Released: 2006, DRT Entertainment
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
After a couple of misfires, GWAR’s return to top-drawer music began with 2001’s brutal VIOLENCE HAS ARRIVED, hit a high mark with 2004’s thrash-heavy WAR PARTY and now the transplanted Antarctic aliens have unleashed BEYOND HELL, their first concept album since 1995’s RAGNAROK. Continuing on with the more metal-related elements found on WAR PARTY, BEYOND HELL takes the listener along for GWAR’s descent into the filthy underworld and back again. Balsac The Jaws of Death and Flattus Maximus sizzle from beginning to end, delivering thrash riffs that cook and outright shred during their solos. The almighty Oderus Urungus has never sounded more perverse, vicious or evil than he does here, either. GWAR’s live show has always overshadowed their music—and rightfully so—but what cannot be denied is that while these guys are entertainers, they also deserve respect and admiration for transforming from a sloppy punk/hardcore act into a veritable batch of talented musicians. From both a songwriting and musical perspective, BEYOND HELL is easily GWAR’s best album to date and twenty years in, the band is only getting better.
As befits a concept album, the songs on BEYOND HELL flow into one another, never depleting the storyline or the music of its momentum. Featuring some of Oderus Urungus’ best lyrics ever, the concept of GWAR being lured from their Antarctic lair, through Hell and back again to the safe and slippery hands of Sleazy P. Martini, the entire story is laid out brilliantly in the CD booklet. New characters such as Jitler (half Jesus, half Hitler) and the “ultimate Bohab” meet up with Stubbles MacGillicuddy, The Reaganator, Nazi Pope and other long-time foes who all send GWAR into the unexplored depths of The Keep to get away from the attacking human race. Production by Strapping Young Lad’s Devin Townsend captures the band with a wide, expansive drum sound and sharp guitars that wrap perfectly around Oderus’ ominous vocals.
“War Is All We Know” rages along with a heavy metal urgency that the band seems to be settling comfortably into over the last three releases. The thunderous rhythm section of bassist Beefcake The Mighty and drummer Jizmak Da Gusha keep tracks like “Murderers Muse” and “Eight Lock” rolling along, while the incredible guitarwork of Balsac and Flattus cut through “I Love The Pigs” and “Tormentor” with murderous carnage. Along with “Back In Crack,” the latter boasts an incredibly catchy, choir-like chorus proving that as heavy as GWAR get, they can still write a killer hook. Absolute hilarity fills the lyrics of “The Ultimate Bohab,” GWAR’s ode to a fan who just doesn’t know when enough is enough (“He proudly sports his rare GWAR hoodie/When he puts it on gives such a woodie”) and ends up witnessing his girlfriend get gangbanged by the band before meeting his own messy slaughter. Gruesome, over-the-top and offensive—three key elements of any GWAR recording.
Riding high on a mid- to late-career resurgence, GWAR must be smiling from ear to ear. Always sitting on the fringe of crossing over, WAR PARTY and BEYOND HELL have given GWAR musical credibility to go along with their untouchable live shows. Whether the band wants it or not is a moot point but it has to feel good to finally silence so many critics who say “the show is good but the music sucks.” BEYOND HELL is GWAR’s OPERATION:MINDCRIME or THE WALL, a work that all future releases by the band will be judged against and will be a mighty difficult act to follow but at their current trajectory, all signs look good.
KILLER KUTS: “War Is All We Know,” “Murderers Muse,” “I Love The Pigs,” “Tormentor,” “Eighth Lock,” “The Ultimate Bohab,” “The One That Will Not Be Named,” “Back In Crack”