GWAR – War Party Review

GWAR – War Party
Rte/DRT, 2004

1. Bring Back The Bomb
2. Krosstika
3. Womb With A View
4. Decay of Grandeur
5. War Party
6. Bonesnapper
7. Lost God
8. The Reaganator
9. The Bonus Plan
10. You Can’t Kill Terror
11. Fist Full of Teeth

Consistently hilarious for well over a decade, the performance artists of GWAR (capitalized as it’s an acronym for God, What an Awful Racket) return once more with War Party, and this time, they have a few surprises up their slee–umm, well, whatever it is that they wear. Fans usually proclaim their peak was in the early ’90s with Scumdogs of the Universe and America Must Be Destroyed, the latter an album which spawned prominent MTV rotation with “Gor-Gor” and “The Road Behind.” Even if one finds it true that everything since has been mere kitsch and goofiness, let it be known that 2004 has been a great comeback year for many bands who seemed to have found their long-since-misplaced mojo.

I must use the nukes/I can’t kill you all with my hands — “Bring Back The Bomb”

Hints of GWAR’s musical growth were hinted at with the release of 2001’s Violence Has Arrived; the musicianship was noticeably better, the songs were tighter, and the metal rocked a whole lot more than the typical “comedy rock” band. There were hints that, for the first time, GWAR wanted to be acknowledged for their musical contributions instead of their humourous ones. As such, War Party breaks in with the volume to eleven and doesn’t let up for the entire thirty-seven minute stretch. More importantly, it’s just plain good heavy metal. Regardless of the band’s devotion to performance art, it seems they also kicked in and added serious songwriting ability to their repertoire.

Like a molecule in a microscope/So your womb has become the tomb of my dead baby — “Womb With a View”

Of course, this isn’t to say that GWAR woke up in the morning and decided to take themselves seriously; the majority of the lyrics found throughout the album recall years of silliness and over-the-top gory vulgarity. This is what one looks for when picking up a GWAR release, after all. Their schtick is that they are aliens stranded in Antarctica looking to enslave the human race. If they were to suddenly drop the costumes, the scatalogical references, and the misogyny, there would be a riot among their fans.

We’re the greatest country, so you have to die/That’s why — “The Reaganator”

Yet even while retaining their image, GWAR almost seems to have written their own American Idiot concept album; mixed among the tributes of love that end in meals of children are many songs poking fun at America. “The Reaganator” is the easiest example where vocalist Oderus Urungus growls on about everything from Cuba to simple declarations made during the Reagan era that the United States are the Good Guys, and everyone else must die. “Bring Back the Bomb,” “War Party,” “You Can’t Kill Terror,” and “Bonesnapper” all correlate the goofy antics of Antarctican alien war against humans eerily to the United States involvement in Iraq. It’s only somewhat subtle, but so unexpected that it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

The swastika and the bloody old cross/Two great hates that hate great together — “Krosstika”

While the quality of songwriting has improved and the lyrics have grown leaps and bounds while still remaining comedic, that doesn’t necessarily mean GWAR’s music stands up well next to current popular trends or even obscure underground ones. They’re still cranking out thrash, albeit updated to suit a more modern palette; unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that the main riff of “Krosstika” doesn’t sound like a direct knockoff of Megadeth’s “Holy Wars,” a song recorded over fourteen years ago. It’s good for what it is, but merely catching up to the times won’t a superstar make. Regardless, “Bring Back the Bomb” kicks in with such bombast that it’s an instant headbanger. For those indifferent to the annals of time, one might just keep on headbanging until the disc ends. It’s a relentless album that doesn’t give the listener a moment to breathe, and between the lyrical humor and the rock, it’s hard to nitpick a dull moment.

Cut off his penis and shove it in his mouth/Just like they do down south — “You Can’t Kill Terror”

Still, there are times when the typical GWAR-ness of the album starts to wear thin. Yes, we get it — hate, kill, destroy, inflict pain, whatever. However, the disc only stretches just beyond thirty-seven minutes; just when the listener decides they have had enough, it’s over. It’s a great balance that prevents overkill. This doesn’t mean that songs like “Decay of Grandeur” and “Lost God” don’t seem to drag on longer than their mere four minutes; some songs are just better than others.

“As I eat a baby, I’m thinking of you/You’re not here to feed me/So I eat our child; I wish we’d had two” — Fist Full of Teeth

The coup de grace, however, summing up all that is GWAR and tying up the disc with a big red ribbon, is “Fist Full of Teeth.” One may be tempted to call it some sort of love anthem, but it’s obviously not quite that. It may very well be the strongest song comedically and ends the album on a high note, prompting the listener to welcome replay with open arms. Perhaps I’m just partial to Jonathan Swift, but sometimes, it’s the eating baby jokes that make the whole thing worthwhile.