Released: 2013, Metal Blade
Wow…does GWAR ever sound fired up and pissed off! This is my first review of a GWAR album for Metal-Rules and I picked a good one. To state my bias up-front, I am a big GWAR fan. I’m in the camp that actually buys the albums and listens to the songs. My feeling is that even if you strip away all the image and controversial/shocking lyrics, you still have some really crushing Metal. Critics and cynics say GWAR is a one trick pony and has only lasted because of the image but you can’t fool everyone and coast by on image for 30 years. Someone, somewhere has to like the songs and buy the albums. In the words of another costumed band, Green Jello who stated rather satirically for comedic effect, “And the moral of the story is that bands with no talent can easily amuse idiots with a stupid puppet show.” With album number 13, BATTLE MAXIMUS, GWAR proves they have both style and substance.
The album title refers to what is the centerpiece of the entire record, in my mind, a three and a half minute instrumental of pure guitar shred by Pustulus Maximus. Get it? A guitar solo/battle by Maximus? Brilliant! The song is a tribute to fallen comrade-in-arms, Flattus Maximus who passed away of natural causes almost two years ago now, as of time of writing. His replacement, or shall we say, the next character in the GWAR universe is Pustulus and his display of guitar fire on the title track is simply amazing, this is likely the heaviest, fastest album GWAR has ever done. Much of the GWAR catalogue chugs along at a mid-paced groove to allow the songs to breath and for Oderus to sing, joke, roar and deliver the one-liners. This album is almost bordering on thrash with some really musical hints of Power Metal. It’s fastest, likely the fastest in the bands catalogue and it is strictly Metal. Other albums have some musical hints of punk, but thankfully not BATTLE MAXIMUS!
All the pre-requisite humour and shock are present with cuts like ‘Raped At Birth’, ‘Torture’ and ‘Bloodbath’ any of which could have fit nicely as a song-title on a Cannibal Corpse album. The lyrics are a bit less political than usual and a bit less…weird. In fact there is a bit more of a Science-Fiction theme running through the album with cuts like ‘Madness At The Core Of Time’ and ‘I, Bonesnapper’. The songs and lyrics are a bit more streamlined and straight-forward, as if the band has something to prove, shifting the band out of the comedy realm to a more serious Metal proposition. The guitar tone is heavy, the drums are pretty relentless and Oderus roars like never before, less talking and joking and more singing.
Flattus Maximus is an amazing addition on guitar and has taken the band to new heights or metal purity. I love it the but will it translate well for the legions of GWAR fans who like the quirky lyrics, slower, pun and punk-tinged songs and political ramblings? Time will tell, but for my tastes, BATTLE MAXIMUS is my favourite album since VIOLENCE HAS ARRIVED almost 13 years ago.