Today marks the 40th anniversary of KISS Destroyer, released March 15th, 1976. This album was produced by Bob Ezrin (who just made a name for himself working with Alice Cooper) and angered just as many KISS fans as it pleased others with a completely new direction. Gene Simmons once told MusicRadar:
“We got big success – raw, mistakes, untuned guitars and all. Then we decided to do an arranged album with a ballad with a string quartet with kids singing on it…If you were a KISS fan I’d understand why you were angry. Everything has been a gamble. When we first put on the make-up, that was a gamble. When we decided not to do la-di-dah music or wear tie dye t-shirts, not to sit on the stage with acoustic guitars and incense singing about birds and trees, it was all a gamble… A band should have the backbone of a wild animal…What they do is take risks. They pee on the ground and say, ‘This is my territory.’”
From the original Rolling Stone Album review in 1976:
There’s no doubt that Destroyer is Kiss’s best album yet or that Bob Ezrin, Alice Cooper’s heavyhanded wizard of heavy-metal production who helped write seven of the nine tunes here, has made the difference. But despite Ezrin’s superb production, Kiss still lacks that flash of creative madness that could have made their music interesting, or at least listenable.
The lead-off song, “Detroit, Rock City,” begins with 90 seconds of Cooper-like effects: the sounds of the breakfast table and a news announcer in the background reading a story of a kid who died in a head-on collision; then a flashback to the doomed youth entering his car that night, his mind undoubtedly on the song that follows, and finally in the coda, the screeching crash. Unfortunately, Kiss entirely lacks the satiric distance that often made Cooper’s use of such conceits genuinely funny, and worse yet, such gimmickry is the best Destroyer has to offer.
The songs, save for two bloated ballads, are relentless riff rockers rooted in patently pedestrian drumming. Although constructed with professional aplomb, making use of a wide array of heavy-metal conventions, there’s nothing new here. Even when an effective melody, such as the rabble-rousing “Shout It Out Loud,” is presented, the lackluster performances dampen the effect. The vocals are undistinguished and emotionally empty; the lyrics — about partying and the rock scene, with plenty of campy S&M allusions — trite. Worse yet, there’s not a memorable guitar solo on the album.
Can you believe those words were written just as this band made it HUGE?
Happy Anniversary, Destroyer.