Destroyer is the fourth studio album by American rock band Kiss, released on March 15, 1976 by Casablanca Records in the US. It was the third successive Kiss album to reach the top 40 in the US, as well as the first to chart in Germany and New Zealand. The album was certified gold by the RIAA on April 22, 1976, and platinum on November 11 of the same year, the first Kiss album to achieve platinum. The album marked a departure from the raw sound of the band's first three albums.
After attaining modest commercial success with their first three studio albums, Kiss achieved a commercial breakthrough with the 1975 concert album Alive!. It was the first album by the band to be certified gold. The success of Alive!, which spent 110 weeks on the charts, benefited not only the struggling band but also their cash-strapped label Casablanca Records. Kiss signed a new contract with Casablanca in late 1975, partly because the label had been very supportive from the start of the band's career. The contract was for two albums, an indication that Casablanca was unsure if the group could duplicate the accomplishments of Alive!.
Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper, was brought in to produce the album. Ezrin introduced to Kiss sound effects, strings, screaming children, reversed drums (on "God of Thunder") and a children's choir. The song "Great Expectations" uses the first phrase of the main theme from the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (known as Sonata Pathétique), but songwriting is credited to Simmons and Ezrin.
Destroyer is the first Kiss album to prominently feature outside musicians, such as members of the New York Philharmonic. One musician not credited was Dick Wagner, from Alice Cooper's band, replacing Ace Frehley on the track "Sweet Pain". Wagner also played the acoustic guitar found on the song "Beth". The success of Alive! and Destroyer enabled the band to embark on their first tour of Europe.
Rehearsals for Destroyer began in August 1975, while the group was embarked on their supporting tour for Alive!. The band felt that Bob Ezrin was the right person to help them take their sound to the next level and to maintain the commercial success they had achieved with Alive!
The first recording sessions for the album took place in September 3–6, 1975 at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, during a brief break between the Dressed to Kill and Alive! tours. The basic album tracks were recorded during this time. The majority of the recording sessions for Destroyer took place in January 1976, after the conclusion of the Alive! tour.
The first demo recorded during the Destroyer sessions was "Ain't None of Your Business" featuring Peter Criss on vocals. The plodding, heavy song, written by country songwriters Becky Hobbs and Lew Anderson, was rejected by the band and later appeared on the 1977 debut album by Michael Des Barres' band Detective. Although this song was rejected, other outside songs and suggestions were accepted by the band. In particular, Kim Fowley and Mark Anthony became important contributors during the songwriting process., bringing in the title and basic structure of the song "King of the Night Time World" from their previous band Hollywood Stars' then-unreleased 1974 album Shine Like a Radio (which also featured the original version of the Alice Cooper song "Escape" from Welcome to My Nightmare).
During the recording sessions, Ezrin resorted to numerous tactics designed to increase the quality of music Kiss recorded. Because none of the group were trained musicians, Ezrin halted the sessions at one point to provide lessons in basic music theory. In an effort to instill a sense of discipline, he wore a whistle around his neck and exhorted the band with sayings such as, "Campers, we're going to work!". When Simmons stopped playing during the recording of an outro, Ezrin yelled at him, saying, "Don't you ever stop a take unless I tell you!"
Paul Stanley later compared the experience of working with Ezrin as "musical boot camp" but said that the group "came out a lot smarter for it." Simmons echoed the sentiment by stating, "It was exactly what we needed at the time."
The cover art for Destroyer was painted by fantasy artist Ken Kelly. Kelly was invited to a show and given a backstage pass. He said of the performance, "It blew me away." Kelly was later commissioned by the band to draw the cover for 1977's Love Gun.
Kelly's original version of the album cover was rejected by the record company because they felt the scene was too violent looking with the rubble and flames. Also, the original version had the members of Kiss wearing the Alive! costumes. The front cover shows the group striding on top of a pile of rubble, and a desolate background spotted with destroyed buildings, some of which are engulfed in flames. The back cover shows a similar scene, but with more buildings on fire. The front of the inner sleeve featured a large Kiss logo and the lyrics to "Detroit Rock City". The other side displayed the lyric "SHOUT IT OUT LOUD", as well as an advertisement for the Kiss Army fan club.
