Gwar's Oderus Urungus Talks Transcending Tragedy on 'Battle Maximus'

Gwar's Oderus Urungus Talks Transcending Tragedy on 'Battle Maximus'
Photo: Tim Snow
There's never really a dull moment with long-repulsing shock metal kings Gwar, who are about to release their 13th full-length studio disc, Battle Maximus, a concept album dealing with some issues that are pretty heavy for a band known for being incredibly mindless fun. The album, asserts singer Dave Brockie (a.k.a. Oderus Urungus), is a tribute to guitarist Cory Smoot (who played the character of Flattus Maximus), whodied of a coronary artery thrombosis in November 2011.

"The life of Flattus and the death of Cory is central to the whole writing process on the record," Brockie tells Exclaim!, explaining that some songs are "a metaphor for it, but then there's other songs on the record that are more aimed right at Flattus, like 'Fly Now,' and some deal with the more darker and somehow inspiring or liberating aspects of death, songs like 'Bloodbath.' I tried to go at it with both of those angles. So I was trying to pay tribute to Cory and tell the story of Flattus as well, and honour both of them at the same time."

Brockie says that writing an album without Smoot, who had been in the band since 2002, was extremely difficult. But his replacement, Brent Purgason of Cannabis Corpse, (who will be taking on the role of new character Pustulus Maximus) has given the band a good kick in the grotesque, zit-covered latex butts.

"It was huge," Brockie says about writing without Smoot. "Cory had been a major force in our songwriting process. When he joined the band and took over the Flattus character, around the Violence Has Arrived era, his talent as a metal musician affected everybody else in a huge way, and drove the band, almost single-handedly at times, in a heavier direction. In doing so, he really saved Gwar from becoming an act of self-parody and nostalgia to a force to be reckoned with on all levels. I thought we had the ultimate lineup, so when you take away something like that, you're basically starting all over again."

Brockie says that despite facing such a huge loss, the band are still moving ahead, with the new personality of Purgason as a musician and Pustulus as a character helping to move things along.

"Flattus was always the gentle giant character, the most sensitive member of the band, the quiet brooding armoured clown that still made this hideous noise, whereas Pustulus is louder, more abrasive, more spiteful and vicious, and much more active on stage. It's brought a new dynamic to the band and maybe brought us back more to our thrash metal roots rather than the technical metal that we were moving towards with Cory at the songwriting helm. We wanted the band to grow organically in the correct direction."

Brockie admits he's just impressed that the band managed to get through such a hard time and come out with this new album under their belts: "I'm just amazed that we did it. I don't think a band can go through something more difficult. There was nothing less than the whole future of Gwar on the line."

Battle Maximus is out September 17 on Metal Blade. As previously reported, Gwar are currently taking the album out on an extensive North American tour, and you can see all the dates, including many in Canada, here.