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Gwar - Battle Maximus

    Ian Jane

  • Gwar - Battle Maximus

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    Gwar - Battle Maximus
    Released by: Metal Blade
    Released on: September 13, 2013.
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    When GWAR was unleashed upon an unsuspecting populate in 1984, they seemed like a novelty band. And to be sure, they still dress up in awesome costumes, kill things on stage and spray fake blood, piss and shit all over their loyal fans each and every time they play - so there is still that aspect to their act. What a lot of people tend to overlook, however, is that GWAR can play. Oderus Urungus (or Dave Brockie if you will) belts out some of the most poignantly offensive lyrics you're ever likely to hear (remember Have You Seen Me?) with more relentless ferocity than ever before and the musicianship has evolved throughout their string of albums.

    Which brings us to this, the year 2013, and their latest effort entitled Battle Maximus. A little context here - in 2011, guitar player Flattus Maximus (Corey Smoot) passed away while on tour from a pre-existing coronary issue. He had been with the band since 2002 and had played a big part in their current sound. This was obviously a huge blow to the band and they took some time to recover from this and then announced in 2012 that Pustulus Maximus (Brent Purgason, of Cannibis Corpse) would replace him. This latest album is GWAR's attempt to do that, to send Smoot's character off with a bang and introduce Pustulus Maximus to the world.

    So how exactly do they do that? With a concept album, of course. The storyline behind this one is that a time traveler named Mr. Perfect decided to steal from GWAR their power of immortality. Once achieved, he'd going to turn the entire human race into a bunch of mutant freaks, the kind that in his eyes appear perfect. GWAR, however, will not take this laying down and as they set about saving humanity, they battle Mr. Perfect and save the day.

    In the press release materials that were sent from Metal Blade with the files for review, Oderus is quoted as saying:

    “The combo of the brand new album and show should satisfy even the most hardcore Flattus devotee with the fact that GWAR's slay-skills are as supreme as ever, and the band stands poised to embark on our most earth-shattering world tour yet. We have mourned, we have honored, and now it's time to fucking DEVASTATE in the name of Flattus and the supreme entity that is GWAR."

    That might sound like a lot of hype, but this is Oderus we're talking about here. The guy likes to talk shit. In this case though, it's not really an exaggeration. The guitar playing that Pustulus brings to the recording is fantastic. It's heavy, it's rhythmic, and it hits fast and hard. You'd think, given the events leading up to this record, that this new album would follow in the footsteps of their last disc, 2010's Bloody Pit Of Horror. It was, by GWAR standards at least, a more serious effort that left off a lot of the more comedic elements from albums like Scumdogs Of The Universe in favor of tighter and heavier guitars and darker lyrics. Musically this new effort is not far off from that but lyrically it's almost as if the band maybe found it therapeutic to celebrate the life of their fallen Flattus by delivering a record made up of punk infused searing thrash, ridiculous characters, crazy storylines and all the wanton sex and violence you could ask for.

    The complete track listing for this release is:

    Intro / Madness At The Core Of Time / Bloodbath / Nothing Left Alive / They Swallowed The Sun / Torture / Raped At Birth / I, Bonesnapper / Mr. Perfect / Battle Maximus / Triumph Of The Pig Children / Falling / Fly Now

    The intro sets the stage for what's to come, and once Madness At The Core Of Time begins, we're off and running. Bloodbath is darker than some of the other songs on the album but it's fast and straight to the point. Nothing Left Alive is a little more generic sounding than some of the other tracks on the album but it's fast and nasty. They Swallowed The Sun starts off with sort of a doomy pounding with Orderus freaking out over top of it but from there it descends into a heavy mosh and it turns out to be one of the best tracks on the album by the time it's over with at almost five minutes in length. It's also got a weird sort of call and response thing going on for the chorus that sounded kind of annoying at first listen but soon sort of grew on me and had me singing along. Torture sounds a little bit like Overkill at first (a good thing) but soon solidifies itself as distinctly GWAR and the chanted parts that precede some more great moments of Oderus snarling just over half way through are a nice touch. It, and the next track (if you couldn't tell), Raped At Birth, are both pretty intense and darker than much of the other material here. They fit nicely in the middle in terms of the story being told.

    I, Bonesnapper features some truly wicked lyrical delivery by Oderus which leads into the longest song on the album, Mr. Perfect. This one builds slowly at first, some wailing screaming over a guitar heavy intro before the drums start, taking up almost a third of the song's running time. Once those drums kick in though, there's nothing slow about it. You've got love the twisted 'Pledge Of Allegiance' that happens as it comes to a close. The title track is an instrumental one that begins with some heavy instrumentation that segues into a sort of Iron Maiden style inspired gallop before picking up the pace and letting the guitars solo over top. It leads into Triumph Of The Pig Children, which is just nuts. Oderus' vocals are all over the place here, his range is really far more impressive than most will likely give him credit for. He grunts, he wails, he barks, and he completely hams it up giving a really theatrical delivery here but his timing is great.

    The album comes to a close with Falling, a song that starts off sounding almost… gentle. Slow guitars, melodic vocals, it's got an almost soaring quality to it so that makes the title accurate. It's almost dreamy by GWAR standards, there's harmony here. It's not thrashy at all, but it's still pretty heavy and it's got some feeling behind it. If GWAR were going for something genuinely emotional here, it worked. It's definitely a very different track from everything else on the album and the vocals going solo over a snare drum with some effects over top is kind of a weird way to close the song out, but bonus points for trying something different.

    Last but not least, Fly Now. The last song starts off with Oderus ranting a bit before the song kicks in and the story is brought to a close. This is more typical after Falling, but it's a fitting way to bring things to an end with Oderus inviting you to 'come with me to a place where legends never die.' At the same time, he also invites us to a place where angels fear to tread and where we can have sex with the dead, so don't think for a minute that they're getting too sentimental or breaking character here.

    There's some obvious death metal influence here at times, not surprising given Purgason's involvement in Cannabis Corpse, but that doesn't hurt things. GWAR are running like a well-oiled machine here. The first album produced in their new studio, here the drums crush just as you'd want them too (one problem with the last album is that to this reviewer's ears the drums didn't have as much power behind them as they should have) and the vocals have all the bite and fury you could imagine. The production values are good, slick enough that you can hear everything clearly but not taking away from the band's signature sound. This won't convince those who don't care for the band, but then, GWAR's not trying do to that. Fans will appreciate this, a great mix of the theatrical and the grotesque set to some fairly slick playing and consistently impressive vocals. It's GWAR doing what GWAR does best and while it's a genuine shame that Flattus had to go when he did, Pustulus Maximus is a worthy replacement.

    In the interest of full disclosure: Normally, if this review were based off of physical media, we'd talk up the art and presentation and what not but this review was based off of MP3s sent by Metal Blade.

    Check out a few tracks from the album below!

    And dig this interview with Pustulus Maximus himself!

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