Hard to believe it’s been over three years since GWAR’s lead singer/plallus secrete-er Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie went to monster heaven (or rockstar hell as the case may be), and for some hardcore fans, it’s been harder still to adjust to the band’s decision to soldier on without its founding –and last original- member.
The Richmond, Virginia based band has been playing fairly consistently since, first with sort of a rotating roster up front, including a new female singer named Vulvatron, who was fired soon after she was hired in a very public spat with the band on Facebook. GWAR accused Kim Dylla (her real name) of drinking too much and stated she was out because they “already lost two members to abuse problems,” while Dylla countered the band was “threatened by a strong woman,” and basically surrounded itself with drama.
Whatever went down with the singer, a dramatic ending isn’t uncharacteristic. Over the top personalities and theatricality are what GWAR are all about, and losing Brockie in 2014 was an even bigger blow than losing guitarist Cory “Flattus Maximus” Smoot, who died of coronary artery disease in 2011. These days the band is fronted by “Blothar the Beserker” (bassist Mike Bishop), a rotund rager brandishing a shield and Roman-style armor, with horns, antler wings and an udder that sprays GWAR’s signature pinkish red fluids mix on the crowd. He’s an ominous figure for sure, and his vocals are voracious, even if he lacks Orderus’ caustic charisma.
There’s a lot going on at once on stage during a GWAR show, now more than ever. At their pre-Thanksgiving show at the Fonda Theatre, it was a mess of crazy costumes, video screens attempting to bring a narrative aspect to the setlist, and of course, lots and lots of liquid, which the band says is a mix of blood, semen and urine, but actually has a cherry koolaid like consistency. This was my third GWAR show, and both previous shows I managed to stay relatively dry, even in the photo pit, where ducking below the non-stop streams shot into the crowd was key. This was not to be the case at the Fonda, where I got shot right in the eyes upon leaving the pit and making my way into drenched masses during the fourth song.
Most fans wear white for the sole purpose of soaking themselves in GWAR goop and saving the souvenir getup, and it is quite a sight to behold when the show ends and the bloody massacre that’s left is revealed. As I mentioned in my Guns n’ Roses review the modern concert experience is different as 2017 comes to an end; it’s been a scary couple of years in the live music world with terrorist attacks and shootings at large music gatherings, but escape from these worldly realities is why we go out to enjoy music in the first place. No matter who the band may be, but especially for a band like GWAR, who have always pushed boundaries of good taste, we’ve got to do our best to remain open-minded. As with many punk and metal shows, those easily offended or triggered by recent events should probably just stay home.
This said, GWAR as a live show and GWAR as musicians are almost two different things, and sometimes the fiendish fanfare and fluid overload distracts from the fact that this is a more-than-solid metal band. Their latest album, The Blood of Gods, is a classic heavy metal collection with bits of thrash, Metallica-like gloom and AC/DC-style groove (their cover of “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” is not only fitting, but faithfully fierce). The new track, “Fuck This Place,” might be their strongest new chant-a-long anthem in years, but at the end of the day, it’s all a set-up for the over-the-top live show and some new props and enactments: a funny Michelin-man like creature that’s aims to provide commentary on fast food and obesity in children for the new track, “Death to Dickie Duncan,” and “El Presidente,” where we get to see Donald Trump gutted on stage and the crowd once again, soaked.
GWAR are definitely continuing their treacherous tradition of sci-fi, satire, and subversive sexual and social themes, skewering the hypocrisy of human nature and the absurdity of life in general. Though they’ve suffered a lot of loss over the years, the “Slave Pit” (as they call the collective of effects artists, videographers and musicians) have shown true warrior spirit. Despite naysayers who said they should’ve hung up their costumes after Brockie died, the Fonda show proved they still give a lot of fans guilty, gaudy, grubby pleasure in a live setting. Promo for the new album states, “Humans are…. a parasitical disease that must be eradicated before they suck the planet dry.” The sentiment is obviously more relevant than ever. GWAR’s solution? Soak us and rock us into oblivion until the apocalypse takes us all.
War on GWAR
I’ll Be Your Monster
Death to Dickie Duncan
Saddam a Go-Go
Womb With a View
Crushed by the Cross
Viking Death Machine
Bring Back the Bomb
Black and Huge
The Sordid Soliloquy of Sawborg Destructo
The Morality Squad (Instrumental and extended)
Fuck This Place
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)- (AC/DC cover)