Now, on paper, this seemed like a wonderful idea, as their unique brand of punk-infused hard rock, and gory, splatter-house stage theatrics means a GWAR show can’t go wrong, right? Sadly, not so much. We have to factor in a few key things like, not a sole original founding member continues to play for the band, (Iconic front-man Oderus, portrayed by Dave Brockie, being quite dead is quite note-worthy)... couple this with the fact that, they played their anniversary show to nobody, in the middle of a pandemic, in an empty room over the internet. It was underwhelming at best, and really didn’t do them justice.
Here, in 2022, with their first new original material since 2017’s “Blood Of The Gods”, GWAR are back with “The New Dark Ages” ...a concept album that accompanies a new graphic novel entitled “GWAR In The Duoverse Of Absurdity”, which finds the band sucked off (You read that right) into an alternate universe, to battle their evil twins. Or, something. Knowing them, they’ll take the term graphic novel far too literally! With that said, let’s enter a new dark age as we hit the play button...
The album starts off worryingly slowly with the title-track, but I guess it’s doing a job here, setting a tone for the album's narrative as a whole. It’s got a low drone underlying some minimal church bells, before slow, ominous guitar notes and it can be said, that it sounds like it could come from some folkish medieval horror movie. It’s plodding for the most part, quite uninspired, aside from a random autotune vocal fill that comes out of the blue, but it's really quite straightforward.
Somehow, follow-up track “Blood Libel” manages to sound even more basic, almost lazy. There ARE stoner, sludgy elements sprinkled throughout the track, subtly faint djent qualities, but the riffs and overall instrumentation here are so sporadically delivered in terms of its tempo and structure, it’s like it struggles to find its own momentum. Lyrically? We’ve got 3am orgies, cheese pizza and catholic church baby raping rings all in the space of one verse, I mean, OK? Have they been reading this blog? Did I just self-incriminate? I confess...I like cheese pizza...*cough*
Gwar are meant to be an energetic, arguably psychotic band of reprobates, with punk-infused stylistics and an eye for social satire, so there must be some fun to be had here somewhere? Luckily the singles have been half-decent. “Mother Fucking Liar” takes things up a slight notch with some decent, groove-laden riff-work. Story-wise, “Berserker Mode” tells of vocalist Blothar rediscovering terrifying old powers to a backdrop of up-tempo, old-school thrashy metal, providing one of the albums earlier highlights.
“Completely Fucked” has got some frenetic vocal delivery surrounding the chorus, as well as some classic guitar wailing, yet manages to sound quite jovial towards its climax, while “Venom Of The Platypus” utilises an unexpected electronic intro, immediately catching your ear. It has to be said though, only a band as utterly bizarre as Gwar, would sing about a platypus...talk about a fitting spirit animal! It’s a mammal, with a beak, a venom gland on its...feet? Oh, and it lays eggs? God was fucking high again smoking them acacia bushes when he made that one, wasn’t he?
This is even before we come to “Ratcatcher”. Easily the albums most accessible, arguably catchiest track, it’s got soft rock hooks aplenty in the chorus, despite the lyrical content of children trapped in his basement. It’s a bit stop start with the riff work, and there’s plenty of cowbell, but generally speaking it’s a good foot-tapper of a track; enjoyable enough in its simplicity, but not astounding. It’s something that TURBONEGRO fans may appreciate, it gives off that vibe.
The rest of the album, over its 15-track run time, does drag a little sadly. “Bored To Death” being so late in the album is ironic as, that’s pretty much how I feel by this point in the grand scheme of things...yet more generic metal. Closing track then “Deus Ex Monstrum” is nothing more than a kick in the bollocks quite frankly. At over ten minutes long, it’s an instrumental that takes forever to get to what sounds like computer glitching, like, it’s meant to represent them traversing between these universes, but in actuality, it reeks of pointlessness.
For the most part, if you like your metal very run of the mill, and will just happily head-bang your day away with a can of warm Red Stripe, you crack on, you probably don’t even care who this review is about do you? Truthfully, maybe reading the graphic novel will help these tracks mean more, and it’s better off as a packaged concept from a creative standpoint, but as a stand-alone album, this is less GWAR, and more Gwhy? The metal genre wasn’t around in the 1300’s but, this album at times feels just as antiquated, ya’ bunch of musical, alien ronyon’s!