The self-proclaimed Scumdogs of the Universe, GWAR developed an ambitious, over-the-top and highly entertaining stage production, complete with grotesque costumes and stage props, that eventually transformed them into one of heavy metal’s most unique and beloved concert attractions. So much so, that the characters and themes they have created over the ensuing decades now promise to outlive even the men and women behind them, as they already have the troupe’s longtime leader Dave Brockie, who died from a heroin overdose in 2014. Vocalist Brockie (a.k.a. Oderus Urungus) started piecing together the GWAR concept with numerous collaborators around 1984, in the city of Richmond, Virginia, and by 1988, he and guitarists Dewey Rowell (Flattus Maximus) and Steve Douglas (Balsac the Jaws of Death), bassist Michael Bishop (Beefcake the Mighty) and drummer Rob Mosby (Nippleus Erectus) had released their punk-inflected debut ‘Hell-O.’ Their proper breakthrough, ‘Scumdogs of the Universe,’ followed two years later, boasting a crossover thrash sound, and introducing drummer Brad Roberts (Jizmak da Gusha) and backing vocalist/performer Danielle Stampe (Sly-menstra Hymen). This album, in particular (the group’s first for Metal Blade), was enthusiastically championed by England’s influential Kerrang! Magazine, and essentially established the GWAR brand among in-the-know metal fans ‘round the globe. This cult stardom, though never huge, was never small, and Brockie and co. continued to foster it with fantastic stage shows (known for dowsing willing fans/victims with mystery fluids), alien origin stories, and other far-flung concepts over a series of well-received albums like 1992’s ‘America Must Be Destroyed,’ ’94’s ‘This Toilet Earth,’ ’97’s musically experimental ‘Carnival of Chaos,’ and 2001’s return-to-thrash ‘Violence Has Arrived.’ All the while, Brockie personally guided the band’s franchise, conceiving of ancillary GWAR products ranging from comic books, to trading cards, to barbecue sauce, always out of the group’s Richmond, VA headquarters — lovingly known as the Slave Pit. But on March 23, 2014, Brockie suffered the aforementioned fatal overdose, briefly casting GWAR’s future into doubt before surviving band members announced they would carry on in Brockie’s memory, with former bassist Michael Bishop soon tapped for future vocal duties.
- Selected Discography: ‘Scumdogs of the Universe’ (1990), ‘America Must be Destroyed’ (1992), ‘Vilocen has Arrived’ (2001), ‘Battle Maximus’ (2013)
- Related Artists: Dave Brockie Experience, X-Cops, Rigor Mortis, Green Jelly
- Further Reading: 10 Best GWAR Songs, 11 Greatest GWAR Moments