Like the inevitability of death itself we find ourselves once again in the grim position of receiving another GWAR album from the claws, tentacles, or possibly directly from the genitals, of the Scumdogs of the Universe. GWAR’s hatred and contempt for the human race is well documented. Since their tragic awakening from their Antarctic slumber lo these many years ago, GWAR have taken it upon themselves to brutalize, rape, and humiliate every wretched homosapien unfortunate enough to come into contact with them. They will also occasionally make cameos in movies like Empire Records and various sleazy talk shows.
So that’s pretty much what GWAR is all about: violent, misanthropic mayhem on the one hand, and shameless self-promotion on the other. This latter quality can primarily be laid at the feet of my old friend and business associate Sleezy P. Martini, GWAR’s longtime manager. Indeed, it was undoubtedly Sleezy who included a filthy 20 dollar bill along with my promotional copy of GWAR’s new record Battle Maximus. Stained with cocaine residue and a grotesque combination of blood and mucus, this foul piece of tender was clearly a cheap, venal attempt to bribe me into writing a favorable review. But I would expect nothing less from my old friend Sleezy, and he should know better than to expect anything less than the upmost in integrity from me.
What about the album itself? What kind of music is contained therein, and at what level of quality? It is understandable that many humans have never really given GWAR’s actual music a great deal of thought. Between their violence, their charisma, and their live performances, the music itself often escapes peoples’ attention. But I am more perceptive and experienced in these matters than most, and I can report that GWAR’s discography contains a great deal more variation than might be casually assumed. Their early ‘90s work is deeply indebted to classic heavy metal and thrash, while their late ‘90s and early ‘00s material often does not feel like metal at all, and comes closer to a sort of hard rock musical theatre.
But running throughout all of their releases is a connection to punk and hardcore, and on Battle Maximus this tendency is even more pronounced than usual. Battle Maximus constitutes a tribute of sorts to GWAR’s late, great guitarist Flattus Maximus who passed away nearly two years ago, and his absence can definitely be felt here. The guitar work on Battle Maximus is somewhat less technical than some of GWAR’s more recent releases, being more indebted to thrash and punk. If the listener is hoping for a dirtier, more punk rock GWAR, then Battle Maximus might be just what they are looking for.
As always, there are some very entertaining songs with fun, catchy choruses on Battle Maximus. It is not difficult at all to imagine a number of these tracks fitting into their live set right alongside classics like “Gor Gor”, “Penguin Attack”, and “The Morality Squad”. But GWAR will always face, for better or for worse, the reality that their music will forever be eclipsed by their live shows and monstrous public personae. Is it possible to imagine GWAR as a studio only band, bereft of live performances and mythos? Of course not. But GWAR are more than a band, they are a plague, an institution, and, if I may be so bold, a National Treasure.
I feel legitimately sorry for anyone who has never seen them perform live. “How do they endure?” I wonder, wringing my hands and pondering their deprivation and spiritual poverty. Battle Maximus would not be able to stand alone as the debut album from an unheard of band; it would probably be widely ignored. But Battle Maximus is not the debut album from some unknown band, this is GWAR for crying out loud, and they are way more than just a metal band. So bring on the blood, violence, and grotesquery, and may GWAR triumph for eons to come.
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