In the 70’s, style and showmanship was all part of the act - which Kiss certainly took to the next level with their painted faces and specialized designer clothes. They have long since stripped away these characteristics, but fans have not forgotten. Now 45 years on from the release of their top selling album “Destroyer” from 1976, a super deluxe anniversary edition has been released in November 2021. Destroyer was the band’s first album to sell over one million copies in its first year and remains their all-time best selling studio album. This acclaimed album contains fan favorites including “Detroit Rock City,” “God of Thunder,” “Shout it Out Loud,” and “Beth,” which makes up the first disc of the deluxe 4-CD + Blu-ray Audio box set. Analog audiophiles can find the set on standard double black vinyl and limited edition yellow and red double colored vinyl too.
Bob Ezrin was brought in as producer back in 1976, taking the band to new levels, both sonically and creatively. This album also showed their growth as musicians and songwriters, experimenting with new sounds which included softer songs like “Do You Love Me?,” and the heavy orchestral arrangements on “Great Expectations” plus their Billboard No. 7 hit single “Beth.” Destroyer followed the band’s breakthrough success of 1975’s No. 9 Billboard charting “Alive!” album, taking them to the forefront and transforming them into global rock legends.
This anniversary super deluxe edition contains a staggering amount of bonus material, including the original album newly remastered at Abbey Road Mastering on CD1, while CD 2 features 15 demos from Paul Stanley’s and Gene Simmons’s personal archives, 9 of which were unreleased until now. CD 3 contains a treasure trove of studio outtakes, alternate versions, and single edits, which includes most notably a brand-new stripped-down acoustic mix of the song “Beth.” CD 4 features their performance from the band’s electrifying visit to Paris France at the L’ Olympia on May 22, 1976. Naturally for high resolution audio fanatics the Blu-ray Audio disc will be of most interest, and Steven Wilson was brought in to create a first-ever Dolby Atmos and 5.1 surround mix of the original studio album along with 2 bonus tracks “Beth (Acoustic Mix)” and “Sweet Pain (Original Guitar Solo)” the latter featuring Ace Frehley’s original recorded guitar solo that was not released on the studio album.
Additionally, fans will find an extravagant array of collectable Kiss memorabilia and ephemera, including a complete recreation of the original Kiss Army Kit with the original folder and following items: Kiss Army newsletter Volume 1 - No 2 announcing Destroyer; 2x 8”x10” Destroyer Press Photos; Discography Sheet; Gene, Paul, Ace & Peter Bio Sheet; Kiss Army Member Certificate and a Kiss Army Membership Card. For those who missed it, you have finally made it into the Kiss club! But that is not all, there are iron-on stickers, bumper stickers, posters, trading cards, and more, plus a 68-page hardcover book with extensive liner notes. Everything is housed in a lift top- style box featuring the original Destroyer cover art.
Unfortunately, as exciting as this deluxe edition is, the price has put it out of the reach of many fans, coming in at $200 via the band’s website. Let’s consider for a moment, that when this album was first released, one could buy the vinyl album for about $5 US. Thus, with all of the bonuses, surround and Atmos mixes, along with the promo goodies, fans are paying 40 times that price today! This may be the highest priced single album deluxe set I have seen to date.
At that price, clearly high-resolution and surround enthusiasts like myself certainly want to know if the Atmos and Surround mixes are worth the cost of admission. While I personally will hold out for a stand-alone Blu-ray edition, I was able to stream the Atmos version on Apple Music today. I should note that collectors have commented that the Atmos and 5.1 surround mixes are unique, including the placement of instruments such as guitars and other elements. This has also been somewhat the case for other Steven Wilson mixes where elements are static on the surround mix, and swirl around above the listener on the Atmos mix of the same track. My listening experience is complicated by the fact that while I stream Atmos through the Apple TV 4K box, the remainder of my system is 7.1 surround.
Although I am not fully configured for Atmos, Atmos is designed to configure itself to various speaker setups. The full set of surround speakers blast through with a discrete mix that also dips down into the subs. Each channel receives plenty of action, and I find myself completely immersed with the mix. Some have commented that the Atmos mix is sterile and lacking spatial depth, I didn’t find this to be the case at all. Others declared that cranking their systems dramatically aided in revealing discrete elements in the surround and elevated speakers, again for my setup the surround channels were on fire. I really felt comfortable with the overall balance and was actually surprised by the vibrant top end which really pushed through nicely. There are some really cool effects moving around the room and the overall clarity is darn good.
Additionally, channel separation is quite good, and listeners will find a multitude of elements tastefully placed behind the sweet spot, including supporting vocals, blazing guitar solos, and the like. From a production standpoint, there is plenty to envelop listeners, and Wilson has certainly made use of many of his surround mixing tricks to do that. I like what I hear, and this loose review is only a barometer of what one should expect to hear on the Blu-ray disc, especially with the knowledge that the surround and Atmos mixes apparently are truly unique to one another.
Through all of their efforts, Kiss still rarely gets credit for being a genuinely great rock band, partially due to their gimmicks that were never intended to attract critical respectability. Yet, the band produced hard rock that was both calculated and authentic and could put on a bigger show than Sabbath or Led Zeppelin. Of the greatest importance here is Destroyer is a polished version of Kiss at their best.
Released Nov 19, 2021.
4CD + Blu-ray Limited Edition Deluxe Box Set with Atmos and 5.1 Surround Mixes by Steven Wilson. Also available on CD, LP, and Atmos streaming.