As iconic an image as any in rock history, this is one of the most arresting album covers in Kiss' entire catalog. It's as recognizable on a global level as the Coca-Cola logo and the golden arches. Painted by famed fantasy artist Ken Kelly (who also did the even cooler Love Gun), the Destroyer album cover is symbolic of the album itself, as well as the bicentennial year in which it hit the masses.
Pitting the kabuki commandos at the fore of a fireswept apocalypse left in their wake, Destroyer was demonstrative of the sweeping changes in music as well as an American culture ready to swing instead of march. Though Kiss was climbing into a commercialized dimension of themselves in 1976 and beyond, this in-your-face attack is beautifully painted with only slightly exaggerated lines and gratuitous muscle tones to indicate Kiss is decimating the world one town at a time, Hyperborean-style. Only Gene's image seems to be taking the rampage seriously, while Paul vamps, Ace is aloof and Peter is in range rover mode, though fisticuffs at the ready. Whereas Kelly's Love Gun cover shows a domineering Kiss standing arrogantly overtop a coven of face-painted sex slaves, this Kiss shows an intentional variation of character, as if to say Kiss knew they were larger-than-life (pun intended) and taking over the world to the tune of both a platform-shoed party and a trailing Armageddon.
All exemplified by the album itself, where the softsoap oddities "Beth" and "Great Expectations" offset some of the heaviest tunes Kiss recorded at this point like "Detroit Rock City," "King of the Nighttime World," "God of Thunder," "Sweet Pain" and "Shout it Loud." Ironically, Kiss wouldn't get this heavy again until 1982's Creatures of the Night. Even "Flaming Youth," which drives largely on a massive riff, takes a sideshow slide on the chorus. If you're going to topple the world, do it tongue-in-cheek.
Unfortunately it wouldn't be much longer until they toppled themselves for a brief time, yet Destroyer announced the hype of its content with as much edgy bravado as Queen's News of the World. Who didn't have a Destroyer iron-on tee back in the day? Sadly, mine wore out quickly due to repetitive wear, but I remember the carnival at an airport where mine was created, the hiss of the steam pressing the image onto a 50 cent light blue tee. Silk screens take longer to fade, but with anything else associated with your time and place, you just can't beat that industrial iron-on smell. For Destroyer's purposes, it gave an illusory fragrance to the hellfire Ken Kelly pitted Kiss within.
Good times, ain't we lucky we've got 'em.