GWAR, ‘Battle Maximus’ – Album Review
The intergalactic space warrior Scumdogs GWAR are back with a new album after a three-year drought. The last two years have been some of the most troubling throughout the band’s history with the passing of lead guitarist Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot) in 2011 from a heart attack, which stemmed from a pre-existing coronary heart disease. Devastated by this loss, the members of GWAR felt they had lost the best guitar player they had ever had. After a long search spanning the cosmos, they recruited another member of the Maximus clan, Flattus’ cousin, Pustulus Maximus. The new axe-man, who sometimes dresses in a human costume under the alias Brent Purgason and plays in Cannabis Corpse, has helped GWAR deliver the pummeling album ‘Battle Maximus.’
Opening with a sort of poem, lead front-thing Oderus Urungus explains that they now face a new enemy, Mr. Perfect, who has travelled through time to come change all of the beings on earth to his vision of perfection. Not only this, he seeks the power of immortality from GWAR, threatening the band’s very existence! ‘Madness at the Core of Time’ rightly kicks things off with more of the punk tinged inflections from the band’s early career and is a refreshing sound. It continues in the same vein as the last few albums injecting bits of melody here and there to pepper the mix. As the album goes on, melody becomes a sparse aspect, only truly coming back into play on the instrumental title track and the somewhat emotional ode to their fallen Flattus, ‘Fly Now.’
What ‘Battle Maximus’ serves up is the heaviest GWAR album to date. Pustulus’ time spent in the death metal act Cannabis Corpse has an obvious influence on the writing with menacing rhythm riffs accented poignantly by drummer Jizmak Da Gusha. Punishing death metal inflected riffs intertwine with a riffing style that brings us back to albums like ‘America Must Be Destroyed.’ This combination heard on the songs ‘Bloodbath,’ ‘Nothing Left Alive,’ and the incredibly heavy ‘Raped at Birth’ creates a new dynamic and sound to GWAR’s ever-growing catalog, yet still retains an element that has defined the band since their debut album in 1988.
Apparently having finally warmed up to their slave, Bonesnapper the cavetroll, he has been granted the opportunity to sing on his very own song, ‘I, Bonesnapper.’ The song is a high-speed attack where Bonesnapper explains how he was taken by GWAR and how he serves his masters. The cavetroll has a nice flow to his lyrics, borderline rapping them, bringing back a mix of other music styles that have been long absent from the band’s music. A couple songs later, we get ‘Triumph of the Pig Children,’ which easily could have been on a GWAR album from the early ‘90s.
Oderus is in fine form on ‘Battle Maximus,’ putting forth what can arguably be called the best vocal performance of his career. Perhaps after flying through space all of these years and settling in Antarctica for the last quarter century has had some sort of twisted effect on him, lowering his age. The rest of GWAR are on par with the singer, delivering precise execution musically and in the slaying of their enemies. With Pustulus Maximus making his debut, GWAR have entered a new era that sounds just as promising as the last, and we’re not just saying that because of death threats from Oderus.