March 15, 1976: Kiss Release 'Destroyer'

It was on this day in 1976 that Kiss released what is perhaps their best-known album, Destroyer.

Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter started work on their fifth studio album in the fall of 1975 at New York City's Electric Lady Studios, getting in only a handful of days of tracking before heading back out on the road for their famous Alive! tour. Alive! had been the band's first real critical and commercial success, amping up the pressure to deliver with the follow-up.

"Alive! was what we stood for," guitarist Paul Stanley would later tell us, "the embodiment and the magnification of everything we were as a band. It was Kiss on steroids."

Kiss would pick back up the following January at Record Plant Studios, also in NYC, where they would record the majority of the album with producer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin was the most stringent producer the band had ever encountered, even going so far as to wear a whistle while in the studio. Paul Stanley would later refer to the Destroyer sessions as a "brutal boot camp."

"I was well aware of what Bob could do in the studio, from the work he'd done with Alice Cooper," said Stanley. "It was just a no-brainer that he should be our one and only choice for Destroyer."

Ezrin was instrumental in establishing a more rigorous approach to music and business for the band. He was responsible for bringing in session guitarist Dick Wagner when Ace Frehley failed to show up on time, or even at all (Wagner would add a lead to "Sweet Pain," as well as contribute acoustic guitars to "Beth.") Given the pressure to put out a hit, and the tight reigns Ezrin held over the sessions, no one in the band had much say in the matter.

"If someone doesn’t turn up, the show must go on," Stanley said. "You know, Ace has got his life under control these days, and I have great fun talking with him. But things were different back then. He was succumbing to the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle rather than taking advantage of its perks."

Ultimately, the decision paid off commercially, with Destroyer reaching gold status just a month after its release, and being certified platinum by the RIAA on November 11 of that year.

While not critically well-received (Rolling Stone would famously call the album full of "pedestrian drumming" and "lackluster performances"), Destroyer stands as Kiss' finest moment. From the demonic stomp of "God of Thunder" to the tender Peter Criss-sung ballad "Beth" and the ever-enduring legacy of "Detroit Rock City," we're still feeling the seismic effects of this album 26 years later.

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.