I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t a pathetic, GWAR-loving metalhead. I love their gimmick, their style, and the plethora of absurd characters and butt/cock jokes. That said, I wouldn’t label GWAR as musical revolutionists. They may be pioneers in costume design, satirical album concepts, and over-the-top stage shows, but I wouldn’t go as far as giving any of their material a 4.0/5.0. But, they’re fucking fun. Never taken seriously but never taken lightly, GWAR has not only amused me for years but has taught me the value in hating the world. And, when I thought this world couldn’t get any shittier, Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) died. And, like most fans, I was beside myself—knowing full well that the band would fold in the absence of its fearless leader. But, this was not the case. Instead, GWAR pushed on with the original (and mightiest) Beefcake the Mighty taking over on the mic. While The Blood of Gods may look and sound like GWAR, the question remains: is this GWAR?
Well, it’s about as close to the real thing as we’ll ever get. And that’s not an insult. Being one of the naysayers that thought GWAR-without-Brockie would be a goddamn trainwreck, I’m impressed. Blothar (Mike Bishop) is a more-than-respectable replacement for Brockie—he has the same passion for fart jokes, overusing the word “fuck,” and an all-encompassing hate for humanity. The biggest difference is Bishop’s in-your-face vocal approach. There’re definitely the fun-loving numbers that make GWAR who they are—creating more absurd characters for their (our?) absurd little world—but the hard-hitters are straight-up mean. With lyrics that make me think of the good o’ GWAR days, Bishop delivers some solid bend-over-and-take-it lyrics. The result is nothing short of squatting over mankind and initiating intestinal evacuation.
For goofy concept stuff, look no further than “Death of Dickie Duncan” and “The Sordid Soliloquy of Sawborg Destructo.” The former for it’s creepy, childlike, Babymetal vocals and uncomfortable upbeatness. The latter for its mid-paced clanking and robotic guitar and vocal effects. These two tracks (along with “I’ll Be Your Monster”) are a couple of the goofiest but, unfortunately, the weakest. “War on GWAR” and “Viking Death Machine,” on the other hand, do a fine job of mixing fast-paced riffs with silly lyrics. The former is a seven-minute piece that uses everything from doomy plods and rocking metal riffs to melodic choruses and chug-happy builds. It’s one of the more unique on the album—for its length and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality—but sets up the record and its concept well. Its follow-up track, instead, is a quick little number that uses a nonstop, bass-heavy Motörhead approach as mustard-gas fuel for GWAR‘s hot-rodding “Viking Death Machine.”
But, it’s the pissed-off bruisers that rule the roost. “Auroch” has a thrashy, fast-paced drive to match its spit-in-your-face attitude and a neck-snapping, mid-song plod that combines the heaviness of Ghoul with Toxic Holocaust. While “Crushed by the Cross” has similarities in simplicity, “El Presidente,” “Swarm,” and “Fuck This Place” have a touch more going on. The first is about as vicious an attack on America and its president as anything I’ve heard this year. Not only that, but it has some crushing riffs, larger-than-life horns and orchestration, and a classic GWAR full-band chorus. “Swarm” also uses touches of orchestration to emphasize its venomous attitude toward humanity and make its plea for stopping “global swarming” a relevant one. It has all the elements of a classic Oderus chorus but with a set of balls only Blothar can grab. “Fuck This Place,” though, takes it to the max. Bishop’s voice comes apart at the seams as the folky, upbeat vibe of the song transforms into a bohab wet dream: screaming the song’s three-word anthem at the top of your fucking lungs.
After a solid minute of orchestration, “Fuck This Place” closes and “Phantom Limb” arrives. This ballad-ish piece is not only a clear tribute to the band’s fallen leader (and a fuck-you to all us losers that didn’t believe in them), but it’s also a great song. It’s melodic and emotional but never abandons the true GWAR character. As this song comes to a close, and AC/DC‘s “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” plays on, I come to the realization that I was wrong. Bishop is no Brockie but the feeling is there. The Blood of Gods ain’t the best record the band has ever written—in actuality, it’s pretty typical GWAR-fare—but there’s hope. It’s not as heavy or as complete as Brockie’s 2013 swansong, but the new GWAR is promising. So, if you’re a fan, don’t write GWAR off just yet.