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Album Review: GWAR Battle Maximus

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When they landed on this planet in the 80's, no one knew what history would tell about the interstellar group of misfits know to humans only as Gwar. With the objective to make the human race submit to their mastery, Gwar proceeded to discover crack cocaine and metal music, the combination that fueled their rocket to stardom and ultimately their command of legions of loyal maggots following their every move.

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Trying to explain the phenomenon of Gwar to the average person never turns out well; most are enamored with their presence, but have no idea that what they perceive as a gimmick became a vast cult following of loyal fans of the band for almost three decades. Throngs of minions in their white t-shirts stagger to the barricade for dozens of shows getting sprayed with the sticky sweet jizz-o-globin.

The masses can’t seem to shy away from the Scumdogs though. Guest spots on the Dan Patrick Show, Fox News’ Red Eye, and a host of other more mainstream outlets in the past few years have taken to employing the oddball humor of frontman Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie), surpassing shtick and transforming into icons.

Those of us who have been with them since the early days have always known that the pageantry and showmanship only enhances the true nature of the band. The humorous nature of lyrics and staging might lead hardcore music fans to believe musicianship is superseded by the enigmatic nature of Gwar, yet it only demonstrates the difficulty with which they write their brutal tongue-in-cheek mixture of punk, hardcore and metal.

Most bands will write a song, record it, play it live; Gwar on the other hand has to account for so many more things when something evolves from the zygote of a riff to the bloody display of brutality on stage. Over the course of a dozen albums, their sound matured from an eclectic punk version of themselves, to a more nurtured metal approach, with a couple conceptual missteps along the way, but overall never losing sight of their identity.

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With their 13th album, Battle Maximus, Gwar employed the loss of guitarist Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot) as the storyline, sending Flattus back to his home planet and the battle that ensued to take his place, an honor ultimately won by another member of the Maximus clan, Pustulus (Brent Purgason).

Immediately this album sounds different than all of their others… a more aggressive approach, heavier and darker-sounding than anything they have ever done. Since the 2004 release of War Party, Gwar steadily ratcheted up the ‘metal’ part of their sound. This album solidifies their direction, with much of the credit going to Pustulus Maximus and his first recording with the band.

Expected to be a challenging album for the band, Battle Maximus feeds off the loss of their band mate, devours you at every turn, lulling you with the acoustic intro and then proceeding to slap you across the face with concise attacks, offering some of the best writing of their career. Never lacking in levity, Gwar continues their legacy, telling the story of Mr. Perfect, the Bonesnapper and of course the Maximus clan, yet at times, a melancholy arises and calls out to the part of us that know how real the loss of Flattus has deeply affected their spirit.

You won’t find such kitschy songs like "Bring Back the Bomb" or "Saddam A Go-Go", but this could be their finest hour. After surviving so much, the band do it in true Gwar style and coming to grips with it musically as well as mentally.

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