Ace Frehley, Alice Cooper, Beethoven, Bob Ezrin, Casablanca Records, Dick Wagner, Eric Carr, Gene Simmons, Heavens Sake, Ken Kelly, KISS, Music, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Records, Reid Mansell, Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums, Vagabond Saints Society, WSNC
Forty-two years ago today, March 15, 1976, the fourth KISS studio album, Destroyer was released. Destroyer was the immediate follow-up to Alive which, thanks to “Rock and Roll All Nite,” really broke KISS into popularity.
Their first three studio albums did absolutely nothing and were released within 13 months. They tried one after the other and no luck. This album was released two years after the first album.
People had heard rumors that this band KISS put on makeup and were rocking so hard that their live shows were going great. But, bands (and record labels) want to sell records. The release of Alive brought them to the radio. Fans then went back and bought up the first three albums, which made up the contents of Alive.
So, here they were recording a follow-up album. The record company brought in Bob Ezrin, best known at the time, for producing Alice Cooper. Ezrin brought string arrangements, choirs, and special effects. KISS was just straightforward Gibsons and Marshalls at that time. Fans were expecting the same hard rock pizzazz that KISS, Hotter Than Hell and Dressed To Kill had. They got that, kind of…
The strings and acoustic guitars, pianos and choirs kind of threw people off. Not in a bad way, mind you, just perplexingly. It wasn’t expected. And, really, that wasn’t something that happened on a full-blown KISS album again until 1981. The solo albums had some hints of it but, again, full-blown KISS albums.
The album starts off with someone washing dishes and listening to or watching a news report about someone dying in an auto accident. It was the intro to “Detroit Rock City,” which was based on a true story about someone who died on their way to a KISS concert in Charlotte. But, Charlotte Rock City doesn’t have the same ring to it. DRC was a song that I got really tired of really quickly. I got to where it turned my stomach to hear it. It was just overdone and I didn’t really care much about it. I will say the solo was awesome, which was arranged by Ezrin. I have come back around and now don’t mind hearing it again. I don’t know why.
The crash then goes into “King of the Night Time World,” a song about a youth having troubles at home and wanting to make it with his girl (“… and the dirty things that we do”). That song grew on me later, as well. I really didn’t pay much attention to it until the band I was in, Heavens Sake, learned it and played it live.
Third, is my favorite song from the album and one of my all-time KISS songs all around – “God of Thunder.” It is Gene Simmons, even though he didn’t write the song. Paul Stanley did. But, Ezrin thought the theme and progression were better suited for Gene’s darker character, so he slowed it down and turned it over to Gene. Starting off with Ezrin’s kids playing in the studio, they were wearing some space helmets with walkie-talkies in them. What they actually say has been debated for 42 years and even David and Josh Ezrin don’t know what they said. I’ve always thought they said, “okay… talk sexy.” Who knows? Anywhat! I have always loved singing this, which I did for the VSS show a few years back and playing it with Heavens Sake. The darkness of the song is amazing. Lots of crackles, feedback, screaming, moaning and wasteland effects. I love the song. Gene usually does his blood spitting at the beginning of this tune.
All that was well and good. Great hard-rocking tunes. Then it happened. The strings. The acoustic guitar. The odd lyrics and (gasp!!!) the Brooklyn Boys Chorus singing about getting a girl horny. “Great Expectations” was a drastic turn of events. Part of the compositional theme of the song was based on Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique,” and I find that pretty cool. Now, I dig the song; like it, in fact. But, it threw people for sure. After a few listens, it grows on you and it’s a pretty cool song. Odd… but cool. End Side 1.
Side Two starts with some rock and roll rebellion going on. Paul wrote two songs about breaking out and being free of the parental grasp on this album. Well, three really. I know that rock and roll was about rebellion and they took this to heart in the song, “Flaming Youth.” I mean, could it be more obvious? “My parents think I’m crazy and they hate the things I do. I’m stupid and I’m lazy, man, if they only knew. How flaming youth will set the world on fire. Flaming youth, our flag is flying higher and higher and higher.” Yeah, rebellion. The song was an amalgamation of ideas from Gene, Paul and Ace Frehley, with Ezrin taking them and embellishing them. I really dig this tune.
