GWAR, ‘The Blood of Gods’ – Album Review
Before we survey the human corpse-littered landscape left in the wake of GWAR’s latest album, The Blood of Gods, there’s some points we have to address. Yes, we’re talking about the death of Dave Brockie, who you all know best as Oderus Urungus, the alien warlord who fronted the band and slaughtered thousands during his 25-plus year reign as the front-thing of the most murderous band in history. Blothar has manned the post since 2014 and while it may seem heresy to replace Oderus (don’t forget, he wanted this band to go on forever), let’s back things up a bit. Mike Bishop (Blothar) enjoyed just as much face time in public interviews during the early phase of the band’s career as Beefcake the Mighty and he took the lead on tracks like “Eat Steel” (This Toilet Earth) and “Pussy Planet” (America Must Be Destroyed). So just keep in mind that a GWAR veteran is carrying on the legacy.
So, what do we love about GWAR anyway? Well, there’s always been a playful dynamic to their diverse musical palette. There’s always been grin-inducing social commentary delivered in an overtly crass yet somehow poignant manner, while other times entering realms of absolute absurdity. There’s always been a punk-meets-metal enthusiasm with a few outside styles creeping their way into GWAR’s deranged Frankenstein songwriting approach. There’s always been a cast of support characters roped into new storylines, adding an even broader scope to the vocal element of the band, which already featured a handful of different sounds courtesy of Oderus. The Blood of Gods checks each one of these boxes. So, with your apprehensions now at bay, may the bloodletting commence!
Ever since turning a corner with Violence Has Arrived, GWAR have leaned harder on metal than punk and its on The Blood of Gods that they tip the scales back to a more even balance, not that its immediately made evident by opener “War on GWAR,” which sets the stage for the loose theme of the album, pitting humanity and its ails against the space-faring slaughterhounds. Returning from the airy realm rooted in metallic fantasy, “Viking Death Machine” is where we get the cheekier side of the band with its contagious jazz-hand, skanking bass lick. Blothar’s vocal personality begins to widen and we get a greater sense of what he’s truly capable of compared to the live setting where he's handled Oderus’ material exclusively until this year.
Now we mentioned wrangling up some contributors earlier. One of the most prominently featured characters in GWAR’s live shows is the blood-spewing, blade-spinning Sawborg Destructo, who gets his own track, the aptly titled “The Sordid Soliloquy of Sawborg Destructo,” which is nothing like the quirky This Toilet Earth tune “The Insidious Soliloquy of Skulhead Face,” but it’s a fun nod to the band’s past for the Bohabs to pick up on. There’s also “Death to Dickie Duncan,” who is a high-pitched, nasal-toned twerp and we can’t fault GWAR for having the desire to quell his pulse. While tracks like this typically serve as a highlight, they fail to gain traction with the latter taking a few too many cues to the bobbing rhythms of “I, Bonesnapper” off the previous record. The good news? This is the only section of The Blood of Gods that falls flat.
For the more metal-minded, you’ll find favor in the pit-ready “Crushed by the Cross” and “Auroch,” two of the speeder jams here. If you’ve been yearning for more of that surf/skate punk flavor of old, look to “Swarm,” which pleads with human kind to “Stop breathing, stop eating,” to “Stop breeding, stop feeding,” to “Stop pissing, stop s—tting” and to “Stop crying, start dying” while Blothar implores us all to “Please stop giving birth.”
The three singles -- the infinitely catchy bedtime anthem “I’ll Be Your Monster” (good luck getting those guitar licks out of your head), the ska-inflected political condemnation of “El Presidente” and the musclebound “F—k This Place” -- were a perfect preview of what’s contained within this album, featuring a sonic facet that sums up everything GWAR have stood for in their career.
To close it out, the metalli-ballad “Phantom Limb” is reminiscent of “The Road Behind” off America Must Be Destroyed and the commonalities aren’t so much cheap imitations of their old self, but serve as a reminder that nothing has changed with this band. Instead of ending on a somber note, their cover of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” is placed last and defines their standard operating procedure of human bloodbaths and Blothar’s vocal charm should please any Bon Scott fan.
For my fellow Bohabs, The Blood of Gods may take a few spins before the pangs of Oderus’ death begin to subside and you can start to appreciate what’s at play here. But please, for Oderus’ sake, put the time in. It’ll hurt at first, it’s going to be different, you’ll miss our beloved departed Scumdog warrior spewing vulgar morbidities, but with each ensuing listen, you’ll find a few things to dig your grime-caked claws into and just like this Bohab, you’ll realize that not much has changed and that this is still the same crude, witty and repugnant GWAR you’ve always loved. GWAR, you’ll always be our monsters, baby.
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