October 28, 2011

The Rave, Milwaukee, WI

by Dr. Abner Mality

Strange indeed is the hand of fate. I sat down to write the indescribable experience of my very first GWAR concert and prepared myself mentally to find words for such a blood-spattered event. Then real life intruded into the bizarro world of both GWAR and Dr. Abner Mality. Trying to find a little online information to spice up my writing, Google brought up something my mind had a hard time accepting:


What kind of sick joke was this? I read the story but still couldn't process the info. Didn't I just see this dude slay a whole crowd of raving maniacs less than a week before? Didn't I just have a chat with his cohort-in-slime Oderus Urungus, aka Dave Brockie? Yes, I did...but the story was no joke. Corey Smoot, aged 34, the talented guitarist behind the fearsome facade of Flattus, had passed away.

The tone of my report now becomes significantly different and more somber. Corey's passing is a reminder that life is a very precious and fragile thing. I dedicate this concert review to the memory of one of GWAR's vital components.

GWAR made the difficult decision to continue the "Return of the Maggot" tour even following Smoot's death so I can do no less than go ahead as well.

I got to the Rave pretty early in the afternoon for my diabolical summit meeting with one Oderus Urungus deep within the bowels of the facility. It was an epic conference, which you can read the details of in the Interview section. After that came a gap of several hours, which I spent elsewhere in Beertown before returning to the Rave and the insane frolic which awaited.

I was delighted to see my old comrades Ghoul fly in from Creepsylvania to open for their blood-brothers GWAR. Things have been pretty quiet on the Ghoul front the last couple of years, but from what I saw tonight,  it is definitely the calm  before the storm. It looks like Ghoul is finally getting ready to explode out of the underground and into the mass prominence they've always deserved.

These hooded horrors are the PERFECT opening act for GWAR. After an introduction from a cadaverous Creepsylvanian count, the masked men took the stage with fury in their hearts, kicking things off with a thrashing "Off With Their Heads". The notoriously tough GWAR crowd took to this band immediately and by the end of the set was loudly screaming for an encore. That's a hell of a thing to accomplish.

Ghoul has recently gotten a bit of a upgrade, as they now sport much more professional scarecrow hoods as opposed to the cheap bloody pillow-cases they've used in the past. GWAR was extremely generous in allowing Ghoul to use a lot of props during their set...a creepy Papa Shango lookalike took the stage to sprinkle the crowd with chicken blood during "Mark of Voodoo" while the gigantic Killbot staggered forth to do battle with Ghoul as they attempted to play "Rise, Killbot, Rise!" The crowd ate up these shenanigans like zombies dining on brains, but it has to be said that Ghoul was also incredibly tight as they barrelled through catchy thrashers such as "Graveyard Mosh" and "Gutbucket Blues" like a malevolent version of Anthrax or Overkill. It was a fantastic opening set from the Creepsylvanians, who were very warmly received, and I am looking forward to their forthcoming "Transmission Zero" effort with great anticipation.

Every Time I Die always had a tough row to hoe with this tour, being placed smack in the middle of the Scumdogs of the Universe and their fanatically slavish followers and the up-and-coming blast of Ghoul. They had their bumps tonight, but I will sure say one thing for them...they didn't leave anything on the table and delivered an incredibly physical, almost out-of-control performance. I'm not terribly familiar with their punk/hardcore/southern sludge mash-up material but song titles such as "Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space"and  "Buffalo 666" indicate deranged minds at work.

Lacking the monstrous stage outfits and props of the other two bands tonight, ETID had no choice but to hit the stage running. That they did, with a vengeance...they were all over the place, headbanging furiously, constantly changing position and even throwing their guitars high into the air and catching them without missing a note. Singer Keith Buckley looks like he could be the frontman for any college rock nerd band, but he's a crazy motherfucker who bellows out tunes with asbestos-lined lungs.

