Destroyer: an explosion of infernal imagination and Kiss's Sgt. Pepper

Kiss celebrate Destroyer's 45th birthday with a super-deluxe package that includes everything bar the cake

kiss destroyer 45th anniversary deluxe edition box set
(Image: © UMe)

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It seems inconceivable that Destroyer is 45 years old. To put that into perspective, if this were 1976 we’d be writing about an album originally released in 1931, a fossilised artefact by Bing Crosby or some such. But, hey, time marches on, even if – unlike Bing – you’re wearing clomping great platform shoes. 

Destroyer was Kiss’s sui generis moment; a sorcerous explosion of infernal imagination. The band’s Sgt Pepper, if you will. The planets aligned and the creative juices didn’t so much flow as cascade, in the manner of a fountain of blood gushing from Gene Simmons’s crimson cakehole. 

There was no sign of such a record coming, especially after the band’s clunky first three studio albums. But then the mind-warping Kiss Alive! punched the clock and set the stage for the New Yorkers’ greatest recorded achievement. (Remarkable to think that Paul Stanley was just 24 when Destroyer was released; Ace Frehley also.)

This anniversary edition comes in various guises, but the one you really, really want is the top-of-the-range super-deluxe edition, retailing via Kiss’s online shop at an entirely reasonable $200 (£146). 

It has more bells and whistles than a Don Partridge convention: four CDs, ear-boggling Blu-ray Audio surround-sound disc mixed by Steven Wilson, 68-page hardcover book, replica 1976 Kiss Army Kit… the kollektibles keep on komin’. 

There’s a total of 73 tracks, 48 of them previously unreleased. Do you really want a mono version of plaintive ballad Beth, an instrumental version of Beth, an instrumental version of Beth (take six) or a cut-and-shut Gene Simmons demo titled Rock ‘N’ Rolls-Royce? Of course you do.

Naturally the core appeal of this gilded codpiece of a package remains the original album, expertly produced by Bob Ezrin, his sonics as lush as The Starchild’s chest rug: the crash-bang-wallop of Detroit Rock City (the best album opener, ever); the stalking menace of King Of The Night Time World and God Of Thunder; the triumphal Flaming Youth; the call-to-arms anthem Shout It Out Loud; the sinister Sweet Pain; the sanguine Great Expectations; the anguished Do You Love Me (complete with perhaps the greatest ‘but!’ of all time)… 

It’s a rocket ride like no other. This writer must have listened to Destroyer 100,000 times and it never ceases to excite, enthral and amaze. As for Wilson’s surround-sound thingy, well suffice to say that by the end of Detroit Rock City you’ll be filing a multi-million-dollar insurance claim for whiplash injury.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.