Seven years ago today, metal got a little less gross. Oderus Urungus, alien-overlord of the almighty thrash conquerors GWAR, passed from this warty, jizz-caked world to the next; by proxy, so did his human host, Dave Brockie of Virginia. With Oderus’ death, the world not only lost its ultimate enemy and most well-endowed musician, but also a tireless artist who never gave up his dream of bathing all of humanity in blood and slime that was no less sticky and awful than what most people see when they look in the mirror.
Much has been said about GWAR’s gore-soaked live show. But fans of the band know that the chainsaws and demon semen were only part of their appeal — it’s their super-charged snicker-worthy thrash metal ragers that have made GWAR a cultural institution. So to honor the anniversary of Urungus’ death, we look at 13 tracks that any self-respecting Bohab (as though there is such a thing) needs to know…
“Sick of You” (Scumdogs of the Universe, 1990)
Fans should know “Sick of You” primarily because it’s GWAR’s big single (not that it received monumental airplay, just that it’s a song everyone knows and they close a lot of sets with). But the track is also a solid reminder of how GWAR’s sound started — crunchy, bass-heavy alt-metal, with a baritone Jello Biafra singing about being unwashed and smoking crack. A weird metal track, to be sure, but a wonky classic.
“Immortal Corrupter” (Violence Has Arrived, 2001)
2001’s Violence Has Arrived was a turning point for GWAR, with the horny aliens deciding to move away unbridled comedy and actually be a big-ass heavy metal band. “Immortal Corrupter” is a perfect distillation of that shift — though funny at times, the track is a killer thrash tune with singalong ‘WHOA’s that speaks more to GWAR’s songwriting ability and dedication to their warlike personas than it does to goofing off in foam rubber. Oderus sounds better than ever, his barks and howls showcasing his love of larger-than-life murder music.
“Gor-Gor” (America Must Be Destroyed, 1991)
Back in 1991, GWAR were still following the storylines of their bizarre performance art videos, which is where the narrative behind “Gor-Gor” — that of a giant America-destroying T-Rex being awakened — comes from. That said, the track fucking rips, and showcases some of Oderus’ more bizarre, unhinged vocal delivery, from his high shrieks to his harsh bellows (the rolled R in “death he brings you” is absolute perfection). Remember, kids: Gor-Gor big.
“Back to Iraq” (Carnival of Chaos, 1997)
1997’s Carnival of Chaos is sometimes overlooked because of how fuckin’ weird it is, but when it shines, it burns supernova-hot. “Back to Iraq” is a speedy, furious deep cut that reminds listeners of Dave Brockie’s punk legacy. Not only that, but it offers a moment of GWAR’s snarky social commentary; a lyric like “I did my duty, I served the nation/Now I can’t even afford medication” might be darkly humorous, but it’s also pretty on-point for soldiers who returned from Desert Storm. Never forget, GWAR started as a straight-up thrash band.
“Saddam A GoGo” (This Toilet Earth, 1994)
Gen-Xers know “Saddam A GoGo” as the song GWAR are playing during their appearance in 1995’s Empire Records. The opener for 1994’s This Toilet Earth, the track has the rare distinction of being one of the great ska-metal tracks of all time, its horn sections adding a certain elaborate, carefree vibe to this mosher about Saddam Hussein. Though not the most GWAR-ed out song one can find, it’s probably the track that’s best for introducing new fans to the band. Then you can play ‘em the next song.
“Fuckin’ An Animal” (We Kill Everything, 1999)
If “Back to Iraq” is proof that GWAR can be serious, “Fuckin’ An Animal” is proof that they’re the most ridiculous band in the world. The track has a jolly, almost polka-ish rhythm, and lyrics about blowin’ 50 steers, Legionnaire’s disease, and getting your dick bent. One expects a vicious metal section to kick in at any moment, but instead it’s just skippin’ rock about bestiality from start to finish. Proof that Oderus was always the maddest form of genius.
