Lost Songs: ‘War Machine’ by KISS

bill bodkin goes deep with the demon and the starchild…

First things, first…KISS rules.

You might think that Kiss is nothing but a make-up covered gimmick band. Well, my friend, you’d be wrong, because Kiss is a wickedly talented band that puts on one of the most fun live shows you’ll ever experience.

And the reason I write about them in this installment of Lost Songs is because they will be bringing their blood spewing, fire-breathing, pyrotechnic rock ‘n’ roll show to Pop-Break’s backyard — the summer shed known as the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. They, along with Motley Crue, will be closing out the theater’s outdoor season — and in true Kiss fashion, they’ll be doing it with a bang.

Most people are familiar with Kiss’ seminal party anthem “Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night” and casual fans might know “Detroit Rock City” or “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” But hardcore fans, like myself, will remember and relish in the pure heavy metal magnificence that is “War Machine.”

I first heard “War Machine” through the now defunct professional wrestling promotion, Extreme Championship Wrestling. The wrestler Taz, who also competed and announced in WWE and now TNA, would stalk to the ring to Kiss’ version and a later, more generic version. The thunderous intro fit Taz perfectly, intense, in your face and imposing, the song built an aura around the shootfighting “human suplex machine” out of Brooklyn.

The attitude and aggression of the song are supplemented by the gravelly, basement level deep vocals of bassist Gene Simmons. Also the guitar work of Vinnie Vincent, who replaced longtime guitarist Ace Frehley on the record, is quite impressive.

The song also stands out from the Kiss catalog because the song was co-written by Bryan Adams. Yes, Mr. “Run to You” himself, the man who wrote one of the biggest ballads of the early 90s, co-wrote one of Kiss’ most badass songs. Go figure.

This song, is also an important part of KISStory, because it marks a massive turning point in the band’s career. The album Creatures of the Night, which “War Machine” appears on marked the end of their run on Casablanca Records, their longtime label. It also marked the departure of guitarist Ace Frehley from the band. What’s weird is Ace still appeared on the original album cover and some press junkets due to his contract with the band, while never recording any of the songs (as mentioned before, Vinnie Vincent did all the guitar work).

Then in another weird turn of events, the album was re-issued in 1985 (originally released in ’82) with the band completely without make-up and now guitarist Bruce Kulick on the cover. Just a series of odd events.

However, despite all this nonsense, “War Machine” still remains the best track off Creatures of the Night and one of the best, most killer tracks in Kiss’ catalog. It might not be the most fun like “Cold Gin Time” or “Detroit Rock City,” but when it comes to something truly badass, you better watch out, because the answer will always be “War Machine.”

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

2 COMMENTS

  1. Loved reading this, and I agree, the album itself was a turning point musically for the band. Drummer Eric Carr, by the nature of his style of playing, helped the band become heavier. It laid the groundwork for the musically similar, but more commercially successful “Lick It Up” the next year. But I think most hardcore KISS fans prefer this one.

    Putting aside the fact that Paul Stanley played rhythm on the album, I assume you mean that Vinnie Vincent played all the lead work on the album. That’s actually not true.

    He did play lead guitar and add backing vocals on “Saint and Sinner”, “Keep Me Comin'”, “I Love It Loud”, “Killer”, and “War Machine”.

    Other guitarists were used, also uncredited, to fill in for Frehley due to contractual stuff:

    Bob Kulick – lead guitar on “Danger”
    Robben Ford – lead guitar on “Rock and Roll Hell” and “I Still Love You”
    Steve Farris – lead guitar on “Creatures of the Night”

    The solo on “I Still Love You” was actually a re-creation of the solo that Stanley originally played on the demo. Eric Carr also played bass on that song.

    Mike Porcaro – bass guitar on “Creatures of the Night”
    Jimmy Haslip – bass guitar on “Danger”

    Simmons was off meeting Michael Crichton, and auditioning for what become his role as Dr. Charles Luther in the 1984 film “Runaway” during some sessions.

  2. You already failed. Nice try. Does nobody edit this shit? “You might think that Kiss is nothing buy a make-up covered gimmick band.” Nothing buy? You had three hundred words!

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