For more than 20 years, the metal band GWAR has led an army of scumdog fans on a campaign against all that is held sacred.  Formed by design students in Richmond, Virginia, they took on controversial topics with uncompromising humor.  Politics, religion, celebrities and more were lampooned by the group.  But the most distinctive feature of the band was their elaborate costumes they performed in.  The presented themselves as grotesque aliens straight out of an H. P. Lovecraft story.  And their live show was the stuff of legend, filled with fake blood and staged executions.  If you went to a show, you never wore anything that couldn’t be thrown away the next day.

Unfortunately, the future of this staple of the heavy metal underground may be over.  On March 24th, longtime GWAR front man Dave Brockie was found dead in his Virginia home.  He was just 50 years old.  Dressed as the tentacle-bearded Oderus Urungus, Brockie was the face, voice, and artistic leader of the group.  His love of horror and sci-fi helped to develop the band’s bizarre mythology and lyrics.  The cause of death is yet to be determined.  Even worse, the band was still dealing with the death of their lead guitarist Cory Smoot, who passed away of a coronary condition in 2011.

As controversial as the band was, they were also beloved by many.  They were guests of many talk show hosts, from Jerry Springer to Howard Stern to Dan Patrick.  Their respect among fans, musicians and other entertainers was incredible.  Their outrageous videos made them favorites on MTV despite not having strong record sales, mainly due to them being a constant on Beavis and Butthead.  They were a band made for the television-age of popular music.

GWAR were not the first or last group to use shock value in their music and shows.  Going back to the early days of rock and roll, audiences were frightened by the voodoo ceremonies of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and pagan rituals of Arthur Brown.  Alice Cooper set the standard for shock-value in a live show, using elaborate stage props to add macabre theatricality to his shows.  KISS took that to the next level, creating characters based off of their own personalities.  Later groups took much darker tones in shock, including Venom, who are partially responsible for the Norwegian Black Metal scene, where bands openly practice Satanism and even burned churches in the early 90’s.  More mainstream acts included the anarchistic sexuality of Marilyn Manson, and the chaotic violence of Slipknot.

But GWAR was not your typical shock rock group.  Humor was always a major part of their show.  To be fair, it would be silly to take oneself too seriously when dressed like a barbaric, alien monster.  It was this humor that made the band more accessible than the countless other shock groups they either followed or inspired.  Brockie did many interviews dressed as Oderus Urungus, staying in character the entire time.  From threatening to take over the planet, to doing drugs with world leaders, to lusting over Joan Jett, Oderus never failed to make outrageous and hilarious statements whenever he was interviewed.

GWAR’s music should not be overlooked either.  Given Brockie’s punk background as a former member of Death Piggy, their early recordings contained fairly simple songs that had more attitude than chords.  But as the 90’s progressed, so did their talent.  By the 2000’s, they were recording some of the best thrash metal songs since the glory days of the Big Four.  Songs such as “War Party”, “Gor Gor”, “Penguin Attack” and “Let Us Slay!” show such progression.

Dave Brockie’s death brought on an outpouring of respect from metal musicians everywhere.  Members of Lamb of God, In Flames, Anthrax and Insane Clown Posse were just a few of those who took to social media to express their remorse over the fall of Oderus Urungus.  There will be a public service held the day after their planned GWAR-B-Q in August.

RIP Oderus Urungus. RIP Dave Brockie

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