When a brother falls, be he killed in battle, disintegrated or turned Mormon, it takes an ordeal of thundering proportions to find that Scumdog with enough bombastic enormity to crush the competition and fill the fallen’s truculent footsteps. And so Battle Maximus is born, a musical trial-by-combat and but one Scumdog remains – the the zit-encrusted, shred-ulously incredulous Pustulus Maximus (aka Brent Legion, ex-Cannabis Corpse). Shock rock or monster metal, call it what you will, after a three year wait and regroup, GWAR are back in the ring with their kooky Lordi or A Band of Orcs theatrics and their caustic, blood-soaked poetry as only they can deliver!
Battle Maximus starts off much like Beyond Hell, only in this instance, instead of the “Intro” just setting the scene for what’s to come, rather this rare melodic moment (the only other instance being “Falling”) provides GWAR with an opportunity to lay to rest the past and to welcome in a new and fiendish power that they’re itching to unleash.
Harking back to the days of Ragnarok, Battle Maximus again brings to the fore the unmatched vocal diversity of GWAR. Not only is Oderus Urungus able to tell a mean bedtime story, but on tracks like “Nothing Left Alive,” “Raped At Birth,” “I, Bonesnapper” and “Falling” (along with Balsac the Jaws of Death and Beefcake the Mighty) Oderus Urungus sets the stage for GWAR‘s latest struggle, with what may be their gravest enemy yet – the surreptitious “Mr. Perfect”.
Vocals course along, at times sounding like run of the mill heavy metal, but then moments later veering back to their roots and adopting the more 80’s era punk-like edge reminiscent of their Death Piggy days. At times GWARs vocals bring to mind Dexter Holland’s (The Offspring) high-pitched scream and at other times there’s the almost unpolished edge of Lee Waldron (Space God Ritual and Krack Sabbat) to sink your teeth into. On the upside, that creates a great and diverse feeling to the album, but to the uninitiated, to somebody just starting out with GWAR, it’s going to be a hindrance as you try to pin down what GWAR actually sound like.
Instrumentally GWAR have come back firing on all cylinders! Pustulus Maximus brings to the table the death metal influence of Cannabis Corpse, adding a slightly more aggressive take on what GWAR have delivered in the past. Tracks like “Bloodbath” and “Nothing Left Alive” zing at you with guitar work that’ll grip you by the throat and have you scrambling for your air guitar to jam along. The drum work on Battle Maximus showcases brute force as well as ferocious intelligence, ranging from the demolition on “Madness At The Core Of Time,” contorting through effortless, shifting fills and a range of catchy beats in “Nothing Left Alive,” “Torture” and “Battle Maximus.” Despite the short length of time that Pustulus Maximus has been with GWAR, there’s a welcome chemistry between himself and Jizmak Da Gusha that has me looking forward to future GWAR releases.
The tracks on Battle Maximus flow intelligently from one to the next with no unnatural or jarring progressions and only “They Swallowed the Sun” tends to get a little draggy around the back end [I can’t say “samey” but she gets to use “draggy?? — Steel “Persecuted” Druhm]. I can’t fault the production used on the album, it’s the approach GWAR have used quite successfully in the past and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! It’s clear and modern enough to pick up on the differing instrumental streams, the vocals and the lyrics that are a massive driving force behind GWAR‘s satire.
Battle Maximus is the type of album we’ve come to expect from the GWAR camp and in light of what the band have faced with the loss of Cory Smoot (aka Flattus Maximus) I’m well pleased that they’ve made such a dramatic comeback. As for favorite tracks, if you’re looking for a sonic ass-kicking, check out “Raped At Birth” and “I, Bonesnapper” if you’re looking for something a little calmer check out… haha who are we kidding!