If Slipknot’s masks are a bit much for you, then Gwar may literally take the theme of shock rock to dimensions you hadn’t conceived. Thundering along like the demon incarnations of Iron Maiden, but with little care, restraint or social nuance, the band returns, clad in latex, foam rubber and disturbing costumes with their new album, The Blood Of Gods.
All members perform under aliases that illustrate the band’s dark humor; the main group has consisted of Oderus Urungus (vocalist Dave Brockie, who sadly passed away in 2014), Balsac the Jaws of Death (guitarist Steve Douglas), Flattus Maximus (guitarist Peter Lee), Beefcake the Mighty (bassist Michael Bishop) and Jizmak the Gusher (drummer Brad Roberts). Meanwhile, auxiliary characters included Techno-Destructo (occasional vocalist Hunter Jackson), Slymenstra Hymen (Danyelle Stampe), the Sexecutioner (Charles Varga), and Sleazy P. Martini (the band’s manager, Don Drakulich). Whilst this has been the main lineup since the 1988 album, the band’s members have been more fluid since Brockie’s death.
Unsurprisingly, the group have been banned from many venues and cities following complaints about at least their lyrics but mostly their live shows where audience members have been drenched in a variety bodily fluid (mercifully all fake). However, the band have managed an enduring level of success with their extreme, Spinal Tap-level parody of their own genre, and with 14 albums including this newest release show no sign of slowing.
Opening with the seven minute long, almost rock opera worthy “War On GWAR”, the album begins in earnest with “Viking Death Machine”. With a galloping riff not dissimilar to the “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden, it’s quickly clear that despite their heavily parodied selves, the band haven’t come this far on gimmicks alone. They’re clearly all experienced metal musicians as the songs are well produced and polished, even if the massively sexualised lyrics don’t belie this in the vocals, the impressive length of the power metal screams do.
Having previously lampooned EVERY president on stage since Ronald Reagan, the track “El Presidente” makes no bones about its attitude towards Donald Trump. With its Mexican-esque title, and lyrics screaming ‘I want to kill the president‘ the band aren’t pulling punches. With references to a Russian puppet master, the band show once more that despite a less than serious outlook on themselves, they can turn their abilities to the social and political with relative ease.
Unfortunately, this is where things start to get a little rocky. GWAR, as you can probably imagine even if you haven’t seen them live, put on one hell of a live show. This pomp and madness linked to shock rock rarely translates into original and critical recordings unless you’re Alice Cooper, but he’s not the Godfather of shock rock for no reason.
Couple this with the death of Brockie, the driving creative force and leader of the demon group, and GWAR are still good, but feel as though they’ve truly taken a tumble creatively. Many of the tracks from “I’ll Be Your Monster” and up to and including “F*** This Place” are filler.
That’s not to say they’re bad songs, but outside of a live show, the melodic similarities show and the songs struggle to stand up on their own, making for a relatively similar, albeit entertaining mid-section of the album. “Phantom Limb” heralds the ending of the album and feels like a tribute to lost member Brockie. Lyrically it is brutal, but still more evocative of loss and with its slower pace, feels like a dirge from a band mourning their loss and feeling it keenly.
Ending on “If You Want Blood (You Got It)”, the final track of the album could easily be mistaken for work by KISS; Gene Simmons would be proud. The track is about as cheery as the band can muster and, like most of the album, is entertaining. However, with little real substance underneath the talented riffs and history of the band, the album is good, but falls far short of greatness. Perhaps this signals that the long-reigning lost demons who fell to Antarctica to enslave us all, may need to think about finding a way home.
Author: Steve, Southgate store