Record of the Week

presented by Music Direct

Destroyer, Resurrected!

Destroyer, Resurrected!

Kiss never brought the fervor of its live shows to the studio, but on its fourth album, Destroyer, the quartet came close.

Six months after the legendary Alive!, the band is at the top of the world and at one of its highest creative peaks. All of the songs on Destroyer are solid, and the record delivered four memorable singles.

“Detroit Rock City” and “Flaming Youth” remained favorites for years to come, and “Shout it out Loud” took the place of “Rock and Roll All Nite” as the collective’s then-major anthem. The piano ballad “Beth” took everyone by surprise. For this budding audiophile, in 1976, Destroyer sounded much better on a pair of JBL L-100s than audiophile-approved Magnepans.

The new Destroyer (Resurrected) mix features producer Bob Ezrin back behind the console, adding here, embellishing there, with good results—until you read the phrase “digital copies of the original tapes” in the liner notes.  Ugh. Word of the original tapes being remixed almost always spells disaster in the rock world, but here, Ezrin’s affection for the band is a work of art. This record might have even been bigger if these changes were employed t he first time around.  The effort is now certainly more epic. Isn’t that what Kiss is all about?

Forget the $90 SACD released in 2010. It’s a marginal improvement over the original vinyl, still sounding flat and two-dimensional. And forget the new vinyl, mastered by Bob Ludwig for Universal. With barely more than half of each side of the LP devoted to musical information, you can guess what happened—compression. Epic fail. There’s no bass and it does not rock.

A quick comparison to the original pressing reveals that the new pressing has the same anemic dynamics and is slightly smoother on top. But zero dynamics means death to all that would otherwise rock. And that’s having played the vinyl through the Lyra Atlas cartridge and Qualia Indigo phonostage via two massive Audio Research tube monoblocks. I guarantee it will suck on your system.

If you love Kiss, and you still don’t have the ability to listen to high-resolution digital, there’s no better reason than Destroyer (Resurrected) to invest in the technology. This is the way a rock record is supposed to sound: thundering bass, over-the-top dynamics, and a wall of guitars that sounds larger than life. And I’ve been there since the first tour.

Excitement builds on the HD Tracks version the second the car door slams in “Detroit Rock City.” The opening guitar riff sinks the hook into the listener, and is firmly set by the first chorus. Long-term members of the Kiss Army will either relish the Resurrected version or spurn it as blasphemous. However, if you’re in the former camp, the 24/96 rendition contains many surprises.

Guitar interplay between Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley is clearly delineated, as Stanley’s rhythm licks are no longer buried in the mix. The child in “King of the Night Time World” has its own space that stays separate from the rest of the band. Best of all, Gene Simmons’ bass playing not only has more pace, but the convincing weight it deserves.  Also, the chorus on “Great Expectations” no longer sounds like it was recorded in a high-school bathroom. And that’s just side one. Another bonus? The alternate mix of “Sweet Pain.”  Ezrin mentions “fixing something that has bothered him for decades.” I won’t spoil the surprise.