GWAR is a horror-themed shock-rock/metal band formed in Richmond, Virginia in 1984. The band became notorious through their outrageous stage show, which involves extravagant costumes and eye-popping sets that feature monsters, mutilation and mayhem. Each of the band members played a different larger than life character within the band, and they were as much a performance art act as a musical group.
The stage show, combined with the band’s extreme lyrics – often satirical and mocking – made the band a target for censors, especially in the UK, where, some petty-minded MPs who had never actually seen or heard their act, called for them to be banned from performing in Britain.
GWAR was formed by Dave Brockie (stage character Oderus Urungus), vocalist and bassist with punk band Death Piggy, which used crude props in their stage show. He met Hunter Jackson (Techno Destructo) and Chuck Varga (Sexecutioner), both attendees of Virginia Commonwealth University who had set up “The Slave Pit”, a production space for Scumdogs of the Universe, a movie they intended to make.
Brockie had an idea to use the costumes made for “Scumdogs of the Universe” and have Death Piggy open for themselves as a barbaric band from Antarctica, playing nonsense songs while sacrificing fake animals. The name of the joke group was “Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh”. Inevitably, the new band proved more popular than Death Piggy, and eventually took over, the name shortened to GWAR. The new band would have constantly changing line-up over the years.
The first GWAR album, Hell-O, was released in 1988 under Shimmy Disc Records and was a mix of punk and metal styles. This was followed by Scumdogs of the Universe released by Master Records. 1990 also saw the band’s first home video, Live from Antarctica. The band were soon picked up by Metal Blade Records.
1992 saw the release of America Must Be Destroyed. During this period, GWAR was (temporarily) banned in North Carolina because Brockie was wearing his “Cuttlefish of Cthulhu” codpiece, which led to his arrest. The album was accompanied by the movie Phallus in Wonderland, which documented the main concept and contained music videos for the album.
This Toilet Earth was released on 1994, to moderate success. The album received additional attention due to controversy surrounding “B.D.F.”, a song that graphically refers to taboo subjects. This period would see GWAR gaining some mainstream attention, with appearances on Beavis and Butt-head and the film Empire Records.
In 1995, GWAR released Ragnarok, which had less success than previous records, possibly because of its more experimental nature. This experimentation was expanded on two years later in Carnival of Chaos. 1999 saw the release of We Kill Everything, a more punk inspired album that is apparently the band’s least favourite album.
Violence Has Arrived, released on November 6, 2001, saw the band returning to their thrash metal roots but ironically was the last recording for Metal Blade. This new, more serious metal approach resulted in the forming of side project, the Dave Brockie Experience, which aimed to continue the more satirical and experimental sounds that GWAR had toyed with while allowing the main band to be more focused.
War Party was released in 2004 on their new record label, DRT Entertainment. That same year the band released Live from Mt. Fuji, their first live album.
In January 2006, GWAR opened a gallery show called “The Art of GWAR” at Art Space gallery in Richmond to display the many props, costumes, cartoons, paintings produced by The Slave Pit, GWAR’s art and effects studio. A month later, the band announced theor next album, Beyond Hell,, and in the summer of that year, they released the Blood Bath and Beyond DVD, containing behind the scenes and vintage footage of the band.
In 2009, GWAR celebrated their 25th year as a band. Their eleventh studio album, Lust in Space, was released that year, through Metal Blade Records.
On November 9, 2010, they released their twelfth studio album, Bloody Pit of Horror named after the Italian 60s film of the same title.
On November 3, 2011, guitarist Cory Smoot, who had portrayed Flattus Maximus since 2002, was found dead by his fellow band members in the band’s tour bus as they prepared to cross the border into Manitoba, Canada from North Dakota. The cause of death was a coronary artery thrombosis brought about by his pre-existing coronary artery disease. On November 4, Dave Brockie officially announced that the character of Flattus Maximus would be retired out of respect to Smoot.
The frontman of the band, Dave Brockie, died on March 23, 2014. His death was confirmed by band manager, Jack Flanagan:
“It is with a saddened heart, that I confirm my dear friend Dave Brockie, artist, musician, and lead singer of GWAR passed away at approximately 6:50 PM EST Sunday March 23, 2014. His body was found Sunday by his band mate at his home in Richmond, VA. Richmond authorities have confirmed his death and next of kin has been notified. A full autopsy will be performed. He was 50 years old, born August 30, 1963. My main focus right now is to look after my band mates and his family. More information regarding his death shall be released as the details are confirmed.”
Brockie’s death left GWAR without any founder members and the future of the band was uncertain until September 19th 2014 when it was announced that Vulvatron (Kim Dylla) would replace Brockie.
GWAR introduced Vulvatron by creating official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. “My protocols are strained communicating through these ancient Earth systems,” she tweeted. “Next they will tell me you humans still use phones.”