Published Oct 15, 2013A lengthy night of metal on a Thanksgiving Monday was surprisingly well-attended, but we expect nothing less from the Gwar-riors of Vancouver. The evening started off with the lesser of the night's masked bands, Band of Orcs, with their modern, dull metalcore dressed up with Lord of the Rings-esque latex. Iron Reagan hit the stage with 90-second blasts of crossover hardcore that resembled mid-era D.R.I. meets classic Exodus. Tiring after a few songs, but an adrenaline rush all the same.
Whitechapel rounded out the openers with their immediately dull deathcore barrage. By their third song, the Tennessee six-piece were in a wall of sound pitfall that featured some pretty sweet, chest-rattling double bass drumming from the stellar Ben Harclerode, but not much else of note. Vocalist Phil Bozeman had an admirable roar, but that too droned off into guttural ennui by the end of their set.
Gwar began with lead vocalist and chief scumdog Oderus Urungus looming right up at stage front and taunting the audience with his tongue waggling and his huge penis dangling, before the band launched in "The Salaminizer" from their infamous 1990 album, Scumdogs of the Universe. Gwar's shows are always a spectacle, spurts and showers of blood raining into the crowd. Onstage, there are heavily orchestrated "kills" staged throughout the show, and on this night we saw the grisly but cartoony dismemberments, disembowelments and beheadings of Pope Francis, Justin Bieber and Queen Elizabeth (this was the Canadian edition, after all), among others.
Musically, Gwar have never sounded better. With the addition of Pustulus Maximus last year, replacing the fallen Flattus Maximus (Cory Smoot, who played Flattus, died on the band's tour bus in 2011), the band have newfound chops, which breathed life into their more muddled mid-era material. Material from their new album, Battle Maximus, also sounded crisp and heavier than Gwar have ever been, even though they are almost 20 years into their head-banging circus show.
Favourites from their 1992 opus America Must Be Destroyed were met with the most approval by the band's legion of fans. Blood-soaked but unbowed, the crowd took blasts of crimson goo in the face with startling and perplexing enthusiasm. The band's encore of "Sick of You," probably their best-known song, could only be out-shadowed by their sickening stab at Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" (as recently seen on the AV covers series), which somehow, some way, they turned all rapey on us. Ah, only Gwar can turn a shitty radio song from the '80s into a "shocking" metal anthem that would put Cannibal Corpse to shame. We'll leave that song's "kill" to your imagination.