As you may have heard, the lead singer of the metal band GWAR, Dave Brockie aka Oderus Urungus, passed away last week. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the band, GWAR is a thrash-metal band known for their over-the-top theatric live shows. They are the self-described “sickest band in metal history.” The band claims that they are aliens who were banished to Earth by “The Master,” accidently created the human race, and are currently working to destroy everything within their path. Think Alice Cooper but heavier, and with infinitely more gore.
GWAR would chop the heads off of giant puppets that were made to look like public figures during their concerts. People like Paris Hilton, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Miley Cyrus were all victims on the GWAR stage. No one was safe from their ire. GWAR’s music was drenched with satire and was a departure from most metal music that was known for taking itself too seriously. They took America’s love of violence, and America’s love of Pop Culture, and put it on display on their stage. Brockie was the creative force behind the band, and as of this writing, it remains to be seen what will happen with the band itself. It’s hard to believe that GWAR can continue without Brockie, but I believe the world is a better place with GWAR in it.
I had the pleasure of seeing GWAR live in 2005 when they were touring with a metal festival called “Sounds of the Underground.” Having only seen pictures of the band and heard a few songs, I was only familiar with GWAR in the abstract at the time. I knew that they were going to spray fake blood on the crowd and I heard that they wore ridiculous costumes on stage. Early on during the day a lot of bands would come outside to their merch tents and do meet-and-greets with their fans. As I was standing around trying to decide which line I should get in, a golf cart passes by with Oderus Urungus on the back as he yells insults at everyone he sees. Obviously, I had to go meet this guy. Naturally, Oderus didn’t relent at the meet-and-greet as he would sign your program and call you “human scum” at the same time. The live show was everything that I had hoped it would be complete with a beheading of the Pope. Thanks to GWAR, I came back from that show with a black eye and covered in fake blood. You should’ve seen the smile on my face.
Whether you love them, hate them, or have no idea who they are, GWAR is one of the most creative bands that exist in modern music. Just because they express their immense creative talent through metal, satire, blood, and gore doesn’t make them any less creative. If we’re lucky we’ll see GWAR again in one form or another, because the world needs GWAR. We need an answer to the mundane pop princesses who have been designed to grab our attention. But we also need an answer to the ever-scowling run-of-the-mill metal band. We need someone who, through absurdity, reminds us how absurd pop-culture is. The world needs a band that doesn’t just stop at mentioning the taboo, but exists in it. We need someone who can poke and prod at the things that make us uncomfortable, but do it without an exhausting sense of self-importance. Dave Brockie and Oderus Urungus were all of those things and both of them will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Oderus. Rest in peace Mr. Brockie.