To many, GWAR is a laughably bad band. Especially If you operate under the closed-minded, oxymoronic assumption that metal is by definition mindlessly juvenile. Five grown men with viking gay-porn-star pseudonyms dressed in gigantic, rubber demon costumes probably won’t change your mind. However, it takes only a slight gander under their veneer to realize that these guys were more than satirical smart-asses – they were the South Park and Steven Colbert of metal, rolled into one. Depressingly, frontman (and last original member) Dave “Oderus Urungus” Brockie’s death at age 50 last Sunday may have put an end to the 30-year-old institution of a band. In five lyrics, here’s why this matters.
From the start, these guys never took themselves too seriously. Their very moniker is basically just the onomatopoeic essence of comically over-the-top brutality. Just in case we missed the point, they penned themselves a theme in their early punk rock sound that may have been partially an inspiration to Metalocalypse‘s silly opening ditty by Dethklok – perhaps today’s continuing torchbearers in the Spinal Tap tradition of humorous badassery: [LISTEN]
For more of that hedonism, GWAR’s bathroom humor foray into rap-metal (featuring their manager acting MC in as character Sleazy P. Martini) follows cocaine and sexually-transmitted bad breath through perhaps the longest all-A rhyme scheme of all time. It’s GWAR, so the Martini character isn’t just some standard lounge lizard scuzz-bag; everything from his foot-high pompadour to his greasy gold chains and sullen made-up cheeks is big – Puttermans big – you know, those creepy ’90’s Duracell-commercial robot people: [LISTEN]
Putting the “shock” in “shock rock” – a label that got them onto all the trashy daytime shows of the ’90’s – required dipping into the grindcore lyrical pool a la Anal Cunt. After all, what’s metal if not violent? With that logic, what’s somewhat parodic metal without incoherently attempting to mesh rape, incest, and abortion into one, physically impossible act? Of course, this didn’t bode well with anyone whose sense of decency trumps their own common sense, but that’s why we have the first amendment in ‘Merica: [LISTEN]
Speaking of the USA, there just isn’t enough space in this article to list Gwar’s more serious, biting indictments of stateside celebrity politicians. Sure, Urungus screamed some chuckle-worthy lines about body fluids and all that, but this is where the South Park artistic aging process begins – what begins as poop jokes one day morphs into a vigilant morality police. It’s still entertainment, but it’s not afraid to call powers-that-be on their bullshit. Their anti-war machine sentiment repeats with a Groundhog Day sort of deja vu on “War is All We Know,” “Back to Iraq!“, and “War Party“. “Back to Iraq!”‘s PTSD-riddled narration was penned several years before our latest Iraq War, but even that pales in comparison to this foresight, explained through the issues faced by Reagan’s reanimated robot-corpse killing machine: [LISTEN]
To remain offensive at all times, Urungus would draw his damning comparisons to hyperbolic heights, such as likening past popes to Hitler (nodded to here, but also explicitly on “The Reaganator”). Meanwhile, for the more visual fan, there’s always on-stage simulated decapitations. Combining those two can be like a theatrical anti-Tea Party rally that doesn’t actually motivate murder of political opponents (cough, real-life Tea Party speakers and Gwar show disembowelment victims). There’s really too much good stuff to ignore, but both their ostentatious comic-book style and three-decade career made them easy to put off seeing. To Brockie, the real-world mastermind behind head demon Oderus Urungus – RIP. Sorry so many of us procrastinated in getting to your show: [LISTEN]