Forty-five years on, Destroyer is rightly considered a Kiss classic, arguably the group’s finest studio effort and a favorite of many in the Kiss Army. It also has a deserved spot on many magazine polls of the greatest albums of all time.
But Paul Stanley tells UCR that approval wasn’t the case in the spring of 1976, in the immediate wake of the album’s release.
“Destroyer was pivotal for us, a real a raise-the-bar moment,” he recalls. “And interestingly, it wasn’t initially met and embraced in the way we had hoped because, let’s face it, it didn’t sound like Kiss Alive! But over time it became a part of who we are and who we’re perceived to be, and the songs just transcend, perhaps, the initial resistance to the sonics or the instrumentation.”
The aftermath of Alive!‘s breakthrough success did help push Destroyer to No. 11 on the Billboard 200, Kiss’ best showing, and, over time, to double-platinum sales. Its initial singles, however — “Shout It Out Loud” and “Flaming Youth” — fell well below “Rock and Roll All Nite‘s” Top 15 peak. The issue, Stanley notes, was that in stepping up its game with producer Bob Ezrin — then a veteran of classic albums for Alice Cooper and Lou Reed — the band entered a kind of depth and sonic polish that was foreign, and on first listen off-putting for those who liked their Kiss raw and sloppy.
“There were a lot of things going on that we hadn’t done,” Stanley says. “We had never used pianos, and I don’t mean as frills on a song, but we actually fortified guitars with pianos to make the chords bigger. And I think some people were thrown by all of that. But ultimately more songs from Destroyer over the years have been in our shows and in the set than any others.”
Listen to Kiss’ ‘Shout It Out Loud’
Stanley, in fact, remembers Destroyer as “a do-or-die project for us, because we were coming off this live album that had broken us to the public and made us a phenomenon, and we were aware that we could just as easily go back to where we had been just before Kiss Alive!, and we had to make sure the next album transcended what we had done before and up our game.
“We were a bunch of guys who had suddenly hit the big time and really didn’t have the acumen or the discipline to take it to the next step, and Bob Ezrin was intrinsic in that happening. The collaboration with him was an education, really. Bob was a taskmaster, but he brought out something in us that we fought for. It was a matter of taking off the blinders and seeing things in IMAX.”
Even though Destroyer marked its 45th anniversary in March, Kiss will celebrate with the release of a new Super Deluxe edition on Nov. 19 that features a remastered version of the album, a batch of previously unreleased demos (including “Detroit Rock City” and an acoustic guitar version of “Beth”), single edits and a May 1976 concert from Paris.
“Some of those songs were created from bits and pieces, and it was exciting,” Stanley says of the Destroyer process. “It was a different way to work, and [Ezrin] was very adamant in terms of the lyrics that it not be what we had done before, which was really singing about our experiences as a rock band, sex and partying. Those certainly were important and remain important, but he wanted us to expand those horizons, which we did. That’s why I think [Destroyer] holds up after all these years.”
Currently on break after its recent Kiss Kruise, the band resumes its End of the Road farewell tour on March 19 in Australia with dates also booked in South America and Europe. Kiss are slated to wrap things up for good before the end of 2022 in New York City, though a date and location haven’t been announced yet. A Netflix biopic, Shout It Out Loud, is also in motion, chronicling the band’s first four years.
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