“Bring Back the Bomb” (War Party, 2005)
After Violence Has Arrived reintroduced GWAR as an actual metal band, the Antarcticans went all-in on 2004’s War Party. Opener “Bring Back The Bomb” features Oderus’ classic shout-whine vocal dichotomy in fine form as he recalls both the atomic bomb’s history and revels in how many humans it’ll kill in the future. The track has since become a live staple, inciting mosh pits with its double-bass drumming and crunching riffs. Live for metal, die for GWAR.
“Meat Sandwich” (Ragnarok, 1995)
You can say this about Oderus Urungus: he’s the only metal frontman to son Christ on the basketball court. “Meat Sandwich,” the opener of 1995’s Ragnarok, appears to be about dissing Jesus for being made of meat, making it a hilarious alternative to black metal. However, it’s the song’s weirdness — the tottering rhythm, the bizarre vocal shift from metal growl to deep background chants of ‘Crucified!’ — that sets it apart from GWAR’s typical war marches. Not one you’d typically throw on, but one that’ll crack everyone up if you do.
“Vlad the Impaler” (Scumdogs of the Universe, 1991)
GWAR certainly aren’t the only band to write a song about Vlad Tepes, but they’re the only ones to point and snicker at the real-life Dracula. Sure, there are references to impaling peasants and fighting the Turks, but there are also lines like, “Mommy was a hamster, Daddy was a jailer/Real tough childhood for such a fucking failure” which show that Oderus and company didn’t think of Vlad as the paragon of evil that, say, Marduk do. One assumes GWAR watched the Romanian carnage from their cave in Antarctica and cackled furiously.
“Tick-Tits” (Bloody Pit of Horror, 2010)
Speaking to Metal Blast back in 2011, Oderus Urungus said, “There’s always at least one song per album that is totally disgusting…They are usually based on hideous tales of my sex life, and that’s what ‘Tick-Tits’ is all about.” He ain’t lying — rather than further the band’s alien storyline or comment on current events, “Tick-Tits” tells the story of a horrible, obese woman with, well, ticks all over her tits. The lyrics are nauseatingly hilarious, to the point where you can almost hear Urungus tittering girlishly as he wrote them. Sometimes, it’s important to just be so gross it’s hilarious, and no band will ever do that better than GWAR.
“Happy DeathDay” (Violence Has Arrived, 2001)
Sometimes GWAR are darkly comedic, sometimes they’re topical, sometimes they’re brutal — but on “Happy DeathDay,” the band are all three. With lyrics like, “Happy DeathDay to Columbine/Let’s make the world an Oklahoma City, fine!” the track is as biting, hardcore and yet utterly madcape as any the band have ever written. Meanwhile, its speed-metal pace mixed with its upbeat vibe give it a catchiness that not many would expect from our alien dictators, even as it decries humanity as a whole.
“Krak Down” (This Toilet Earth, 1994)
Though a little-known B-side from This Toilet Earth, “Krak Down” shows off much of what both GWAR and Dave Brockie brought to metal that no one else did. The track itself is a shrieking, chruning alt-thrash number with a bizarre-yet-killer solo in the middle. The vocals and lyrics, meanwhile, show off Brockie’s total degeneracy and sense of self-deprecating humor. More than anything, the track is catchy, ripping chance for a whole room to scream, “I FUCKED MY LIFE UP!” As though that weren’t already apparent by you listening to GWAR.
“Fishfuck” (We Kill Everything, 1999)
Made widely popular by the punk rock mega-compilation Short Music for Short People, “Fishfuck” isn’t exactly here for the nuance — the track’s about fucking someone with a river carp. That said, the jangling upbeat rhythm adds an extra level of fun to this quick cyt, and Oderus’ falsetto backing cries of “FEESH-FUCK!” show the listener just how delightfully girly a giant-cocked alien monster can sound. Pretty much our generation’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
Words by Chris Krovatin