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Monday, November 22, 2010

CD Review: Gwar - Bloody Pit of Horror

Gwar - Bloody Pit of Horror
2010 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Undoubtedly you've been at a Gwar show and heard the following: "I don't own any of their albums. Who cares about the music, man? I wanna get hit by some blood!" They usually wear Fruit of the Loom whites with cheaply-drawn target symbols on their chests and they usually get their wish. Further anecdote for you neophyte photographers showing up at a Gwar show with expensive equipment: never stand center stage and find the nearest floor amp with plastic covering to hide your camera between shots...that, or someone with big hair. Writer's tip, bestowed by experience.

Reality check when your performance aura supersedes your musical craft, not that this bothers Gwar in the slightest. 12 albums into their career now, they have a formula, one they've gotten better and more detailed with each album since 2004's War Party restored Gwar's gory presence in the eyes of the metal and punk underground.

Like it or not, take them seriously or not (and woe to you if you do take them seriously), Gwar has gotten heavier, louder, more exact and more freakin' metal than most of their competition--masked or not. It just so happens they still throw the nastiest, craziest visual splatter fiesta outside of a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick. It will always be their quicker draw than their insane, chock 'o block meat grinder tunes.

Like it or not, I say, because Bloody Pit of Horror may carry the same jumping bean structure, the same tsunami swirls and the same same same as far as Gwar's creative process goes, but seriously, play this album and their previous album Lust in Space, and you have to applaud how precise this band has become.

Flattus Maximus, aka Cory Smoot, has become a hell of a guitarist and if you're not picking up on that, you're freaking prejudiced based upon the 60 pounds of latex (to quote Gwar's dildo-smacking frontman Oderus Urungus) bouncing around and clogging up your peripheral vision. Flattus, next to his creature feature string section, Balsac the Jaws of Death (Michael Dirks) and Beefcake the Mighty (played first by Michael Bishop, then Casey Orr) is as monstrous as his character. The guy is also a principal songwriter in the band and his riffs have gotten crunchier as his solos have become the only serious element to Gwar. Honestly, Flattus smokes. Jizmak da Gusha (Brad Roberts) has increased his drumming prowess to such double-punched delight you have to key in on Gwar's music while dodging the green and red goo from the cannons of Gwar's stage minions--unless you're there to be doused.

Dave Brockie, known as the lovable cornholing demon behind the mike, Oderus Urungus, still gets to growl to his filthy delight even while peddling snowboards under his real name on the side. He talks shit about Dick Cheney and accuses Paris Hilton of fucking donkeys on "The Litany of the Slain" (if you've seen Gwar play live, you've seen "Paris" racked and ripped onstage in a way Cannibal Corpse only talks about in their music) and he leads a hilarious, juvenile gang chorus of debauchery on "Tick Tits." No elaboration needed in the latter case.

Bloody Pit of Horror actually attempts a quasi theme on the opening four songs, which is something we're all still waiting for from Gwar: a full-on concept album. King Diamond they're not, but kudos for launching this album with the pounding "The Zombies March!" which incorporates more contemporary grind and bop tempos while remaining unequivocally Gwar. Check out the near-prog breakdown and bridge and that wicked soloing, eh? It's as close to full-on artistry as Gwar dares and it's beauteous. You almost forget who you're listening to.

During the opening "Bloody Pit" quartet, Gwar raises a bloody chalice in tribute to the late Peter Steele on "Come the Carnivore." Oderus actually lowers his ralphing octaves in a pinpointed farewell to Steele, while Gwar beats out a slow funeral march, ala Type O Negative. Hell, if you listen carefully to the outtro of "The Zombies March!" it's so Type O you know the Gwar guys were well-affected by Steele's death. They send him a befitting hails to the other side before Bloody of Pit of Horror resumes its rambunctious stir of the grue stew.

"Beat You to Death" flies on the legs of a trad thrash whirl, while "KZ Necromancer" is a musical summation of Gwar's old-meets-new songwriting methodoloy. It's full of syrupy sludge riffs poured upon varying mosh and crunk tempos. Gwar shifts their beat signatures galore on "KZ Necromancer," and it should be paid close attention. A short song, but Gwar covers massive ground in such brief time. Give 'em some props.

Not to get overexcited with glowing praise for Bloody Pit of Horror, because that wouldn't sit well with many people, Gwar especially. This is not a masterpeice, but it is a fun 12th edition accenting what we know to be truth: Gwar is reknowned for their Grand Guinol stage spectacles and there will always be fans who come to their gigs strictly for the face-drenched experience. There's nothing out there like a Gwar show, which is something the band has to live up to by default. Remove the rubber, the political uncorrectness and the intestine ripping, a large portion of fans walk away like they do upon a sports team hitting a bad skid. Still, that poser lot is missing out on an ear-blasting dose of gnarly horror metal which has over the years grown an even bigger pair than what dangles between Dave Brockie's legs. Sick and twisted, you betcha...

Rating: ***1/2


Chris said...

great, accurate review. nice to know that others have been noticing how deadly Gwar has become in the past 7 years, not just writing-them-off as a novelty act. They are now true masters of their craft, both musically and as actors, and this new record is evidence - pure punk metal!!! practice makes perfect, kids!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Thanks, Chris! I call it as I hear it. I think it's unfair at this point to think Gwar is only a visual band. You can watch the old days and hear what a mess they were in sound as in presentation, but now there's some audile meat to go with the grind act.

Heavy666Metal666Devil said...

Gwar over the years has become a very tight, intricate band. If you listen to Scumdogs of the Universe all the way up to Bloody Pit you'll notice the trend of each album becoming heavier, leaving behind some of the zaniness, yet still remaining true to their punk roots. Bloody Pit of Horror is an album of pounding heavy metal jam after another, and each attack follows it's precadent very nicely.