According to GWAR band mythology, the group consists of a ragtag horde of galactic monsters that crashed on Earth and were frozen in the Antarctic wastelands eons ago.
In reality, GWAR are a close-knit group of all-too human musicians who—for over twenty-five years—have donned hideous homemade costumes and wielded rubber weapons onstage whilst performing their not-uncomplicated heavy metal music. When a band member quits or retires, a new player is typically recruited to fill the vacant costume and masquerade as an updated version of the same GWAR character. It’s happened dozens of times since the outfit’s mid-80s inception in Richmond, Virginia, where—at the “Slave Pit”—the musicians and their associates still design and produce their ghastly prosthetics.
More recently, however, GWAR retired two characters after their homo sapien alter egos gave up the ghost: Flattus Maximus was laid to rest in 2012 after guitarist Cory Smoot passed away suddenly. The subtext of GWAR’s 2013 studio album, Battle Maximus, chronicled the band’s quest to find a suitable replacement. They found one in Flattus’ “cousin,” Pustulus Maximus (Cannibal Corpse’s Brent Purguson), who made his debut on tour last fall.
As if the loss of a guitarist weren’t enough, Dave Brockie—who for two decades portrayed GWAR singer Oderus Urungus—died in his home last March at age 50. A gifted songwriter, illustrator, fiction writer, punk rocker (Death Piggy), and Washington Redskins fan, Brockie was given a funeral fit for a king. A Viking.
In GWAR lore, however, Oderus isn’t dead; he merely returned to space and is considered missing in action. Touring in his stead is vocalist Blothar the Berserker.
A native of Oderus’ home world of Scumdoggia, portly pugilist Blothar bears the antlers of the Spectral Moon Moose and carries a battle ax and wooden shield.
Oh, and he has fully operational udders that douse paying audiences with…um, substances hitherto unknown to our part of the Milky Way.
Rumor has it Blothar was thawed from the South Pole ice when Oderus disappeared. Conjecture says the vile one is, in fact, returning GWAR member Michael Bishop (ex-Kepone and American Grizzly)—who played bass with the frightening five-some in the early days.
“These furballs are stacked up in GWAR’s fortress basement like chicken pot pies, four for a buck!” quipped pompadoured band “manager” Sleazy P. Martini in a recent interview.
“While not as talented a singers as most primates, Blothar is definitely better than Justin Bieber. Or the entire One Direction lineup.”
Cleveland got a dose of the revamped GWAR roster when the space heathens stormed into House of Blues for what has become an annual show. Hinting at the cyclical nature of its roster and timelessness of the band’s music (and over-the-top antics), The Eternal Tour finds everyone’s favorite cosmic overlords and costumed cretins cranking out “hits” from latter-day albums Lust In Space (2009), Bloody Pit of Horror (2010), and the aforementioned Battle Maximus (2013) alongside naughty nuggets from old-school CDs Hell-O (1988), Scumdogs of the Universe 1990), and This Toilet Earth (1994). Heck, even Oderus himself put in an appearance, his familiar visage gracing a video screen and prerecorded voice piping over PAs on openers “Fly Now” and “Madness at The Core of Time.”
But it was Sleazy who appeared first, vis-à-vis a “Magic Mirror” video screen. Pondering the prospect of an Oderus-less GWAR, Martini prefaced the evening’s storyline: Urungus isn’t really dead; he’s just lost somewhere in time and space. And his pals might be able to rescue him, with a little help from some colorful (if hilariously crass) new cohorts.
“Years Without Light” and “Hail, Genocide” saw Blothar’s Cleveland debut, amid tufts of fog and flashes of strobe light. The rustic, ragamuffin vocalist evoked Earth’s great outdoors, what with his elk-ish extensions, huntsman’s headgear, and boar-pelt shoulder pads—but it wasn’t long before the newcomer demonstrated an ability to be just as vile (and juvenile) as his predecessor, using his udders to spray onlookers down front with “blood.”
Ticketholders knew it was coming. Indeed, part of the attraction of a GWAR show (apart from the costumes and crazy theatrics) is getting hosed by the band’s signature blend of water-soluble blood and body fluids, which on this occasion pumped throughout the set from a pair of Easter Island-looking totems and spray guns wielded by a couple barely-dressed minion “slaves” in S&M masks. Oh, and then there were the myriad prop appendages hacked off from rubber-suited guests, like GWAR arch-rival Sawborg Destructo (Matt Maguire)—whose spinning serrated arm was shorn away during a melee with the musicians on “Tormentor.”
Green, turtle-like mascot Bonesnapper (Bob Gorman) sang his signature tune before deferring to bassist Beefcake The Mighty (Jamison Land), who switched places with Blothar on “Hate Love Songs” and “Saddam a Go-Go.”
Blothar isn’t the only newbie on this outing: Scantily dressed in purple and black leather bikini, Vulvatron the Dominatrix (Kim Dylia) presided over the band’s loincloth-clad slaves as well as the evening’s cast of “victims” when not belting alongside Blothar.
