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November 4, 2011


GWAR and mainstream media

GWAR guitarist

Now that the heyday of the PMRC is behind us, the only time you're likely to see an article about a band like GWAR in a paper like the New York Times is when one of their members is arrested for a heinous violent crime, or dies. Sadly, GWAR lost its guitarist of the last ten or so years, Cory Smoot, yesterday when he was mysteriously found dead on the tour bus. Cause of death isn't known yet, but the guy was only 34 years old.

As tragic as this news is, it's a wonderful opportunity to see the mainstream media try to explain it to its readership, which comprises a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the satirical heavy metal genre.

From the Times' piece:

Mr. Smoot, 34, joined the band in 2002, taking over the outlandish role of Flattus Maximus that had been played by other guitarists in the band’s long history. He also produced the group's last two albums—"Lust in Space" and "Bloody Pit of Horror," both on the Metal Blade label. On stage he wore a grotesque red mask, foam dinosaur-head shoulder pads and reptile feet.

GWAR was formed in Richmond, Va., in the mid-1980s and is known for its sci-fi costumes, raunchy lyrics and graphic stage performances, often touching on political and morally taboo themes. Its shows sometimes include phony decapitations and disembowlments of people wearing the masks of public figures. The theatrical conceit of the group is that they are intergalactic warriors, descended from aliens stranded in Antarctica who came to Earth to turn humans into sex slaves.

Thank you, newspaper of record, for publishing that last sentence.

The Washington Post includes an overview of GWAR's costumes,

As Flattus Maximus, Smoot wore shoulder pads made out of dinosaur heads, and a red Cro-Magnon skull. Other GWAR members' costumes are equally elaborate: Lead singer Oderus Urungus (played by Dave Brockie) wears a horned barbarian costume, and Balsac the Jaws of Death (played by Mike Derks) wears hooves and a mask shaped like a giant bear trap.

then they go even further, quoting subjective descriptions of attending a GWAR concert from 2004 to help its readers experience the magnitude of this loss:

While the band ground out such classics as "Apes of Wrath," "Horror of Yig" and "Biledriver," the audience was treated to such Caligulan diversions as a woman in a bikini breathing fire, a pope doll being savaged by a large singing Tyrannosaurus rex named Gor-Gor, and a pair of bondage slaves flogging each other with the bloody entrails torn from a figure resembling the president of the United States.

And Slate made a cool short video about the news, featuring gloriously apocalyptic footage of GWAR videos and shows.

RIP, Mr. Maximus. We bow our Cro-Magnon skulls in your honor (and really, really wish we'd gone to a GWAR concert while you were alive.)

categories: Media, Music
posted by amy at 3:30 PM | #

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Did you know that the bassist's father taught/teaches psychology at W&M? I had him for a professor, and ran into him (my professor) in the parking lot of a Food Lion, where he was wearing a Gwar baseball cap.

It seemed kind of odd attire for a 60-something professor (even one who taught "The Psychology of Humor") and I mentioned that I was surprised that he was a fan. He told me his son was the bass player, and said, "It makes a father proud." Quite possibly the coolest dad ever.

Posted by: Tim at November 5, 2011 1:55 AM

I'm not sure I've read anything more deliciously NYT than something describing the "theatrical conceit" of GWAR. You can almost hear them putting a scented handkerchief over their collective nose and mouth as they hold that paragraph with a pair of tweezers.

Posted by: T-Rock at November 7, 2011 4:28 PM

Tim, I had no idea! Neat! What a cool proud dad. My own psychology professor was a 60's throwback who wore bell bottom jeans, a droopy beard, and a scraggly ponytail to work. He was a cool professor in his own, aging Deep Purple-fan kind of way, but he was no GWAR dad.

Jim: I guess I'd like to believe that there's some secret snickering going on beneath that fussy scented handkerchief. That sentence starts out dripping with disdain, but it ends with a Beavisy snigger about pope dolls and sex slaves.

Posted by: amy at November 7, 2011 10:28 PM

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