GWAR is a satirical thrash metal, hardcore punk and shock rock band formed in 1985 by artists and musicians from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.
The band is known for their elaborate costumes inspired by science fiction and horror films, as well as harsh, obscene, mostly politically incorrect texts. Their appearance at concerts and their fecal language revolve around sadomasochism, necrophilia, pedophilia, sodomy, fire-breathing, pagan rituals, satanism, executions, fights, torture, rape, racism, anti-Christian behavior, suicides, drug use, alcoholism and other controversial, political and morally controversial topics.
Their costumes are mostly made of foam, expanded polystyrene, and hardened rubber, with little covering of their bodies. At concerts, they spray the audience with fake blood, semen, urine, pus and other body fluids. Most of these fluids, which are easily washed out, are made up of water and food coloring. However, they refrain from using syrup as an ingredient, as it hardens quickly and could damage the costumes. It also happens that they give encores without costumes.
Another hallmark of GWAR’s live performances is their mockery of celebrities or other personalities of current events. So far this has happened to O.J. Simpson, John Kerry, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and every American president since Ronald Reagan, Jerry García, Osama bin Laden, Michael Jackson, Al Gore, Paris Hilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more. The band also makes references to political and historical figures, fantasy novels and mythology. For example, the song “Whargoul” refers to Minas Morgul, a location in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Originally, the style of the band was influenced by punk rock: in the beginning they composed short, rather simple songs. Their style swayed over time into Thrash Metal, which can be heard primarily on the albums “Scumdogs of the Universe“, “America Must Be Destroyed” and “This Toilet Earth“.
Later, their increasingly experimental style put heavy metal style in the backseat and GWAR mixed different styles of music, which can be heard more and more on the albums “RagNaRock” and “Carnival of Chaos“. 1999 showed a similar sound with the album “We Kill Everything“, which is why this was later rejected by the band as their worst album. Because of this, they returned to Thrash Metal with “Violence Has Arrived“, which later developed into an even more technically demanding form of Thrash. This can be heard in the albums “War Party” and “Beyond Hell“.
The origin and meaning of the name is still causing discussions among fans today. A widespread thesis is that GWAR stands for “God, What an Awful Racket!” (ie “God, what a terrible noise!“). Another rumor has it that the name comes from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel “Watchmen,” which reads “Pink Triangle LIVE at the Gay Women Against Rape Benefit Concert” on a sign. Another explanation says that once a friend of the band Death Piggy (predecessor of GWAR) wanted to suggest the band name, but instead vomited and this made a noise that was similar to the wording of “GWAR“.
However, the band members insist that the letters of the name have no further meaning, so “GWAR” is not an abbreviation. In fact, the official website of Slave Pit Inc. confirms that “GWAR” is just a shortened version of “GWAARGGGH !!!“. They originally used this name for themselves to open their own concerts for Death Piggy as a support band.
Dave Brockie, singer and co-founder of the band, is also quoted as saying: “… it doesn’t mean Gay Woman Against Rape. It doesn’t mean Great White Aryan Race. It doesn’t mean Gay Weird Anal Reprobates. It doesn’t even mean God What an Awful Racket. It just means GWAR, which means everything pretty much.” (in short: “It just means GWAR and that could just as easily mean anything.“)
At the beginning, GWAR consisted of Ben Eubanks (vocals), Dave Brockie (guitar), Steve Douglas (guitar), Chris Bopst (bass), Sean Summer (drums) and Hunter Jackson. This line-up changed several times in the following months: Eubanks left the band and was first replaced as singer by Joe Annaruma and later by Dave Brockie. Ultimately, the band consisted of Hunter Jackson, Don Drakulich (alias Sleazy P. Martini), Chuck Varga, Mike Bonner, Scott Krahl, Dave Musel and Dave Brockie (alias Oderus Urungus, who from now on only sang). A short time later, Heather Broome (aka The Temptress) and Colette Miller joined them.
Heather Broome soon left the band, however, and Dewey Rowell (Flattus Maximus), Michael Bishop (Beefcake the Mighty) and Rob Mosby (Nippleus Erectus) reunited in 1987 with Steve Douglas (BalSac the Jaws of Death), who had previously worked for the band and had left for a short time. Lisa Harrelson became the new “GWAR Woman”, replacing Colette Miller that same year. With this line-up, the debut album Hell-O, a mixture of heavy metal and punk rock, was released on the Shimmy Disc Records label in 1988.
After the band went on tour, Steve Douglas left the band that same year and was replaced by current rhythm guitarist Mike Derks. He took over the role of BalSac the Jaws of Death.
Further changes took place up to 1990: Rob Mosby left the band in 1989 and was replaced by Pete Luchter, who quickly made way for Jim Thompson. Ultimately, Jim Thompson was also replaced, this time by GWAR’s current drummer Brad Roberts. He took over the role of Jizmak Da Gusha.
With stable band members, GWAR released an album that was considered one of their best for years to come, “Scumdogs of the Universe“. The album had moderate mainstream success and started GWAR’s career under the Metal Blade Records label. The band went on tour and in July 1990 released the video “Live from Antarctica“, a recording of a GWAR concert, which among other things contains the first music video: “Sick of You“.
Then there were further changes in the line-up: Dewey Rowell left the band in 1991, only to be replaced by Pete Lee in 1992, which happened after the album “America Must Be Destroyed” was recorded.
