GWAR – Scumdogs of the Universe (30th Anniversary Edition)
Reviewed: November 2020
Released: 2020, Pit Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
I generally don’t pay much attention to classic album reissues (anniversary or otherwise) unless, 1) it’s got some cool bonus stuff I haven’t heard before and/or 2) it’s been out of print for some time. The 30th anniversary reissue of GWAR’s sophomore opus SCUMDOGS OF THE UNIVERSE technically fits neither of those criteria, but the Bohabs at Slave Pit have delivered an album that somehow defies all expectations of what you can do with a reissue.
Putting on my grouchy old man hat for a moment, SCUMDOGS was my first proper exposure to GWAR some 30 years ago, and like many of you, I’ve studied this album relentlessly across the last 3 decades. But this new remixed/remastered/reissued version of SCUMDOGS is almost like an entirely new album, and it has squarely knocked me on my ass every time I listen to it. It’s still the SCUMDOGS you know and love, but it sounds like what the band intended it to sound like had they the time, resources, and studio magic to do so in 1990.
First off, they’ve de-reverbed the s#!t out of it. Oderus is front and center in the mix the way he should’ve been 30 years ago; his vocals are clean and godly. Seriously speaking for a moment, its easy to forget just how powerful Dave Brockie’s vocal presence was unless you’ve experienced it firsthand. And these early songs were so strong and so friggin heavy, it’s easy to get a lil’ bit emotional hearing him so sonically dominant in this mix. But do some before and after comparisons of “The Salaminizer” and “The Years Without Light” and it’s immediately apparent what a vocal maelstrom he really was.
Secondly, some sonic pixie dust has been sprinkled where it was lacking in the previous mix, and it sounds glorious. The flange effects have been shaved way the eff down allowing the rhythm and bass guitars to really shine through – there’s a whole bass exchange and harmony vocal on “Sick of You” that wasn’t prevalent before. You’ll hear a melody run on “Vlad the Impaler” under the “ohh-oos” that was lost, some emphasized synth/background accents on “Sexecutioner” and a ton of snippets of gory indulgence on “Slaughterama.” All things taken together, it’s a heavier and more authentic presentation of these tunes. But when all else fails, check how mean the guitars sound on this new mix of “Maggots”, it sounds as dangerous and scary as the first time you were introduced to GWAR.
For an album that I thought I knew so well, I’ve rediscovered a bounty’s worth of treasures. And as good as the digital promo is that I’ve been steeped in, the actual physical products are even more impressive; there are all kinds of goodies depending on which version you buy. Revisiting SCUMDOGS OF THE UNIVERSE has genuinely made for a high point in a garbage year that only GWAR could create and both salvage. HAIL ODERUS, HAIL GWAR, and HAIL 30 YEARS OF SCUMDOGS OF THE UNIVERSE!!!