Live Review: GWAR

by Mitch Goldman

International Ballroom, Atlanta, GA 12/4/95

Back in the bad old 70's, we thought acts like Kiss and Alice Cooper pushed thelimits of good taste in rock theatrics; after all, Alice used to have himselfbeheaded on stage, and Gene Simmons would spit up a mouth full of cow's bloodevery night. Pretty outrageous, right?

Wrong! GWAR, those nutty guys (and gal) from Richmond, Virginia, have beendressing up in wild, bulky latex costumes and spraying audiences with fake (Godwilling!) blood, urine, and semen for almost a decade now. Under the auspices ofSlave Pit Enterprises, this self contained unit of cross-discipline artists writeand record wacky, referential heavy metal while desiging their own stage shows,drawing and writing (and publishing) their own comic books, directing, producing,and acting in their own full-length videos (one of which, Phallus in Wonderland,was actually nominated for a Grammy!) and basically funding all of theirquestionable enterprises on their own. Slave Pit and GWAR comprise a disturbingyet entertaining little cottage industry.

The concept of GWAR is simple (sort of...)...the "members" of GWAR are aliens wholanded on earth (in Anarctica) and were unfrozen by their manager, Sleazy P.Martini, who taught them to play rock music and funded their creativeenterprises. Of course, Sleazy and the rest of GWAR are merely the Slave Pit gangin elaborate costumes, and their live shows consist of little "set pieces" inwhich GWAR disembowel, behead, and otherwise decimate different characters whileperforming their satirical brand of heavy metal. Their first lp HELL-O!, releasedin '88, was produced by indie music maven Kramer, who gave that disc a post-punksheen. They moved into more traditional metal territory with '90's Scumdogs ofthe Universe, and have continued to tread a pop-metal satire ground through theirnext three releases...America Must Be Destroyed (1992), This Toilet Earth (1994),and this fall's Rag Na Rok. These last three albums have all been "loose concept"records; there's a thin plot that runs through the dominant cuts on each lp.

And a "thin" plot is all that ran through GWAR's recent Ragnarok performance atthe International Ballroom in Atlanta. Suffice it to say that aliens impregnateGWAR's female singer/dancer Slymenstra Hymen, forcing her "boyfriend" (and leadsinger/master of gore-festivities) Oderous Urungus to perform an onstage abortionthat resulted in a monstrous alien birth! Needless to say, the head alien honcho(a robot named "Cardinal Syn") lands on earth and battles GWAR for the alien babyin the climax to the set. As usual, the theatrics are hilarously over thetop...from the opening OJ Simpson sequence (where, of course, the Juice isdisemboweled by Oderous and company...Oderous says "Hey, I know the OJ thing isobvious, so we wanted to get it out of the way at the beginning!") to Oderous'sex scene with a piece of alien machinery, GWAR are so cartoony as to be almostinoffensive. Almost...

And in addition to the fun and gore, what would a GWAR show be without the music?Lead guitarist Flattus Maximus was in fine form...his surf guitar licks during"Surf of Syn" were amazing, as were his solo throughout the show. Bass playerBeefcake the Mighty (actually a different Beefcake than the one who helped formGWAR, but thanks to the costume, no one knows the difference!) and drummer JizmakDa Gusher kept things anchored along with rhythm guitarist Balsac the Jaws ofDeath, and Oderous' hilarious and surprisingly melodic vocals kept the tunes infocus. One highlight was Oderous' "duet" with Slymenstra on RAG NA ROK's "Fire inthe Loins"...they actually sounded reminscent of (I kid you not!) John Doe andExene, or maybe a young Grace Slick/Paul Kantner combo. GWAR are progressingmusically despite their worst intentions!

As usual, they whipped out some older tunes to treat the faithful with classicsthat haven't seen the light of day in the last few tours...the opener "Time forDeath," the epic "Death Pod", the transvestite delight of "King Queen,", themodern-day-Godzilla drama of "Gor Gor." All played with major metal impact by aband that has chops to match its theatrics. My only complaint was with thesound...the mix was muddy and the vocals were buried from almost any standpointin the club. But, that's a minor quibble...when you fork over your bucks to seeRichmond's favorite gore-mongers, you expect body fluids, great metal tunes, andhilarious theatrics, all with tongue placed firmly in cheek (or wherever!). AndGWAR continue to provide the drenched masses with exactly what they want...or asBeavis and Butthead say whenever a GWAR video comes on the tube..."NOW we'regetting somewhere!".

Setlist (10:51-12:20):

Time For Death-> Love Surgery
Poor Ole Tom
(instrumental)-> Death Pod
Ragnarok Sonderkommando
The New Plague
The Issue of Tissue (Spacecake)
Meat Sandwich
Black and Huge Knife in Yer Guts
King Queen
Fire in the Loins Martyr Dumb
Gor Gor Hamon the Bone Stalin's Organs
Surf of Syn
Crush Kill Destroy
Rock and Roll Never Felt So Good

Encores:

Sandman Sick of You


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