Everyone should see a GWAR show, at least once in their lifetime. The live GWAR experience is like nothing else, and it begins when you walk into the venue. Everything, the walls, the ceiling, the floor, covered in plastic wrap, and for good reason, because let’s face it, when you go to see GWAR, no matter how hard to try to hide, you will get messy. When you finally get to witness the spectacle firsthand, you see hulking behemoths, clad in massive costumes, playing cheerfully satirical, no-frills thrash metal, eviscerating various characters who wander onstage, cracking corny jokes, and most importantly, spraying every single member of the audience with gallon upon gallon of fake fluids, ranging from blood, to bile, to urine, to purple goop. In other words, pure, goofy fun.
GWAR’s most recent tour, in support of their 2004 album, War Party, had the band lampooning figures from popular culture (as opposed to the slightly more plot-driven shows in the early ‘90s), including George Bush, John Kerry, Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the late Ronald Reagan, Osama Bin Laden, and in an inspired moment of bad taste, the rotting corpse of Laci Peterson. Of course, by “lampooning”, I mean bringing each onstage, ripping out their intestines, and feasting on their blood, which jets out all over the place.
The idea of a GWAR live album might sound like a pointless exercise, because it’s always the stage show people always remember, and not the music. After all, when you’re killing yourself laughing while ducking streams of green bile spewing from Laci Peterson’s dead fetus, it’s hard to concentrate on what the heck the band is playing. But on the other hand, a live GWAR album is a pretty good idea, because the music always takes a back seat to the stage antics, and by focusing on the band’s music, Live From Mt. Fuji does its job very well, reminding us all that a damn good band lurks underneath all the latex and fake blood.
Somewhat dubiously recorded (just how live this album is anyone’s guess), with canned crowd noise audible in between tracks, this album is nonetheless a potent burst of well-made, old school thrash metal. Songs span the bands entire discography (save the album This Toilet Earth), but of course, heavy emphasis is placed on the War Party album, and justifiably, as that particular disc was hailed by fans as the band’s best in years. On this live (again, I use this term loosely) document, newer tracks such as “Bring Back the Bomb” and “Reaganator” are ferociously blunt pieces of satire, while the furious “Bone Snapper” is driven by a wickedly catchy guitar riff and plenty of chest-rattling double-bass drumming. Meanwhile, older material such as “Crack the Egg” and “Horror of Yg” show just how lithe a thrash band GWAR were in their prime, the songs possessing a groovy swagger that works brilliantly with the live visuals. It’s the band’s best-known song, the Beavis & Butthead fave “Sick of You”, that highlights every GWAR show, and the performance on this disc sounds as sweaty and blood-drenched as one would expect it to be, hearing it in a packed, hot club.
All the while, frontman Oderus Urungus is part singer, part comedian, part executioner, and part cabaret host; one minute, he’s exchanging hilarious banter with the “guests” who arrive onstage, and the next, he resembles a charmingly smarmy borscht belt performer. It’s an odd combination, but his persona keeps things light, reminding us to never take these guys too seriously, which is what makes GWAR so enjoyable: they bring a sense of fun to a genre that all too often thinks too highly of itself. While the live show is always great, and should never be missed, Live From Mt. Fuji proves GWAR is a talented metal band who doesn’t get the respect it deserves.