Every Time I Die can't be faulted for their energy, but their songs kind of all ran together and lacked the catchiness of GWAR and Ghoul's work. Occasional crushing breakdowns and even bits of southern boogie helped, but the crowd including myself wasn't really familiar with the band's material and that hurt them. They tried their damndest and did manage to win over some of the crowd, but they were still kind of the odd men out tonight.

The space between Every Time I Die and the stars of the evening GWAR was filled with a Halloween costume contest. this being a mere four days before the blessed day. The princely sum of $500 was up for grabs to the winners in both men's and women's divisions. The accompanying photo shows the well-deserved winner of the contest...even some of the GWAR members had to be impressed by this undead freak. Unfortunately, the winner of the women's division was not so obliging for me. Oh, well...

Next came the moment we had all been awaiting, the arrival of everyone's favorite Antarctic Scumdogs. This was my first GWAR show and like a fool, I forgot to wear plastic rain gear to protect me from the fountain of body fluids that would soon be hurled in my direction. Alone amongst the stageside photographers, I was wearing no such gear. Nor was it needed! As a veteran of many a screaming patient, I needed only my faithful labcoat to protect me from the spew! But wow, even I couldn't have guessed just how MUCH fluid was gonna be flung my way!

The figure of DEATH himself welcomed us to his Castle, which he said he had just leased to GWAR for the evening. This brought the Scumdogs themselves onto the stage and let me tell you, it is quite an amazing sight to be right next to the monstrous mutants. I am totally amazed at how Balzak The Jaws of Death is able to maneuver on stage at all, given he is walking on goat feet and his head is encased in a bear trap! Strangely enough, Balzak was the second most lively member of GWAR after His Lordship Oderus Urungus himself.

And it was Oderus who was our host for the evening. For an alien degenerate determined to wipe all human scum from the Earth, he's not such a bad guy. With the other GWAR members lacking mobility due to their ponderous stage gear(Beefcake the Mighty in particular), it was up to Oderus to prance around stage and keep things rolling.  I'll tell you something listen closely enough and you realize he's quite a good singer. Despite his uniquely gruff vocals, he can actually transmit a catchy melody very well and he doesn't sport "cookie monster" vocals despite his grotesque exterior.

Confession time: GWAR are capable musicians and quite tight considering the limitations of their characters, but as far as actual musical expertise and technical ability go, both Ghoul and Every Time I Die are far more proficient bands. But live, GWAR is all about the ICK factor. The simple metal/punk tunes provide a fitting background as freakish characters do battle on stage and body parts get thrown to the raving masses. Each GWAR tour offers a popular celebrity of the day as a sacrifice to the mutants and tonight, I was overjoyed to see Snooki from "The Jersey Shore" torn to bits on stage. Even a fetus was torn from her worm-infested womb and tossed about. This mock sacrifice of mainstream idiocy is perhaps the most important function the band undertakes...a psycho-social catharsis of the highest order.

As far as the tunes go, the band definitely focused on the most METAL of their sometimes uneven repertoire, focusing mostly on the last few albums and playing nutcrushers like "A Gathering of Ghouls",  "Let Us Slay", "Hail Genocide" and my personal favorite, "Bring Back the Bomb".  The success of these songs is due mainly to the late Flattus Maximus, whom we were seeing for the last time tonight. It was really the most recent incarnation of Flattus, Corey Smoot, who brought the brutal metal influences to the band. How unthinkable it was to see the man in all his glory tonight and know that in less than a week, he would be dead. It still boggles my mind...a real tragedy. And the band has announced there will be no replacement Flattus: the character is now retired.

We should remember Corey/Flattus in his element, as he was tonight...a stage full of rampaging monsters being chopped apart, a cannon of blood soaking the crazed maniacs in the audience at least 50 feet from the stage, skull-crushing metal filling the air and the roar of many voices chanting "GWAR! GWAR! GWAR!"

My first experience with the band was a memorable one, for many reasons, and I don't think I will ever have another night quite like this one. Hail to GWAR and rest in peace, Corey Smoot.