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GWAR

AKA: RAWG

About GWAR

Formed in 1985, GWAR is a thrash metal/shock rock group known for their elaborate costumes and theatrical concerts, which feature mock slaughters of monsters and celebrities as the crowd is sprayed with fake blood, semen, and urine. GWAR’s brand also includes films, comic books, a restaurant, and numerous other tie-in products.

For the majority of their run, GWAR consisted of lead singer Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie), lead guitarist Flattus Maximus (Dewey Rowell, Pete Lee, Zach Blair, Cory Smoot), rhythm guitarist Balsac The Jaws Of Death (Steve Douglas, Mike Derks), bassist Beefcake The Mighty (Mike Bishop, Casey Orr, Todd Evans, Jamison Land), and drummer Jizmak Da Gusha (Brad Roberts). Alongside the main band members were manager Sleazy P. Martini (Don Drakulich), backing vocalist and fire dancer Slymenstra Hymen (Danielle Stampe), onstage member Sexecutioner (Chuck Varga), and nemesis Techno Destructo (Hunter Jackson).

The original concept of GWAR came from artist Hunter Jackson, who was working on a sci-fi movie called Scumdogs of the Universe about a group of alien invaders crashing on Earth and indulging in sex, drugs, and rock and roll. While working on this film, Jackson lived at The Richmond Dairy, which was a squatter commune for artists at the time. Coincidentally, the members of Death Piggy were also living at the Dairy. Singer/bassist Dave Brockie asked Jackson if he could borrow his costumes for a few concerts, to which Jackson agreed. At these concerts, Death Piggy performed as the alien band from Jackson’s film, screaming madly and acting like lunatics. When asked the name of this new band, Brockie bellowed “GWAARGGGH!!!” Intended as a parody of the rise of “serious” heavy metal bands at the time, GWAARGGGH!!! (later shortened to just GWAR) recruited several new members and used blood-spraying props made by artist Don Drakulich to accentuate their larger-than-life personas. After a few shows opening for Death Piggy, the band noticed that the audience would come to see GWAR and leave before Death Piggy took the stage. Taking this as a sign of success, GWAR moved forward. Death Piggy would play their last show in December 1993.

After generating a buzz with their wild concerts, GWAR released Hell-O! in 1988. This album (recorded over a single weekend) proved contentious, with artist and auxiliary member Chuck Varga reportedly storming out of the studio, disgusted with the sound quality. However, GWAR would soldier on, gaining rhythm guitarist Mike Derks and drummer Brad Roberts. These line-up changes brought about a shift in sound from the brisk, hardcore punk rock of Hell-O!. The breakthrough release of 1990’s Scumdogs of the Universe, considered GWAR’s best and most popular album, showcased a thrash metal style that the band would continue with from then on.

After Dave Brockie was arrested and charged with obscenity, GWAR had found a bigger purpose: championing freedom of speech. 1992’s America Must Be Destroyed contained more obscene lyrics and several jabs at conservative America at large. Alongside AMBD, GWAR released their first feature film in 1992. Phallus In Wonderland, which would be nominated for a Grammy, proved to be a stepping stone for greater success.

Following an increase in exposure from MTV, 1994’s experimental This Toilet Earth and the corresponding Skulhedface film garnered even more attention for the band, although it was short-lived. Longtime bassist Mike Bishop left GWAR to devote himself to other projects. 1995’s RagNaRök featured new bassist Casey Orr, as well as a bigger spotlight for longtime female member Danielle Stampe. This album is notable for the increased presence of keyboardist Dave Musel (Müsel) and stronger musical experimentation, with appearances of surf rock, rap rock, and blues rock. At the same time, the members of GWAR would form X-Cops, a hardcore punk band that focused on police brutality. Mirroring GWAR’s inception, X-Cops performed as the opening act for GWAR’s 1995 tour.

1997’s Carnival of Chaos, GWAR’s longest album, featured a cleaner and more experimental blend of thrash metal, punk rock, and hard rock, with pepperings of pop-punk, acoustic, bluegrass, and lounge music. Carnival would be the final album with lead guitarist Pete Lee, due to medical issues. 1999’s We Kill Everything proved to be the tipping point for the band. The semi-serious, heavier songs of old were replaced by goofy punk rock tunes and one-off joke songs. Reviled by fans and band alike, WKE served as a wake-up call for the band. Although they had added future Rise Against member Zach Blair to their ranks, co-founder Hunter Jackson and artist Chuck Varga would later leave GWAR in 2000.

After a brief hiatus which included the formation of the Dave Brockie Experience as an outlet for WKE-ish comedy punk, 2001’s Violence Has Arrived featured a tightly focused, more serious thrash metal style that didn’t adhere to an overall story. Following the departures of Zach Blair and Casey Orr, GWAR would gain lead guitarist/producer Cory Smoot and bassist Todd Evans.

Continuing with Violence’s thrash sound, GWAR would release War Party (2004) and Beyond Hell (2006), to greater and greater acclaim. Beyond Hell, the band’s return to full-concept albums, would be the last album to feature Todd Evans, though Casey Orr would return to fill the void. To celebrate their 25th anniversary, the band released the spacey Lust In Space (2009) and the heavy Bloody Pit of Horror (2010). Casey Orr would leave in 2011 and be replaced by Jamison Land, former member of Kentucky punk band The Burial.

During an extended tour for Bloody Pit, lead guitarist Cory Smoot passed away in November 2011, dealing the first major blow to GWAR’s ranks. The character of Flattus Maximus would be retired out of respect for Smoot. In fall 2012, the band unveiled new lead guitarist Brent Purgason, portraying Flattus’s cousin Pustulus Maximus. 2013’s Battle Maximus would double as a tribute to Smoot and a testament to GWAR’s ability to adapt under pressure.

However, this adaptability was put to the test when Dave Brockie was found dead in his home in March 2014. After much careful consideration, the remaining members of GWAR decided to honor Brockie’s wishes and continue on without him. Recruiting former member Mike Bishop, this new line-up would go on to release The Blood of Gods in 2017, which served as a tribute to Brockie and further testament to the band’s adaptability.

As of 2017, their line-up is lead singer Blothar The Berzerker (Mike Bishop), lead guitarist Pustulus Maximus (Brent Purgason), rhythm guitarist Balsac The Jaws Of Death (Mike Derks), bassist Beefcake The Mighty (Jamison Land), and drummer Jizmak Da Gusha (Brad Roberts). Alongside the main band are nemesis Sawborg Destructo (Matt Maguire) and bodyguard/muscle Bonesnapper (Bob Gorman).