However, their success was not without controversy. GWAR was banned from North Carolina for a while because Dave Brockie wore his “Cuttlefish of Cthulu” – a dummy penis, during concerts, which led to his arrest. The event inspired GWAR to record America Must Be Destroyed. The album was accompanied by the film “Phallus in Wonderland“, which was even nominated for a Grammy Award in 1993. That year, Mike Bishop left the band after “This Toilet Earth” was recorded to be replaced by Casey Orr, who had previously played in Rigor Mortis.
“This Toilet Earth” was released in 1994 and achieved moderate success with the broadcast of the videos for “Saddam a Go-Go” and “Jack the World” on Beavis and Butthead. At the same time, the album began GWAR’s removal from its original sound, as it contained a large number of experimental songs instead of focusing on heavy metal.
In 1995, GWAR released “RagNaRok” – an album that is characterized by its unique sound, including much more keyboards and sampling. The band recorded two videos to promote this album, “Surf of Syn” and “Meat Sandwich“, as well as “Rendesvous with RagNaRok“, a film that tells the story of the album through live recordings.
After the tour, the first side project, “X-Cops“, came to life and they released an entire album called “You Have the Right to Remain Silent …” that same year.
Next, GWAR recorded the album “Carnival of Chaos” in 1997, which is considered the epitome of the band’s experimental phase. In addition to heavy metal, you can hear songs from the genres of hard rock, country and even jazz on this album.
“Carnival of Chaos” was also the last album with Pete Lee as Flattus, who was then played by Tim Harries, who had already been with the band for a short time in 1986 and was featured as a guest guitarist on “America Must Be Destroyed“. Michael Bishop also came back to the band for a short time to fill in for Casey Orr on the recording of “We Kill Everything“. This is the album that the band likes least of all, and the songs on it are rarely played live. Co-founder Hunter Jackson then left the group in 2000 to concentrate on other projects. Danielle Stampe also left the band to concentrate on the “Girly Freakshow” project, but she came back temporarily for the “Bitch is Back” tour in 2002.
Due to the band’s aversion to this album, some changes took place among the members again. After Tim Harris left the group, Zach Blair was recruited to take on the role of Flattus Maximus, and Casey Orr returned to play bass as Beefcake the Mighty for the next album, which is entirely thrash metal: “Violence Has Arrived” was released in November 2001 and is considered a “comeback” to the original GWAR sound. This was also their last album under “Metal Blade Records“.
When the band was just beginning to focus more on heavier sound, vocalist Dave Brockie, guitarist Mike Derks and drummer Brad Roberts started the side project Dave Brockie Experience to carry on the more comedic sound of the previous album. DBX released their first album “Diarrhea of a Madman” in March 2001.
This was not the end of GWAR’s new, old sound, due to the exceptionally successful album “War Party” under the new label “DRT Entertainment“.
The album was well received as it continued the path of “Violence Has Arrived“, but this time even more serious and technical, thanks in part to new lead guitarist Cory Smoot as Flattus Maximus and bassist Todd Evans as Beefcake the Mighty. Music videos were released for “Bring Back the Bomb” and “War Party“. The band was also invited to play on the Sounds of the Underground tour in 2005, the same year the band released “Live From Mt. Fuji” under “DRT Entertainment“, one of GWAR’s few live albums.
At the beginning of 2006 GWAR started to work on their new album (then called “Go to Hell“). In January GWAR also opened The Art of GWAR at the Art Space Gallery in Richmond to showcase some of their props, costumes, cartoons and images produced in the Slave Pit, GWAR’s studio.
In February GWAR’s official American, Japanese and Oderus Urungus website announced the latest album “Beyond Hell“, for which they recorded a cover version of the song “School’s Out” at the urging of “DRT Entertainment“. The accompanying music video was nominated for “Best Video of 2006” on MTV2’s “Headbanger’s Ball“.
The DVD “Blood Bath and Beyond” was released in June 2006 and contains exclusive backstage recordings and recordings of concerts from the early days of the band.
Singer Oderus Urungus can be heard on Strapping Young Lad’s latest album “The New Black“. In the song “Far Beyond Metal” you can hear Oderus singing exact lines from the song “Maggots” (from the album “Scumdogs of the Universe“). The singer of the band, Devin Townsend, produced GWAR’s album “Beyond Hell” and can also be seen as a teacher in the video for “School’s Out“.
“Beyond Hell” was released in August 2006, after which GWAR toured in the US and finally in 2007 in Europe. In April, after a long time, the video for “Eighth Lock” (from “Beyond Hell“) was released and an announcement was made that they will be seen again in 2007 on Sounds of the Underground.
Cory Smoot, who had played the role of Flattus Maximus for over 10 years, was found dead on the band’s tour bus on the morning of November 3, 2011. He died of a coronary artery thrombosis that had developed as a result of a treated vascular disease. He was 34 years old. The album Battle Maximus, dedicated to Flattus Maximus, was released in September 2013.
Three years later, on March 23, 2014, Dave Brockie died of a heroin overdose at the age of 50. The band then founded the Dave Brockie Foundation, which wants to work for the preservation of culture. The previously planned Gwar-B-Q concert took place on August 16, 2014, one day after a memorial event. Since Brockie’s death there has been no founding member in the band. Former bassist Michael Bishop (the original “Beefcake the Mighty“) was re-included as the new lead singer – playing the new character “Blothar“.
I took pictures of GWAR on November 22, 2004 at Red’s in West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their opening acts were Dying Fetus and All That Remains: