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A blond, conspicuously tattooed metalhead grabs a businessman by his jacket and shoots olive-green vomit directly into his face, delivering the puke with such force it severs head from neck. Elsewhere, an undead-looking fellow in a yellow hazmat suit uses a knife to slice a guy's guts, exposing bloody, sausage-link-like intestines. In a third scenario, Captain Hazmat engages in more vile debasement—this time using a chain saw to slice open the skull of an enthusiastic young dude clad in a shirt reading, "Smoke Beer!" As chunks of his brain take flight in every direction, the victim appears both psyched and horrified by how his life is going to end.
All the above images are realized on T-shirts promoting Municipal Waste—the funnest band in all of thrash metal—but realistically, they could come from one of several sources. Graphic, gaudy and completely ridiculous images run amok through the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece's merch, videos and lyrics. Not all the material in their world involves blood and guts (another shirt shows a zombified wizard perched on a zombified shark), but most does. Still, any of their potentially disturbing visuals are offset by the band's taste for flamboyant colors and generally ridiculous delivery. Their aesthetic is the son of satisfyingly gruesome Garbage Pail Kids cards and B-grade Troma horror flicks, the grandchild of Wile E. Coyote and Tom and Jerry cartoons in which painful havoc occurs in the name of a good time.
Vocalist Tony Foresta explains their enjoyment of their comical gore as "just our way of making light of the violent world."
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Since playing their first show at a house party on New Year's Eve 2001, the group have held tight to the absurd. The band's visions hover on the edge of a Mad Max-style apocalypse. Humanity is constantly sick and unforgiving in Municipal Waste's tunes, so any surrounding violence might as well be, too. Yet while so many punk and metal bands depict the darker side of humanity to make points (even anarcho-trolls the Sex Pistols wrote, "Belsen Is a Gas" to show the pitch-black cruelty of concentration camps), they don't aspire to use brutality for social messages. "In the newer songs, we have a little bit of stuff in which it actually does sound like social issues, but I don't think we've ever used any imagery as far as political stuff, except for maybe when you see the metalhead barfing on a businessman, which kind of signifies our band," Foresta says. "We just want the over-the-top shockingness of things, much like Dead Alive and stuff like that."
It's fitting that Foresta relates his band's work to Peter Jackson's low-grade horror movie from 1992, as Municipal Waste are always writing songs that could easily be adapted into cheap grindhouse fare. The Fatal Feast, the band's fifth and latest record, has narratives about a man gradually turning into a zombie, a sect of fanatical Christians threatening to kill their latest member, and the starving crew of a spaceship killing and eating their leader. Cumulatively, all this chaos is the band's most crucial fuel. "The imagery of the Waste is something not a lot of bands have, so for us, it's a template to do a million things visually. Every song is a video concept. You can work with anything," he says. "It's just how the band is. We tell a lot of stories."
This article appeared in print as "Gory, Gory Hallelujah: Municipal Waste find the funny in death and dismemberment."