well-worn history behind it. Simply put, the bands previous three albums of simple, yet pioneering hard rock were shoved to the side in favor of a more considered and thoughtful album, with themes and lyrics mostly unrelated to the usual sex and party anthems. Helping assist the band was Bob Ezrin, whose production techniques were compared to attending military basic training and also allegedly humiliated the band members, who were less than refined skill-wise in Ezrin's estimation. This served to alienate Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, both of whom lacked the discipline to carry out such a complex recording. Despite the rigors of the recording process the album was their studio breakthrough, based mainly on 'Beth'. Undoubtedly this is a landmark recording for the band, but being in the court of favouring their more traditional brand of hard rock, this has never been an essential Kiss album for me. Not that it needs to be anyway, with radio plundering it to this day, rendering it all but unfathomably stale.

The Songs
The tracklisting reads like a greatest hits compilation and it's doubtful there's anyone reading this who isn't familiar with every track. This was the soundtrack for a generation of teenagers in 1976 and to its credit 'Detroit Rock City' sounds remarkably fresh almost 40 years later, miles ahead of most bands making waves back then. The production is light years better than anything from the first three albums, clear and concise, but missing the rawness in turn. 'King Of The Night Time World' is another well-known anthem, with a regimented pattern of drumming from Criss and the obligatory huge chorus aimed at the previously discussed youth of the day. 'God Of Thunder' needs no description, with Simmons delivering his famed demonic vocals to a background of sound effects. The latter has always been a point of consternation for me, making the song a source of irritation, especially the screaming children. I understand the intent behind making Simmons sound 'in character', but it's a lumbering bore in my opinion. Even more misguided is 'Great Expectations' and the use of a children's choir, a move seen as pretentious and ill-conceived by many in 1976. The chorus is massively overblown, pompous and bombastic, leaving a sickly aftertaste following each (rare) listen. Again this was clearly intended, but even 'The Elder' sounds more like Kiss than this manages to.

'Flaming Youth' is more on the level, another rebellious Stanley sung anthem about teenage angst and overcoming the odds. Musically this belongs on an earlier album in all but the subject matter. 'Sweet Pain' has always been famous for the Dick Wagner solo which replaced Frehley's, the first real signs of the band being in turmoil, even though it always existed. It's more of a traditional Kiss track, nothing experimental or complicated and often forgotten. Listening to 'Shout It Out Loud' is unthinkable after a lifetime of over-exposure, one of the most obvious rock anthems ever written. 'Beth' is the ballad which turned the band into superstars and naturally was unlike anything they'd ever written. Again it's a radio staple which has overstayed its welcome for me, classic or not. Live 'Do You Love Me' far exceeded the studio version, which is far slower and energetic, something which was true of most Kiss songs, which always came to life on stage.

In Summary
Initially the album sold slowly, but upon the introduction of 'Beth' as a single the album took off into the sales stratosphere and Kiss were bona fide superstars. Is the album a classic? Of course, it's one of the bands biggest selling and noteworthy albums which continues to sustain them today. But it's not my preferred version of the band and I far prefer 'Rock and Roll Over' which showed up later that year and returned the band to their initial style, presumably to appease the appalled Criss and Frehley. 'Destroyer' is an important album regardless, and belongs here with their other masses of reviewed albums, leaving only the debut on the list from their 70s' output, another album which should have been here long ago.

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#1 | Explorer on August 13 2015 19:56:25
I for one love this album, but can fully understand the resistance that diehard fans of the first 3 albums have to it. I see it as an album that fully embraced the larger than life characters they were trying to portray and displaying a depth and scope that was hither too missing from their studio recording before. Of course this may have had an awful lot to do with the choice of producer. Don`t get me wrong I love the early more straight ahead Kiss as I love the later Power pop of Unmasked and The Elder is a Gem of an album. The merits of all of the incarnations of Kiss have been debated long and hard with everyone having their favourites. I`ve always been open to embrace whatever the band do, they have of course on occasions come up short, but then name a band that hasn't. Great to see this album finally gracing the pages of Glorydaze.
#2 | reyno-roxx on August 13 2015 20:10:45
Great album. Pity they had to go and spoil things and release the awful Bob Ezrin Resurrected remix, which the only decent thing about it was the original cover art.
#3 | jefflynnefan on August 14 2015 22:12:59
Pretty famous cover art! I prefer 'Rock and Roll Over' and 'Love Gun'. But I still was crazy about this one too. I've heard the demos from this album and have always wondered why they changed a lot of the songs to a slower mode.
#4 | Eric on August 14 2015 22:59:10
The sweet Summer sounds of the Bicentennial year of 1976 and 'Beth'. Prior to 'I Was Made For Loving You' and 'The Elder', its the most un-KISS song ever. I like it and still do, the orchestration and even Peter's gravely and truly awful vocals but it works. It's a period piece of pop from a simpler and in many ways a sweeter and more innocent time in the U.S.
#5 | sabace on July 15 2016 20:25:28
I was'nt a fan of the lp in the 70's but it has grown on me over time .

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