This is our 5th installment of Klassic Albums, so today we’re profiling the 5th, and my favorite album from KISS – Destroyer. See, guys? THIS is why I didn’t start things off with a KISS record. There was a method to my madness, I promise. You should also be warned that this is my FAVORITE ALBUM IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!! I’ll try to keep the gushing to a minimum, but no promises.
My father bought me Destroyer while we were visiting family in Belfast, Northern Ireland when I was four years old. The minute I put the needle down on my Auntie Nora’s turntable and heard Paul Stanley I knew I wanted to be a rock and roll singer. Well, we see how THAT worked out, but I digress. Ladies and gentlemen…Destroyer.
After the now-familiar intro featuring our doomed driver, the album opens with “Detroit Rock City”, a KISS Klassic, and perennial show opener to this day. It is big, it is bombastic, and when the band says, “GET UP!” you’d be hard-pressed not to. Ace Frehley’s lead guitar is front and center on one of their most iconic solos before being joined by Paul to create a harmony that gives me goosebumps to this very day. There’s a car crash and then we segue right into “King of the Night Time World” which keeps the engine light squarely in the red, and once again features dueling harmonies on the guitar solos.
Then…well then comes “God of Thunder”. Written by Paul, It is Gene Simmons’ anthem, his signature song, and his moment to shine in a live setting. The song is dark, demonic, and moody, just like the Demon himself. Top notch. From here we go to “Great Expectations”, which is unlike anything the band had done before, or has done since. Featuring acoustic guitars, and a full choir, it is a truly fitting and unique way to end side one.
“Flaming Youth”, Paul’s song of teenage defiance and rebellion is a rousing way to start side two, and is a personal favorite. I still wish they’d do it live. “Sweet Pain” with its female backing vocals, and simple yet effective guitar solo (ORIGINAL, not that 2012 remix nonsense) is another rollickin’ Gene number that keeps the party rollin’ before “Shout It Out Loud” takes things to a whole new level of greatness. With shared lead vocals, it is, to me, the most anthemic song they’ve EVER written, case closed.
Then a funny thing happens. First a piano, and then a string section creeps in, and Peter Criss delivers a simple, adorably raspy vocal on “Beth”, poignant ballad, album smash, and 1976 People’s Choice Award winner. Originally a B-side throwaway, this wound up one of the biggest hits of KISS’ career, and Peter’s peak as a songwriter. Beautiful song.
“Do You Love Me” tells the story of an addiction to the backstage glitz, glamour, and materialistic excess displayed by a certain young lady, and is sung with conviction by Paul once again to close out the record. When he says, “And ya know, I’m so tired of everybody sayin’ it!”, you believe him.
If Alive! is the album that made KISS into stars, Destroyer is the one that made them Mega-stars. They knew they had to do something bigger and better, and each member rose to the challenge to create one of the most special recordings ever committed to tape. The memories I have of this masterpiece are too numerous to go into here, but every time I do fire it up, I grin from ear to ear, look up at the sky, and say “Thanks, Dad”.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF JOSEPH RONALD COUSINS (5/26/38 – 5/16/87)