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Thrash metal's answer to the more mainstream satire of Spinal Tap, GWAR is known for its grotesque costumes and blood-soaked, controversy-baiting live performances. Their elaborate mythology describes the group as all-powerful interplanetary warriors who came to Earth to enslave and slaughter the human race. Founded in Richmond, Virginia, in 1984, GWAR utilizes a rotating cast of musicians, artists, and filmmakers, known collectively as Slave Pit Inc. The band issued 13 studio albums, including fan favorites Scumdogs of the Universe (1990), Violence Has Arrived (2001), and Lust in Space (2009), before going on a short hiatus in 2014 after the death of frontman Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie). With bassist and co-founder Beefcake the Mighty (Michael Bishop) at the helm, GWAR reconvened in 2017 and released The Blood of Gods. The New Dark Ages appearing five years later. All members perform under aliases that illustrate the band's dark humor; the initial group consisted of Oderus Urungus (vocalist Dave Brockie), Balsac the Jaws of Death (guitarist Steve Douglas), Flattus Maximus (guitarist Peter Lee), Beefcake the Mighty (bassist Michael Bishop), and Jizmak the Gusher (drummer Brad Roberts). Meanwhile, auxiliary characters included Techno-Destructo (occasional vocalist Hunter Jackson), Slymenstra Hymen ( Danyelle Stampe), the Sexecutioner (Charles Varga), and Sleazy P. Martini (the band's manager, Don Drakulich). GWAR quickly established a unique identity as the members performed in bizarre costumes made of latex and papier-mâché, while the stage show itself featured fake pagan rituals, corpses spewing washable bodily fluids on the audience, and sometimes a mechanical giant maggot. Not surprisingly, authorities in several locations didn't take kindly to GWAR -- Charlotte, North Carolina, fined Urungus on an obscenity charge and banned the group for a year, while police in Athens, Georgia shut down a concert in 1993. With the help of the ACLU, however, GWAR sued and settled out of court, donating the resulting award money to charity. GWAR are perhaps best appreciated for their visual affects, which have historically been far more creative than the actual music; indeed, the group received a somewhat stunning Grammy nomination in 1993 for its long-form home video Phallus in Wonderland. GWAR has survived numerous personnel changes over the years, a potential problem that has been mitigated by the fact that the band's "characters" never change, only the musicians playing them. Despite a decline in media attention, GWAR have also proven to be a consistent live act and continue to record a new album with each new stage act. Unlike most career bands, however, GWAR has released almost as many full-length videos as they have albums. Along with Phallus in Wonderland, the group assaulted the eyes with Skulhed Face (1994), Rendezvous with Ragnarok (1997), Dawn of the Day of the Night of the Penguin (1998), It's Sleazy (2001), and a slew of subsequent films. Musically, GWAR's early gem Scumdogs of the Universe (1990) is considered to be one of the band's most entertaining works. Subsequent albums, including This Toilet Earth (1993), We Kill Everything (1999), and Violence Has Arrived (2001) have repeated many of the shock themes that gained GWAR notoriety early on. After a few GWAR-less years, the band returned in 2004 on a new label, DRT Entertainment, with a new album, War Party. The concert recording Live from Mt. Fuji (which, despite its name, was taken from a performance in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) was released the following year, and the band returned to the studio in 2006 for Beyond Hell, a rock opera/concept record about the band's journey into Hell. In 2009, after celebrating their 25th year and re-signing to Metal Blade, GWAR took a similar conceptual approach and left Earth's surface again to battle their enemy Cardinal Sin in space on Lust in Space. In 2014, however, Urungus died at the age of 50 from a heroin overdose, leaving the band without any of its founding members. In 2017, the group re-formed with original bassist Michael Bishop behind the mike -- portraying a new character called "Blothar the Beserker" -- and released The Blood of Gods. 2022 saw the release of the band's 15th long-player, The New Dark Ages, which was accompanied by a graphic novel, GWAR in the Duoverse of Absurdity.
© Steve Huey /TiVo
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