Let There Be Gwar (Book Review)
Released: 2015, Gingko Press
I can’t even begin to describe this book. Trying to describe GWAR the band to anyone who is not a fan is a challenge unto itself but to explain a 350+ tome documenting the history of a 30+ year, globe-spanning, multi-media odyssey by a troop of largely insane art students is…well…(words fail me)…challenging.
When I learned of the existence of the book, LET THERE BE GWAR I contacted the band and asked them to send me a review copy. They said…”No. Get lost.” (Well. they didn’t actually say, “Get lost”, but it is something I imagine GWAR would say and it makes for a better story.) However they did say ‘No’. Fair enough. I figured I wanted this book so I thought I would buy it for myself but with shipping, taxes and a brutal exchange rate, the book was pricey at about $100.00. So, regrettably I passed. Fast forward to early October of 2015 and Gwar made their annual trek to my hometown and lo and behold a new, sealed copy of LET THERE BE GWAR was sitting there at the massive merchandise booth for a mere $60.00 Cdn. So I bought it and had to carry the damn thing around all night. It’s heavy because it is 360 pages long! Worth every penny.
The hardbound book with a triple image 3-D cover and blood-red edged pages is just beautiful and it comes with a cool little bonus booklet insert. The insert is a 16 page, colour reproduction of some classic fan letters to the band, sketches and so on. God Bless you Debra Metze, I’m sure you mean well but you just don’t get it. Inside joke, read the back page for her hilarious hate mail addressed to ‘GRAWL’.
Getting onto the blood and guts of the book, (and it is considerable amount of said blood and guts) author, librarian, historian and documentarian of the GWAR-ni-verse, Bob Gorman has been a member/employee of the GWAR camp (aka The Slave Pit’) since the mid 80’s and as legend has it, while working in the Gwar warehouse, he stumbled across an old filing cabinet full of lost treasure (and probably Brockies old porno mag collection) about the history of GWAR. 17 years later, the book is done. Gorman must be a really slow writer, that is only 21 pages a year, not even one page a week. But in all seriousness the time is right with the 30th anniversary, the death of some friends and the start of a new era perhaps with new characters and a new (but old) face to the band in the form of Mike Bishop/Blothar.
Everything. LET THERE BE GWAR has everything. It has an introduction, a foreword, and one of those really cool, hand-written family trees. It only covers 1984-1990 (a mere six years in the 30 year history of the band) and it still is a huge two page spread! There are literally thousands of photos of everything, formal pro-shoot photo shoots, flyers, memorabilia, candid photos, drawings, ticket stubs, comics, fan art, a discography, a filmography, list of all the characters in the Gwar-ni-verse and most importantly the recipe and formula on how to make blood bags. Very important.
It’s not all just pretty pictures, there is an enormous amount of history, the up’s and down’s, the triumphs and tragedies laid out in superb detail. This is another part where words fail me, so many stories, anecdotes and just insane things, TV appearances, Grammy nominations, people getting shot, film shoots, world tours, side-projects, fights, defections, viking burials, and of course sex, drugs and rock and roll, I’m still trying to digest and regurgitate it all. One thing I was a bit disappointed in was the fact that there was little information about Vulvatron the singer who replaced Dave Brockie after his death. She came and went rather quickly amid speculation and I would have liked to read more about that scenario but perhaps the wounds are too fresh. Apparently the character of Vulvatron may live on but the singer is no longer with the band. It is possible the book was pretty much wrapped up while all the behind-the-scene politics were going on.
It needs to be said that this book is not just about GWAR ‘the band’. In fact in his introduction, author Gorman makes that very clear. The Slave Pit, the collective warped hive-minds that create the multi-media phenomena are more than the few people up front on stage. I've said this before and I will state it again. GWAR (the band) has no original members, but the entity lives on. The beautiful/hideous concept that is Gwar and the Slave Pit lives on eternally. I almost want to withdraw my earlier statement about how this book has ‘everything’. It really doesn’t focus on the music and songs. If you want to know what kind of guitar rig the 11th guitarist used, or what tuning they use, or intimate detail about the delicate art of song-craft while the art students sit quietly around the campfire gently strumming acoustic guitars while pondering what rhymes with ‘decapitate’.... you will not find it here. That perhaps is one of my only disappointments. I have always maintained that behind the (in the words of Gwar imitators Green Jelly) ‘stupid puppet show’ beats the heart of raging metal band that is truly underrated. However, we all know that people listen with their eyes and often the truly awesome songs and Metal music gets left behind as the plebs and jocks get distracted by shiny (bloody) things like some sort of stupid bohab -magpies. However, there is much to be said for the shiny things....and LET THERE BE GWAR is a visual feast that will make your eyeballs have an orgasm and then explode. Be warned.