Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Live | 10 October 1992 | Photos: Phil Nicholls

GWAR
The Long Horn, Stuttgart


This is utter fucking madness.
 
It begins with a barrage of screams, whines and rumbles. Half the audience surges forward. The rest reel in horror. Maybe they hadn't expected to see the mutant Julius Caesar on bass. Or the drummer playing a giant octopus. Or the repulsive reptilian character holding a microphone in one claw and an axe in the other. With a shriek, the creature grabs a nearby human dancer and lops his head off.
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Blood flies in all directions. A mohican leaps from the crowd and hurls himself at the other dancers. It takes four security men to return him to the moshpit.
 
Seconds later, the venue is cast into darkness. The power stays off for 10 minutes – just enough time to recover from this frenzied opening. Without even finishing their first song, Gwar have packed in more thrills than most bands manage all night. But then Gwar aren't simply a band.

For the record, these American psychos perform a speedball mix of metal, punk and rap. But when it comes to playing live, the sounds are sometimes as unlistenable as they are irrelevant. Only five of the dozen figures onstage have anything to do with music. The costumes, props and visual tricks are far more important. Think Spinal Tap, The Tubes, "Mad Max", "Freaks", the Marquis de Sade and a literal interpretation of Antonin Artaud's Theatre Of Cruelty. Gwar are a total experience. The blood may be watered down food dye but it still stains the faces and T-shirts of the fans squashed at the front.

The restoration of electricity brings a fresh assault of ugly noises and images. Each song somehow manages to rage a little more than the one before. A cyberman fights a dinosaur and mannequins of George Bush, Bill Clinton and the Pope are butchered. A female dummy is ripped apart and raped by the reptilian singer. He has a rubber phallus strapped to his crotch. Maybe The Long Horn, a cavernous metal shed that is normally a country and western joint, isn't such a silly choice of venue. Next, as the primitive beats pound, a real girl, a Barbarella meets Boadicea, ritualistically mutilates the cyberman. At least Gwar are equal opportunity abusers.

 
Yeah, it's sick. That's the idea. This is a splatter opera, a grotesque musical cartoon. This is a parody of the atrocities perpetrated by mankind in the name of politics and religion, in the name of greed, since the dawn of time. This utter fucking madness is going on in Sarajevo, Mogadishu, Kabul and a hundred other places as you read. For real.
 
Think about it. It's crucial. But don't forget to enjoy yourself while you're at it. There's plenty of fun here too. The fire juggling is terrific and the cocaine snorting Elvis Presley lookalike is hilarious. So is the butt cannon. As long as you duck.
 
By the end of the show, the guy who collects the flying heads and limbs is knackered. The walls of the venue run red. As Gwar unbolt their costumes, they are told that the power failure at the beginning was a result of a fan thrusting a knife through a cable. They greet the news with a chuckle. They obviously love every minute of the dangerous game they're playing.
 
Gwar's next stop is the UK. Wear old clothes. It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it.

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