The best Kissalbum covers demonstrate how important visuals have always been to the band's image. Whether they're casting the group as larger-than-life icons in otherworldly settings, or conveying the excitement of the band's explosive live shows, these covers serve as an important introduction to the music inside each record.
Kiss has released over three dozen studio, live and greatest hits compilations over the years, and some have been clunkers for sure -- check out our list of the 5 Worst Kiss Album Covers. But first, you wanted the best, you got the best! The 10 Best Kiss Album Covers, that is:
For what was, shockingly, only the second studio album since the band put their makeup back on way back in 1996, the masked marvels reunited with the man responsible for one of the best Kiss album covers of all time, Michael Doret. (He previously created the circular art for 'Rock and Roll Over,' which we'll get to later, as you can imagine.) Doret tied the band's iconic faces to the album's title nicely with a speaker-based design that's sure to join its older brothers on an endless parade of t-shirts, coffee mugs and shot glasses for years to come.
'Creatures of the Night' (1982)
After a string of ill-conceived disco, pop and mystic concept-themed albums had eroded much of their audience, Kiss wisely returned to straight-up hard rock for 1982's 'Creatures of the Night.' They needed a cover with a similar back-to-basics appeal, and this Bernard Vidal photograph did the trick perfectly. It also introduced new drummer Eric Carr's makeup design to the record-buying public, while obscuring the fact that Ace Frehley does not actually appear anywhere on this album, having privately quit the group already.
Kiss's trademark makeup designs hadn't fully settled into their familiar forms when the Control Group snapped this famous photograph for the band's debut album cover -- check out Peter Criss' extremely complex extra lines, for example. Nevertheless, this cover did a great job at introducing the band to the world as something truly unique.
One of the best things about getting your portrait painted has got to be the fact that you can portrayed as "ripped" as you want for all of time. Let's face it, other than Paul Stanley, none of the members of Kiss were ever quite as buff as they were immortalized here by designer Dennis Woloch and painter Ken Kelly. The cover finds the band holding court amidst a sea of what looks like half just-satisfied and half about-to-be-satisfied women.
The Demon, Cat, Spaceman and Starchild try, and fail gloriously, at fitting into corporate America on this, one of the best Kiss album covers ever. This Bob Gruen photograph required the band (except for Peter Criss) to all borrow suits from manager Bill Aucoin. It is nearly impossible to attend a Kiss concert nowadays without finding at least one foursome of friends decked out in thrift-store suits and greasepaint, which in our opinion is one more reason why this country is so great.
OK we know we're gonna catch some flak for including this one, but hear us out: The removal of Kiss' makeup was one of the most game-changing moments in the band's history. It ultimately helped the group to re-establish themselves in the mainstream rock scene, and this photograph by Bernard Vidal captures their new image perfectly. Of course, the stark white background and "take your best shot" poses of the band members (hmmm...which one is Gene?) wouldn't have carried as much weight if the record inside wasn't as good as 'Lick it Up' turned out to be.
4'Hotter Than Hell' (1974)
Photographer Norman Seeff and designer John Van Hamersveld looked to Japanese culture for inspiration when it came time to design the second Kiss album cover, which makes good sense given the band's kabuki-like makeup. What made slightly less sense was getting the typically non-drinking Paul Stanley so soused during the photo session that he reportedly had to be locked inside a car to keep from driving everybody crazy.
Creating the artwork for the studio follow up to the unexpected mega-success of 1975's 'Alive!' was an important task for Kiss. The cover image needed to represent the artistic growth the band had undergone while making this record with legendary producer Bob Ezrin, and this painting by Ken Kelly (with design help once again from Dennis Woloch) did the job perfectly. The cover shows the band standing tall amid an burned-out city like a gang of futuristic marauders.
'Rock and Roll Over' (1976)
Our vote for best Kiss studio album cover goes to this Michael Doret-designed masterpiece-in-the-round. The band is pictured as a four-headed monster, each with a background quadrant (space, fire, heaven, the jungle) designed to match their personas. The unique layout probably helped ensure there would be no squabbles among the band members as to who got to be on top, since there was no top!
The cover for Kiss' double-live masterpiece 'Alive!' was not shot at an actual concert. Instead, the band posed for photographer Fin Costello at a nearby empty arena following their Detroit gig. Nevertheless, the "Status Quo" pose, as Gene Simmons labeled it, conveyed the energy found within the record perfectly. The album helped Kiss break through to a mainstream record buying audience for the first time.
See how well you know Gene, Paul and the rest with the little-known facts on this exclusive video!