Kiss-Destroyer

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Kiss DestroyerDestroyer is the fourth studio album by American rock band Kiss, released on March 15, 1976 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, and eventually went multi-platinum. The success of Alive!, which spent 110 weeks on the charts, benefited not only the struggling band but 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. Among the production flourishes Ezrin introduced to Kiss were 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 Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, opus 13 “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-Symphony Orchestra. 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 from 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.

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!”[13]

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.”

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. Notable among these are some additional vocals on “Detroit Rock City” and “Beth”, and the substitution of a guitar solo by Ace Frehley on “Sweet Pain” for the one from the original that had been performed by Dick Wagner.

Destroyer: Resurrected has been met with positive 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“. 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 #11 on the Billboard album chart on May 15, Destroyer quickly fell and by August was at #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 #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. 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” was re-released as the fourth single in late August, and it peaked at #7 on the Billboard singles chart on September 25. It was the group’s first Top 10 song and re-ignited sales of the album. On November 11 Destroyer became the first Kiss album to be certified platinum.

The album has received recognition many years later. In 1989, Kerrang! magazine listed the album at #36 among the “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time”. In 2003, it was ranked #489 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2006, it was placed at #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.

Track listing

No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1.“Detroit Rock City”Paul Stanley, Bob EzrinStanley5:17
2.“King of the Night Time World”Stanley, Kim Fowley, Mark Anthony, EzrinStanley3:19
3.“God of Thunder”StanleySimmons4:13
4.“Great Expectations”Gene Simmons, EzrinSimmons4:24
5.“Flaming Youth”Ace Frehley, Stanley, Simmons, EzrinStanley2:59
6.“Sweet Pain”SimmonsSimmons3:20
7.“Shout It Out Loud”Stanley, Simmons, EzrinStanley, Simmons2:49
8.“Beth”Peter Criss, Stan Penridge, EzrinCriss2:45
9.“Do You Love Me?”Stanley, Fowley, EzrinStanley3:40
10.“Rock and Roll Party[32]Simmons, Stanley, EzrinInstrumental1:25