In anticipation of the 35th anniversary of the release of Destroyer, producer Bob Ezrin approached Simmons and Stanley about doing a remix and re-release of the original album. With their approval, Ezrin acquired the original 16-track analog master tapes and had them digitally transferred for remixing. In addition to re-equalizing elements of each song, Ezrin also added in some parts of tracks that had been omitted from the original mix. These include some additional vocals on "Detroit Rock City" and "Beth", and the substitution of a guitar solo by Frehley on "Sweet Pain" for the one from the original that had been performed by Wagner (a version of "Sweet Pain" with Frehley's solo was included as track 6, while the original version with Wagner's solo is appended as a "bonus" track at the end of the new CD). Ezrin also used digital manipulation to fix an incorrect lyric (changing "down 95" to "doin' 95") on "Detroit Rock City". The resulting album, titled Destroyer: Resurrected, was released on August 21, 2012. It featured Ken Kelly's original cover artwork prior to alteration by Casablanca for the 1976 release.
Destroyer: Resurrected met with mixed critical reception. William Clark of Guitar International wrote: "Each track sounds crisper, clearer and louder, which are always welcome qualities when you’re listening to a classic album of the likes of Destroyer". However, Circus magazine in a joint review with Aerosmith's contemporary release of Rocks praised Rocks while stating that Destroyer "stinks." The album returned to the Billboard charts, debuting at #11 the week after its re-release.
Destroyer sold well upon its release on March 15, 1976 and was certified gold on April 22. Although exact sales figures are not known, Stanley stated that the album initially sold 850,000 copies in the US, well in excess of any of Kiss's first three studio albums. After peaking at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 album chart on May 15, Destroyer quickly fell and by August was at No. 192. The first three singles—"Shout It Out Loud", "Flaming Youth" and "Detroit Rock City"—failed to ignite sales any further, though "Shout It Out Loud" did give the band their first No. 1 record, in Canada. The band and Ezrin cited fan backlash as the reason Destroyer did not meet sales expectations. Ezrin also stated that the "grassroots rock press" was particularly critical of the album.
Rolling Stone referred to "bloated ballads", "pedestrian drumming" and "lackluster performances" in its review. Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, felt that it was Kiss's "least interesting record" and criticized producer Ezrin for adding "only bombast and melodrama". It was not until radio stations started playing the B-side of the "Detroit Rock City" single "Beth", that the album started to sell as expected. The ballad, which according to Simmons was deliberately put on the B-side to force stations to play "Detroit Rock City", started receiving numerous listener requests and became an unexpected hit. "Beth" (co-written and sung by Peter Criss) was re-released as the fourth single in late August, and it peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on September 25. It was the group's first Top 10 song and reignited sales of the album. On November 11 Destroyer became the first Kiss album to be certified platinum.
The album has received recognition in later years. In 1989, Kerrang! magazine listed the album at No. 36 among the "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time". In 2012, it was ranked No. 489 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2006, it was placed at No. 60 on Guitar World magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time. The album was also featured in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), Rob Sheffield referred to Destroyer as "the inevitable arty concept album, from the drink-smoke-drive-die saga 'Detroit Rock City' to the touching 'Do You Love Me?'". Pitchfork's Jason Josephes said that it is "easily one of the best albums in the Kiss canon" and credited Ezrin for ushering along "even more of an art/hard rock album than Kiss's previous efforts."
"Rock and Roll Party" appears as a hidden track on the original vinyl pressing. It appears a few seconds after "Do You Love Me?".
|Billboard Pop Singles||Canadian Singles Chart||German Singles Chart||Swedish Singles Chart||Australian Singles Chart||New Zealand Singles Chart|
|1976||"Shout It Out Loud"||31||1||32||16||45||40|
|1976||"Detroit Rock City"||–||–||14||–||–||–|
|United States (RIAA)||2× Platinum||2,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
|Rolling Stone||U.S.||The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time||2003||496|
|Blender||U.S.||The 100 Greatest American Albums of All Time||2002||50|
|Guitar World||U.S.||The 100 Greatest Guitar Albums of All Time.||2006||60|
|United States||March 15, 1976||Casablanca Records||LP||NBLP-7025|
|United States||July 1987||Casablanca/PolyGram||CD||824 149-2|
|United States||August 12, 1997||Mercury Records||Remastered CD||532 378-2|
|Worldwide||August 21, 2012||Universal Music Group||Re-release||—|
|Worldwide||2014||Universal Music Group||Remastered LP||B0019818-01|