May 8, 2017 | by James Greene, Jr.
WARNING: This article contains references to infant assault, fish assault, drug abuse, food waste, NOFX, menstruation, ewoks, Gene Simmons, and Jimmy Fallon. Discretion is advised.
Gwar’s 1999 album We Kill Everything has earned a certain reputation in the 18 years since its release — least loved among the various members of Gwar. Fans have been discouraged from mentioning the disc on officially sanctioned internet forums frequented by band members; god forbid they should bring it up face-to-mask with said performers. Now is as good a time as any to remind you that Gwar is a group of rock musicians who perform in elaborate Flesh Gordon meets Mad Max style disguises, pretending to be lust-crazed murderous vikings from outer space who are bent on fucking, enslaving, and eventually annihilating all of humankind.
Asked point blank about the sour feelings surrounding We Kill Everything by an intrepid Metal Temple scribe in 2013, late Gwar vocalist Dave Brockie — better known as his stage persona, haughty demon-faced alien-in-chief Oderus Urungus — remarked, “We were going through the most problems with personnel changes [at that time], and we could not keep people in the band long enough to write a fuckin’ song. We ended up using a lot of material that probably would have gone to… one of my jokier side projects… for me that was the roughest album because Gwar was not really sounding the way I wanted it to sound. I was having a hard time getting it to that point and almost despairing of ever getting it there when we did that record."
Guitarist and backup vocalist Michael Derks, the man who brings to life Balsac the Jaws of Death (a giant flapping pair of mechanical razor teeth with a humanoid body), concurred in a 2014 conversation with Ultimate Guitar, explaining that the departure of guitarist Pete Lee (a.k.a. Flattus Maximus) hurt the creation of We Kill Everything. “Pete had left and it was basically just me, Dave, and [drummer] Brad [Roberts, alias Jizmak Da Gusha] doing all the writing… the songs had gotten kind of silly and punk rock. Dave was doing a lot more writing and the music of Gwar had gotten to this silly point… [our next album] Violence Has Arrived was definitely a conscious effort to go and make Gwar a real metal band.”
An interesting train of thought. On this side of the slave pit, it feels like the world has, for the entirety of Gwar’s 30-year-plus existence, absolutely regarded these musical outlaws as both “kind of silly” and “a real metal band” — perhaps “kind of silly for a real metal band,” to be most succinct. In that same interview, Derks describes the founding Gwar aesthetic (circa 1984) as “a punk band that was making fun of metal.” Alas, even with comically large foam rubber spikes and Bam Bam Rubble loin clothes, it is impossible to parody heavy metal in such a way that most armpit-sniffing dinks won’t mistake it for (or argue that it is) the genuine article.
See the constitution of Gwar’s 1990 offering Scumdogs of the Universe, metal as tight and wicked as any other of its acid-washed era, a clenched fist gleefully bruising up every listener. Simultaneously, Scumdogs is pure lyrical farce; “This deli tray is UNACCEPTABLE!” Oderus thunders at the end of the first song, not entirely apropos of the gonzo sexual boasts coloring the previous three minutes. Scumdogs’ best-known nugget, the mid-tempo declaration “Sick of You,” could have been ghostwritten by G-rated prankster “Weird Al” (“Your face is gross, you eat white toast, you don’t know what to do!”). There is also a song on the record called “The Sexecutioner” that begins with the protagonist exclaiming, “SEX-cuse me!”
It’s a similar deal with 1992’s America Must Be Destroyed. AMBD (as the fans call it) unfolds with screaming Anthraxian flourish, and why not? This outing is accepted as Dave Brockie’s livid response to a 1990 obscenity arrest revolving around the enormous rubber wang he sported in costume as Oderus (the dangling accoutrement some know as the Cuttlefish of Cthulu). And yet the response skirts any direct, clear address of our nation’s repression issues at large (sexual or artistic). Instead, Gwar craft a grade school fantasy about genetically engineering their own dinosaur who is hooked on freebase cocaine and happy to exact revenge on various puritanical figures. The dinosaur’s name is Gor-Gor, by the way.
So when one finds Dave Brockie dismissing 1999’s We Kill Everything as “a straight out comedy album” as he did in a 2010 interview with Justin Bozung, one might take pause. Was the album about the illegally bred and crack-addicted tyrannosaurus rex not comedy?
