Time to ‘Shout’ About Even More KISS!

KISS, Destroyer, Shout It Out Loud, KISS, box sets, records, memories… and did we say KISS?

Yes, 2021 has been long and hard. And, yes, KISS hasn’t released an official new album since 2012. Still, KISS ended up being one of the most welcomed bright spots of the year. This is largely because their album Destroyer, a formative piece of rock and roll history, turned 45. While this was not quite a debut for KISS back in the mid-seventies, it did mark an innovative shift in their musical landscape – something their fans and the world at large were quick to grab onto.

Destroyer was an album worth celebrating the minute it hit shelves on March 15, 1976. However, that wasn’t exactly the case. Critics all but panned the record by making unfair comparisons to their first three (all of which were a success). There were moments of triumph for KISS prior to Destroyer – that much is true – but nothing could compare once it was truly absorbed and listened to. It was sonically different. Period. Year after year, release after release, it became increasingly noticeable that that specific fourth KISS LP was something of a mystical ballad-laced classic rock anomaly. Eventually we got to know Destroyer as we do today: as an album that transformed the way society looked at heavy metal and rolled eyes at the notion that gritty, head-banging music couldn’t be melodic, mainstream, and meaningful (plus tantalizing and cutting edge).

Throughout that time we got to know KISS better – both personally and professionally. The Aquarian covered the band extensively and continues to. Although, it is our Reality Check columnist and contributing editor James Campion that went knee deep into the depths of Big Apple rockstars. One of Campion’s most notable and wonderfully extensive books is Shout It Out Loud, a cohesive retelling and understanding of the KISS phenomena, the pinnacle that was Destroyer, and it’s subsequent history that is aptly named after the record’s lead single.

This fall KISS dropped the 45th anniversary boxset of the seminal album. As a multi-piece musical catalog from 1976 and beyond, this edition span so much more than the track listing we know and love (including, but not limited to, “God of Thunder,” “Beth,” and the aforementioned “Shout It Out Loud”). The Super Deluxe version of the 2021 release, for example, features almost 50 unreleased KISS songs, demo tapes, live moments, and so much more that we can’t begin to explain. (This really is an experience of a boxset that deserves being dove into firsthand…. Not to mention that it is sure to become yet another KISS Collector’s Item.) Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Paul Stanley knew what they were doing when playing around with the instrumentation and lyricism that ended up becoming Destroyer. The archives from that time are shiny and new to us now, illuminating that fact tenfold.

As an accompaniment to your much-needed moment with Destroyer (45th Anniversary) [Super Deluxe] and the many layers that come with it should, without a doubt, be a close reading of Shout It Out Loud. It’s a tale all too true and very much memorable, using anecdotes and interviews and lyrics and fact to tell the story of the platform boots, the band, and the journey. To top it off, it is lead by a passionate music journalist and author who understands how, when, and why people got hooked on KISS, as well as Destroyer.

Much like this new boxset, Campion’s book is comprehensive. He tackles reality, personality, and musicality in a succinct, but never dull, fashion.

You may be thinking, “Could KISS ever be dull?” The answer is no, of course. They are the loudest band, after all. What Shout It Out Loud does is prove that the KISS story and the whirlwind life of one beloved album is an interesting, thrilling, inspiring, and entertaining read for a fan as casual as knowing just the radio hits or a fan as hardcore as having seen the band on every single one of their 30-something tours.

You get so much more than behind-the-scenes of an album in the making. Shout It Out Loud may have been released in 2015, almost 40 years after the album came out, but it still provides readers moments from under the stage, in the recording studio, amid the practical jokes, and within the minds of four memorable musicians.

A wide variety of voices fill the pages, leveling the playing field for Stanley, Simmons, Criss, and Frehley to come across as just one part of the exuberant hard rock journey they took the world on. The entire chronicling of Destroyer is relevant and spectacular; detailed perfectly as you slide into the latter half of the book. For a fun, nostalgic read for music lovers and book readers of all kind, Shout is riddled with depth. A retro rock narrative like this one, straight from the source (and the sources’ inner circle and experts), is refreshing to say the least. The book provides pop culture context and social cues from an age a bit less sensitive and a lot more rockin’.

Again, similar to the Super Deluxe boxset, James Campion’s book showcases the importance that a well-rounded team – in the early days of your career more than anything – can have on a band, their sound, and their creative vision. (Producer, Bob Ezrin, we’re looking at you. As Campion wrote, Ezrin and the band were dedicated to “crafting a cinematic rock novella seeped in themes of sex, power, lust, greed, speed, and youthful imagination” during the Destroyer sessions.)

Directions weren’t followed and leads weren’t taken – even as popularity skyrocketed in a practically inconceivable manner. Collectively, KISS was its own hard rock unit, a band wholly in their own lane, that worked with who they wanted and on their own terms to make their face-painted mark everlasting. Without the right people, KISS’ music and the band’s own cultural impact wouldn’t have been as strong, let alone as hard-hitting that it would still be discussed at length in 2021 and remastered for the umpteenth time for an even grander seventies metal experience.

The legacy of KISS, the makeup, the outfits, the melody, and the musicianship is all ingrained in Destroyer. You don’t have to look too far to find it, either. All you need is its 45th anniversary edition and a copy of Shout It Out Loud to go back in time and into the life of one legendary group.