Released in August
One of the latest products in KISS' long line of cash grabs from diehard fans (and I used to be one for almost three decades) involves the latest reissue of their best album, 1976's Destroyer. Initially teased as a lavish deluxe edition featuring plenty of previously unreleased material, Destroyer (Resurrected) delivers next to nothing of value in the way of special extras. All that paying fans/suckers will get is one of the original album's tracks with a different guitar solo on it, a brief essay from Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin (who remixed the album to minimally noticeable effect), a few previously unseen photos, and the original album cover artwork. Artist Ken Kelley's originally intended piece was deemed to be too grim by the band's label, Casablanca Records, so Kelly added more colour and changed the band's outfits for the iconic replacement painting that ended up on the front of KISS' first platinum album.
With virtually no worthwhile extras in the package to speak of, the main draw towards this reissue for fans will be Ezrin's remixes. A posting on the band's official website prior to Resurrected's release promised Ezrin had "fleshed out the drums and guitars, bringing out the bottom end to the bass, making his mixes tight and tough". Because I clearly don't have enough of a life, I conducted an experiment: through a good set of headphones, I went back and forth between listening to a song from the 1997 remastered Destroyer CD reissue and then following it with a listen to the same song on Resurrected. I'd like to think I have a pretty good ear and all I could hear on the supposed upgrade is an unnecessarily fiddled-with recording with some very minor differences, and perhaps some other subtle improvements that will stand out if you're one of the miniscule percentage of the population who earn their livings as audio engineers. I'm simply not hearing the advertised "punching up" of the original recording and only one enhancement was immediately obvious to me - the sound of some acoustic guitars that were previously buried in the mix on "Beth". Hearing them now supplement the orchestral foundation of the song is slightly interesting, but do I like the ballad any more after their unearthing? Nope...loved it before, love it just the same now. There are supposedly also some extra vocal tracks on the track, but I can't discern where they are. Other questionable vocal tinkering takes place on "Detroit Rock City", where an extra "Get up, get down" line is added during a chorus, as well as one word in the third verse being changed ("Movin' fast down 95" has been changed to "Movin' fast, doin' 95"...earth shattering, huh?). I've heard the original version of this song many hundreds of times and neither change was apparent to me upon my first three listens of the Resurrected version, until I read about them in another review and then went back and could make them out. The "extra track" is nothing more than the song "Sweet Pain" with the brief original solo from then-lead guitarist Ace Frehley edited in. His solo was shelved for Destroyer's release and replaced by a superior one from Dick Wagner, who Ezrin had worked with as a producer for Alice Cooper. And get this regarding the song "Flaming Youth": one of the digital versions of the track (the one I have and the one most likely to be purchased) and initial CD versions of it have a jarring flaw at the five second mark, where a half beat section from the song is missing (apparently the higher quality and pricier digital track on the iTunes store is okay). How on earth does something like that make it past the band or record company's quality control?
I had a long history with this band until reaching the end of my rope with the levels to which KISS founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley will whore themselves out for a merchandising buck, along with other misguided career moves that tarnished a name that meant so much to me for the majority of my life. In a shameless KISS marketing universe that offers up crap like a KISS coffin, KISS footed pajamas, KISS/Hello Kitty toilet paper, and a new KISS book with a price tag of $4,250 (!), Destroyer (Resurrected) is a relatively less embarrassing example of the latest product to roll off the band's merchandising assembly line. Unfortunately, it does little to enhance an ambitious, truly classic rock album that has sounded just fine for the past 36 years. And for the record, I'll readily admit to reviewing this release from an illegally downloaded copy of the album (JPGs and some online research informed me as to what the album artwork and packaging consisted of). For some of you, that may totally negate the credibility of this review. All I'll say to that is I've already purchased Destroyer four times over the years: on vinyl, cassette, its first CD pressing, and the subsequent CD remaster in 1997. Considering how much I've soured on the band in recent years, there for damn sure was not going to be a fifth.
Original Destroyer Rating: A
Destroyer (Resurrected) Rating: D
Related posts: my October 2009 review of KISS' Sonic Boom album and my January 2010 review of Ace Frehley's Anomaly album