“Sweet Pain” is up next and it’s quintessential Gene and his horndog-laden love god persona. Ain’t no one can love you like me and my BDSM loving arse is basically the theme. I’ll love you so much it will hurt. And, he’ll do it while wearing leather and using whips. Isn’t that sweet? Yeah, sweet pain, from what I hear. I didn’t understand most of that when I was a kid but I find it funny now. Gene was what? 26 when they released this? Yeah. Horndog. And, I love it.
The third “break out and be something/do something song” was a bit of a smash from the album and a live staple for many years to come. “Shout It Out Loud” was co-written by Stanley, Simmons and Ezrin. If it’s too loud they’re too old. Shouting it out loud is basically the cheerleading call-to-action of the rockin’ world. That’s what they want you to do. They took the title from the Hollies tune “We Want to Shout It Out Loud.” Wicked Lester recorded that when Gene and Paul were in that band. I got to do the Gene lines with my pal Reid Mansell at the VSS show.
“Beth” was a surprise. It was filler. It was a throw-away. They recorded it to appease Peter’s itch to have a song with his name on it. That may not be the official story but from what I’ve read between the lines over the years, yeah… It was the B-side of “Detroit Rock City” and was left to its (presumed) fate of filler. But, something happened. Something that I don’t know what really common at the time, DJs started flipping the record over and playing “Beth” instead of “DRC.” It still sits as the highest charting song in KISStory, at #7, one place higher than “Forever” which came 14 years later. I like the tune. I prefer the Eric Carr version on the greatest hits album, Smashes Thrashes and Hits in 1988, but this is classic.
The album closes with “Do You Love Me.” It’s a tune about the glitzy lifestyle of the rockstar and the potential gold-digging girlfriend who may or may not really like the singer; she may just be using him to get the status, attend the parties, get the backstage passes, limousine rides and so on. It’s sad really. That is unless Paul’s character in the song was getting what he wanted out of it. But, if he was, would he need to ask if she loves him? Probably not. That song became a concert staple. It then fades into some weird effected thing where you hear Paul doing banter from Dressed to Kill/Alive tour about a “rock and roll party.” I never felt it was necessary but I didn’t hate it.
I wasn’t into KISS or even know about them, until around 1977/78 and I never had this on vinyl as a kid. I did get it on cassette when I moved to WSNC and I definitely got it on CD and then the remastered CDs. I got it the vinyl remasters on 180g black vinyl that has all the original packaging and all.
I do have the remixed copy of Destroyer: Resurrected that Ezrin remixed and re-EQed the songs while adding some elements that had been left out. The original Ace solos (which were originally Dick Wagner of Alice Cooper’s band in the release) for a couple of songs and added some additional vocals to a few songs. Ace was part of stuff from this album but he was starting to flake a bit. That’s why Wagner did his thing.
The cover was painted by sci-fi/fantasy artist Ken Kelly (who also did the Love Gun cover) and it depicts a true wasteland with burning buildings and barren, burning land. It showed the band as larger-than-life characters that were destroying the world around them.
I don’t know why the album was called Destroyer other than it goes with the God of Thunder theme. I don’t know and I don’t care. It’s a great album. To me, there’s not a filler on there. It is #489 on the RS list I’m always talking about. It isn’t my favorite KISS album but I’d say it’s in the top 10. One day I really need to rank them. I’ll do a post on that when I do.
Have you listened to this album, Dear Reader? What did you think? Tell me about it, I’m truly interested. If you haven’t check it out on your favorite streaming service and if you like it, consider purchasing it. It sounds great on vinyl, but I’m biased. Rock on, Destroyer!
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I’m the lord of the wastelands. A modern day man of steel. I gather darkness to please me and I command you to kneel before the… God of Thunder and Rock and Roll. The spell you’re under will slowly rob you of your virgin soul.” – “God of Thunder” (Stanley)