Hey, the name’s milder than that of GWAR’s last sex kitten, Slymenstra Hymen (who retired in 2000, resulting in an all-male lineup for fifteen years). Replenishing GWAR’s sex appeal and filling out the upper vocal register, the raccoon-eyed vamp proved a welcome addition to the live show—not to mention band lore. Seductive but sadistic, the buxom Vulvatron likewise soaked spectators with her own unique effluence (use your imagination) and used an oversized mace to grapple with Sawborg.
Longtime guitarist Balsac the Jaws of Death (Mike Derks)—he of the bear-trap cranium and distended legs—was on hand, as was veteran drummer Jizmak da Gusha (Brad Roberts), with his canine profile. Bassist Beefcake pinned the low end on his four-string (despite the weight gladiatorial garb and riveted Mohawk helmet), flanked by the blue-faced Pustulus on lead guitar.
Using a “time machine” with go-switch seemingly carved from a Flintstones boulder, the band raged through “Bloodbath” and “Horror of Yig” and took a pizza delivery from an tentacled extraterrestrial (who was naturally, unceremoniously disemboweled). A visit to “Metal Metal Land” produced Oderus’ familiar codpiece—the Cuttlefish of Cthulu—but no sign of the absent icon himself. Enraged, the ensemble tore through “Let Us Slay” before being ambushed by Battle Maximus villain Mr. Perfect, whose twelve-foot frame was nearly dismantled by Gor-Gor the Dinosaur.
That’s right. GWAR had a dinosaur.
Hell-O hit “You Ain’t Shit” rounded out the main set, but the motley monsters returned with fan-fave power ballad “The Road Behind” and a cover of Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls” (you can check out the AV Club video of the performance here http://www.avclub.com/video/gwar-covers-pet-shop-boys-211000).
In all, it was not just an acceptable show by GWAR standards. Nor was it an event one might say was merely “good enough,” given the omission of Urungus. No; this was a great GWAR concert—a touching tribute to Brockie and blood-soaked, ear-plitting salute worthy of Oderus’ approval.
So in answer to Sleazy’s quandary over the prospect of a future GWAR without its fallen father and signature scumdog soldier…rest easy, Bohabs:
The band is back, better than ever. The Eternal Tour is must-see mayhem at a bargain price.
Raleigh hard-rockers Corrosion of Conformity turned up the heat as pre-Turkey Day temps started dropping outside.
Even without longtime guitarist Pepper Keenan (who moonlights in super-group Down), CoC still packs a massive punch. Touring behind their recent Candlelight Records album, IX (their second disc as a trio), the boys browbeat the HOB revelers with new cuts like “On Your Way” and “Psychic Vampire” (from 2012’s self-titled release) as well as glory-day ditties “Loss for Words” and “Mad World” (both from 1985’s Animosity).
Bassist / singer Mike Dean banged his head on throwback “Holier,” quick-picking his Sadowsky while drummer Reed Mullin pumped his percussive pistons on “Rat City.” Guitarist Reed Mullin shredded his ESP on “The Doom” and “Vote With a Bullet,” conjuring distorted power chords, greasy wah-wah string-bends, and soaring sustained notes. It was blue collar sludge rock at its finest, alternately dynamic and dirge-like, right down to the band’s blue jeans and work boots (and spiked-skull stage backdrop).
We shouldn’t have been surprised; CoC has been at it for over thirty years. If their Wednesday night set is any barometer, the Wiseblood bashers show no signs of slowing down.
Hailing from Austin, American Sharks uncapped the Thanksgiving Eve soiree with twenty-five minutes of no-frills party rock from their self-titled 2013 End Records debut.
Flexing both metal muscle and punk verve on “Iron Lungs” and “Overdrive,” the Lone Star three-piece connected early with the general admission audience and didn’t let go. Singer / bassist Mike Hardin anchored the bottom end on the pugnacious “Freak Out” and incandescent “Indian Man.” Guitarist Will Ellis demonstrated six-string chops and garage rock attitude on “Satan’s Overture,” smearing crisp leads over drummer Nick Cornetti’s sharp snare and cavernous kick bass.
“We’re just getting warmed up,” Hardin quipped. “We’ll play our real set later!”
But the Texan trio didn’t kid around when it came to banging out bludgeoning beats and diabolic, Black Sabbath-derived guitar tritones. Some of Ellis’ quick chords recalled the “Out of Step” swerve of Minor Threat. Hirsute Hardin resembled a younger Tom Araya (Slayer), pumping his Fender bass in and around the verses. Cornetti rose from his drum stool to collect himself between the nimble numbers, then resumed his frenetic flailing.
For those who like hit-hard and get-out-fast M.O. of punk stalwarts like Misfits and OFF, or take their stoner metal a la Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age—or enjoy the sludge-rock antics of Monster Truck—these Carcharodons of king-size guitar riffs will seep into your gills and leave you coming up for air.