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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: GWAR

by Chuck Eddy

Artist Spotlight: GWAR

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When GWAR frontman David Brockie, alias Oderus Urungus, was found dead at 50 in his Richmond, Va., home on March 23, it effectively put an end to a three-decade heavy metal performance art piece -- at least to the extent that Brockie was the one unchanging member of the band since a gaggle of Virginia punks and art students first suited up as Gwaaarrrgghhhlllgh, an opening-act goof and/or school marketing project in 1984. They abbreviated their name to an apparently accidental acronym for "God What an Awful Racket" soon after and put out their debut album, [Hell-O], on the art-prankster-oriented New York indie label Shimmy-Disc in 1988. It'd be impossible to estimate how many phony appendages have been chopped off, how much paper mâché has been shaped into ridiculously-larger-than-life obscene monster naughty bits and Antarctic-invasion alien headgear, and how many gallons of artificial blood have painted fans red since.

What is calculable is that GWAR have stacked up 13 studio albums, almost twice as many VHS tapes or DVDs (including 1992's Grammy-nominated Phallus In Wonderland), and countless live sets, compilations, EPs and singles over the past quarter-century. Several charted in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Germany. But more than those of perhaps any rock band ever, the video collections will obviously serve as this troupe's historical record. Even if you saw GWAR live, you probably didn't go home and rave about how the songs they played that night sounded. That's never been the point -- even as much as thinking up silly names ("Beefcake the Mighty"! "Balsac the Jaws of Death"! "Slymenstra Hymen"!) and even grosser song titles was the point.

That said, the band's music does have its adherents. Daniel Bukszpan, in The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal, calls it "forgettable," "generic," "standard, straightforward metal." But in The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal, Martin Popoff gives a few GWAR albums 7 points out of 10, drawing analogies to the Tubes, Dictators and Frank Zappa. So judge for yourself: This playlist's 25 songs span GWAR's career, from Hell-O to 2013's Battle Maximus. Drink them up; pour one out for Dave Brockie -- and maybe another, belated one for longtime guitarist Cory Smoot, alias Flattus Maximus, who was discovered dead on GWAR's tour bus three years ago. If you want, spill some fake blood too.

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