GWAR are one of the strangest success stories in Metal’s long history. A revolving door of musicians, some of the most bizarre live shows you will ever see and music that has crossed boundaries, genres, and styles since their debut release Hell-o arrived in 1988.
GWAR – The New Dark Ages (Pit Records)
Release Date: 3 June 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
Probably best known for 1990s Scumdogs Of The Universe, they have remained an underground band for most of their career, with the fanaticism of their Bohabs supporting them through thick and thin. Five years since The Blood Of Gods and GWAR have deigned it time to unleash their 15th long-player on the puny humans whose planet has hosted the alien horde for close to 40 years.
The New Dark Ages tells of evil from GWAR’s distant past, which threatens mankind’s evolution – with a reality that has split into two distinct universes, the Duoverse! This album documents GWAR’s adventures in the Duoverse. It’s the title track which opens the release.
An average bubble gum hard rock track, with typically base level lyrics we’ve come to expect from the band, it feels in the right place. There’s the nu-Metal feel of Blood Libel and the powerful driving Metal of Berseker Mode, which is a rediscovered power of frontman Blóthar. It’s one of the better tracks on the album, firing along with high energy and pace and featuring some neat guitar harmonies.
We also meet a new ally of GWAR in the shape of The Cutter. It’s a track that harks back to the band’s thrashier roots, with thick riffs and a punk-edged attitude making it reminiscent of fellow Richmond residents Municipal Waste. It also features some female backing vocals, something that we don’t often get from GWAR, and this brings a welcome melodic interlude to the song.
We encounter armies of the undead during Rise Again, a track that might as well be a tribute to Metallica, such is the similarity in style. It’s a change of direction from GWAR and sees a decent vocal delivery bringing a different feel, with a bluesy guitar solo the standout part of the song.
The Beast Will Eat Itself changes track completely from Rise Again. Typically schizophrenic in nature, the angular and jagged time changes provide a chilling contrast in both songwriting and the narrative.
The music ebbs and flows. There is never one style with GWAR.
Ratcatcher sits in the Alice Cooper school of shock rock, an anthemic earworm that hangs around like the last unwanted drunk at a house party. There’s the thunderous percussion of Temple Ascent, which at 1:43 stands as an atmospheric interlude which fits well with the overall flow of the album.
The penultimate song, Starving Gods, is shrouded in darkness with its sinister bass intro that gives way to a funk-driven groove and heavy riffing and Blóthar’s weird hybrid rapping.
It’s the final track that stands apart. Deus Ex Monstrum (the third part of the Death Whistle Suite with the preceding tacks being the parts one and two) is close to 11 minutes in length. It opens with distant echoes, rumbling noises and effects which last over two minutes before a single guitar riff begins, countered by electronic beeps and alarms.
It drifts back to more atmospheric soundscapes, with brief bursts of percussion rolling out of the ether. More electronic whistles and sounds jump in and out before it tails off to the tolling of a distant bell. Make of it what you will. It fits with the overall vibe of the album.
There are, of course, some tracks which are just filler. Mother Fucking Liar, one of the early singles, is weak, whilst Completely Fucked also ranks in the lower half of the album but ultimately, this is a solid album from a band who, like KISS, are reliant on their stage shows.
The performances and musicianship are reliable and, at times, impressive. Blóthar’s vocal performance stands out, his efforts capturing the essence of much-missed Oderus Urungus and his natural contempt for humanity.
If you love GWAR, this will be a welcome addition to the collection and will heighten the anticipation of the forthcoming UK shows. Personally, I enjoyed it. It’s certainly one for the curious, committed and all stops in between.