It’s true, We Kill Everything is noticeably weaker in its bedrock than previous Gwar albums. The looser, lighter punk rock feel will never be confused for the precision of Metallica. This doesn’t make We Kill Everything a bad record, by any means, nor do the seemingly more meta and self-referential lyrics. Though Brockie would later remark the realization that Gwar had achieved all they could and that they’d be stuck on “the same old treadmill” for eternity came after We Kill Everything, a few songs suggest this awakening happened as the album was being crafted.
“The Performer,” We Kill Everything’s third track, begins as a maudlin piano ballad underscoring Oderus’s life-on-the-road repine. “I’ll come to town for you,” he sighs, “dress up like a clown for you, pull my pants on down for you, then I’ll crawl away…” The mutant makes no bones about it — he’ll do anything for money. “The Performer” almost comes across like a cry for help until everything slips into an uncharacteristic splash of ska punk a la Less Than Jake.
Not as punch-pulling is “Nitro Burnin’ Funny Bong,” the Ramonesy torch of a drug-addled shut in, a one-time contender whose addictions have now sapped all confidence, hope, and energy. In the protagonist’s own words, “fat and lame… the claws have been clipped, the tiger’s been tamed.” He goes on: “Once was a warrior, now just a sponge, high all the time, I’ve got a dick like a muskellunge! My glorious destiny, it’s turned to shit, can I get another hit?”
“Nitro Burnin’” can of course be interpreted as a lament of blown career opportunities. Gwar snatched defeat from the jaws of greater victory a few times in the ‘90s. Relativity Records — the indie distributor with a diverse roster that over time included Joe Satriani, Agnostic Front, My Bloody Valentine, and Fat Joe — had a meeting with Gwar in 1991 that melted into infamy after the group’s fire-breathing backup singer Danielle Stampe (Slymenstra Hymen) purposely broke a blood capsule in her codpiece and began “menstruating” all over a $5,000 couch. Closer to mid-decade, Warner Bros noticed Gwar’s pulsating popularity and came calling, ready to get in bed with their limit-pushing vision; a donnybrook over the song “Baby Dick Fuck,” which the group insisted on including on 1994’s This Toilet Earth, curbed that relationship.
And so they reach an emotional denouement of sorts on “Nitro Burnin’ Funny Bong.” This yarn would be a perfect bittersweet nightcap if Dave Brockie had not insisted on dropping a corrosive “faggot” into “Bong’s” tremendous climax. Okay, sure, kvetching about the presence of such an epithet on an album that opens with a song called “Babyraper” (sequel in many ways to “Baby Dick Fuck”) and immediately follows that with “Fishfuck” may be entirely moot. Gee whiz, Wally, why can’t the rock band promoting infant sexual assault and beastiality in character as anti-human cosmic warriors who soak their concertgoers in butcher shop chum try to refrain from homophobic slurs?
“Fishfuck” actually proves astonishing in that it’s as catchy and fun as any slice of pre-Warning Green Day. Maybe “Fishfuck” could have charted if it wasn’t about carp sodomy. Meanwhile, it’s not difficult to imagine NOFX preaching the lunkheaded zip of “Babyraper” from their Warped Tour pulpit as gaggles of kids lurch around a dusty hell below them.
Much of We Kill Everything’s balls to the wall stupidity, including witless country parody “The Master Has a Butt” and the sub-Green Jellö album closer “Fucking an Animal,” can probably be blamed on South Park. That was the tasteless, nihilistic cultural nugget to beat in ‘99. Don’t forget, 1999’s the year they made the movie about the kid who fucks the pie. He cooks a pie and puts his penis in it and they showed that in the trailers.
Who knows what Gwar saw for themselves when they first slipped on their Muppet-esque garb. Did they envision a global dominance akin to Kiss? Gwar isn’t Kiss. They’re also not Star Wars. Besides, both those properties have had their lean years (at the same juncture, even; Animalize and Asylum both came out around the time as those no-budget ewok movies; zero Kiss albums were released during the prequel years). And Gwar survived We Kill Everything, an album that really isn’t Music from the Elder or whatever your gold standard is for shit sandwich. They’ve put out six more discs since then. They’ve been on the Jimmy Fallon circus a few times. Also, without question, every year Gwar has dominated the AV Club’s Undercover challenge (where popular bands cover songs from a curated list), even since the 2014 passing of Dave Brockie.
Speaking of Star Wars, We Kill Everything accomplishes at least one miracle: it samples the unmistakable and surely copyrighted chirping of R2-D2. If a cease-and-desist letter bearing Skywalker Ranch letterhead ever arrived in Gwar’s mailbox, we never heard about it. The ability to write a song called “Fishfuck” is insignificant next to the power of stealing the intellectual property of George Lucas without getting sued.