Kiss - Destroyer Resurrected [Album Review]
By Chad Baalman
Bob Ezrin's fingerprints were all over the rock scene during the back half of the 1970s.
In 1975, he reunited with Alice Cooper to produce Welcome to My Nightmare, a theatrical concept album that kick started Cooper's solo career.
Four years later, Ezrin found himself collaborating with David Gilmour and Roger Waters as Pink Floyd unleashed the epic The Wall, another concept album that has stood the test of time.
But in between the Alice and Floyd experiences, Ezrin, with a coach's whistle around his neck and a taskmaster's mentality, helped Kiss stretch their musical boundaries by producing Destroyer in 1976.
It would be Kiss' best-selling studio album, which is why more than three decades later, Ezrin couldn't wait to again get his hands on what he called "one of the most important and formative albums I ever worked on."
Last year, with the blessing of Kiss co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons and record label Universal Music, Ezrin took on the project of remixing Destroyer after getting a hold of digital copies of the original master tapes.
"I honestly could not open it for the first few days," Ezrin recalled in the liner notes of Destroyer - Resurrected, which was released on CD on August 21. "It just sat there next to my console, smirking at me and defying me to jump back into '70s one more time. My engineer, Justin Cortelyou, and I were finishing another project so we had a bit of an excuse, but the magnetic field around that box got stronger by the day. Finally, we got brave enough to mount the drive and open the session files."
Kiss fans, especially the audiophiles, are glad he did. On Resurrected, Ezrin, 63, breathed some fresh air into the nine-song masterpiece that the 1997 remaster couldn't offer.
One of the more noticeable differences is the drumming of Peter Criss. He beefed up the drum sound and brought them forward in the mix, giving "King of the Night Time World" more of a marching, rat-a-tat-tat feel throughout. Criss' kick drum gives "Do You Love Me" the swagger that was missing from the original version.
The gem on the remix is without a doubt "God of Thunder." Already highlighted by Simmons' menacing, bellowing vocals and Ezrin's heavy production, the bottom end got even more bite as Simmons' bass pulsates through the speakers.
Another hallmark of the original "God of Thunder" that gave the song a certain "spooky" factor was the insertion of random, reverb-coated chatter from a couple young boys. That chatter was amplified a little more by Ezrin this time around and only added to the aura of the song. Who were those two boys in 1976? None other than David and Josh Ezrin, Bob's sons.
Bob Ezrin added: "Justin and I worked mostly on making the album more immediate and modern sounding by bringing the drums closer and adding more bottom to the bass, making the guitars a little brighter and more present."
There are a couple other treats for fans. In "Beth," a ballad sung by Criss that debuted as a B-side but turned into a hit single, acoustic guitar parts were uncovered that augment the strings and piano arrangements nicely.
A track was added to the remix - an alternate version of "Sweet Pain," which has an awkward, ill-fit guitar solo by lead guitarist Ace Frehley. The "Sweet Pain" that everyone has come to know from the original release actually showcases a solo by Dick Wagner, who was recruited by Ezrin to fill in for Frehley one day during the recording sessions. Wagner and Ezrin had known each other from Wagner's days playing for Cooper throughout the 1970s.
Even though Wagner's "Sweet Pain" appeared on the album in 1976, it finds itself being dubbed as a bonus track and tacked on at the end of the running order. Perhaps a minor inconvenience for fans looking to keep the integrity of track sequence. Another tweak is "Rock And Roll Party," previously the spoken outro to "Do You Love Me" at the end of Destroyer, getting its own track this time around - but not a listing on the album.
"Detroit Rock City," perhaps the band's shining moment from a recording standpoint ("Rock And Roll All Nite" considered) and the leadoff track, got some doctoring from Ezrin. He was bugged by a botched lyric years earlier when Paul Stanley sung "down 95" instead of "doin' 95" and he fixed it without a re-record. Yet he went too far by bringing up an unnecessary "Get up / Get down" at the end of the first break. To his credit, the infamous car crash at the end packs much more punch this time around and now bleeds over into the beginning of "King of the Night Time World."
It's worth noting that the digital downloads and the physical CD features a noticeable flaw on "Flaming Youth," where five seconds in, a half-beat is missing. Not a deal breaker, but it takes a bit of luster off the product. (NOTE: Those who have purchased high-definition audio download of the remix report the flaw is not present).
The cover features the artwork from Ken Kelly that was intended 36 years earlier, but was instead replaced because the record company at the time (Casablanca Records) believed the background rife with burning buildings was too violent.
The packaging has some nice touches. In addition to an insightful essay by Ezrin and some previously unreleased photos of the band, the disc has the appearance of an old 45 rpm single with the black surface (on both sides) and the Casablanca logo in the center.
Much to the chagrin of diehards who salivated over early reports of outtakes, demos and other previously unreleased material being included on a second disc, the one-disc package is short on extras.
As a result, Universal chose to shy away from largesse and Ezrin and Co. stayed on topic and kept a narrow focus - giving that 1976 release an updated sound and sonic upgrade with Destroyer - Resurrected while at the same time trying not to get overzealous.
While casual fans of the band might not be able to pick up the audible differences, it’s a worthy addition for those who collect all things Kiss.
"I think the end result is the same "Destroyer," Ezrin told Kissfaq.com. "But it's a little more in your face and it's a little more sonically powerful. And I think it stands up to modern records, acoustically."
Destroyer Resurrected Track listing:
01. Detroit Rock City 5:16
02. King Of The Night Time World 3:22
03. God Of Thunder 4:17
04. Great Expectations 4:24
05. Flaming Youth 3:00
06. Sweet Pain (Ace Frehley guitar solo) 3:21
07. Shout It Out Loud 2:51
08. Beth 2:49
09. Do You Love Me? 3:40
10. Rock And Roll Party 1:27
11. Sweet Pain (Original guitar solo - Dick Wagner) 3:19
Running Time: 37:40