They don’t come much more politically incorrect than GWAR. Despite two Grammy nods (their Phallus in Wonderland video losing to Annie Lennox in one instance), they’re not exactly mainstream. Frontman Oderus Urungus, head of the Virginia-bred metal/satire/performance art band since their mid-80s inception, sees to that. Urungus (nee Dave Brockie), in fact, praises Whitney Houston for dying pre-Grammys as he decries what he sees as a repulsive schmooze-fest, his only wish that she’d passed away at the actual podium.
– Gwar Zombie Prom at Irving Plaza
But when you’re GWAR, you don’t need friends in high places. You pretty much only need high friends. Wikipedia sticks the band in the “trash, comedy rock, crossover, hardcore punk and shock rock” categories, and that’s apt. They’re just GWAR, with a mythos both precise and ever-involving, as Urungus growlingly explains: “When [manager] Sleazy P. Martini found us, we were kind of limited, because we’d been frozen solid for millions of years.”
That said, he says “GWAR at its worst is better than pretty much anything. The first few albums are firmly mired in a punk/thrash mentality; the best of the metal and the punk worlds together. Starting around Toilet Earth (1994), I think we got really into hallucinogenic drugs, and we start thinking we’re The Beatles or Frank Zappa, until 1999, when you don’t know what the next GWAR song is going to sound like.” Why? “Because we are immortal beings, trying to find our sound.”
Some people would say the GWAR sound doesn’t matter; it’s all about the show. Some did in fact say just that, leading the band to put extra effort into the actual music. “We really got sick of people saying ‘That’s that band dresses up like monsters, but their music sucks,’ says Urungus. “So we thought, ‘Let’s write some songs that Slayer would be proud to play.’ Goddamnit if it didn’t fucking sound good as shit.”
So now, sounding good as shit and looking like hell, they’re “taken more seriously as a metal band and continue to be acknowledged as the masters of theatrical rock.” Though he’s still in over-the-top Urungus mode, it’s clear Brockie believes in the sanctity of GWAR. “Our fans were happy to see us make the transition in the late 90s from a more comedy rock band, which we still are in many ways, but to start being a little more serious about our metal.”
Better music or no, it’s the show–which over the years, has included blood- and fluid- audience soakings, simulated decapitation, and the legendary “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu” penis codpiece, don’t look for GWAR to pull a KISS and dump the costumes and makeup any time soon. Urungus reassures new and old fans: “If you go see us live, you’re probably going to get a bucketful of blood in your face,” encouraging New Yorkers to get their “over-educated, elitist asses” to the gig, because, as he the self-proclaimed “intergalactic chaos lord with a hopeless crack addiction” promises: “This time we’re going after the big guys: GWAR is taking down God himself.”
GWAR plays tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg, 7:30, $30.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 16, 2012