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It really cannot be overstated how impressive an achievement GWAR’s Violence Has Arrived manages to be. Most bands peak with their debut album, quickly losing touch with whatever fire they’d once commanded and fading out unceremoniously. The few great ones out there tend to develop their sound over a few albums, peaking something like two to four albums in before the eventual decline, with occasional youthful relapses. GWAR surely and unexpectedly peaked on this, their eighth full-length album, with a forceful union of traditional and contemporary metal stylings that succeeds in eclipsing all their previous work, even their earlier classic Scumdogs of the Universe from a decade before.
While very much a GWAR album, Violence Has Arrived trims the group’s most excessive stylistic divergences and instead focuses on their heaviest side. Fittingly, the lyrical mold has been similarly recast to better accommodate their brutish, battle-hardened facets rather than the jocular sex perversion that they’re too often associated with. Not that there aren’t occasional departures here and there, but the goal was clearly to forge a devastating heavy metal album, and that’s precisely what’s accomplished. Several of the tracks are among the most intense and well-crafted in the band’s extensive discography, including blunt, ballistic thrash (“Battle Lust,” “The Apes of Wrath”), thrilling old-guard speed metal (“Happy Death Day,” “Biledriver”) and slower, crunchier anthems that revel in the competent grooves that Hatebreed and their clones could never hope to grasp (“Immortal Corruptor,” “Anti-anti Christ”). There’s even a bit of rock ‘n’ roll catchiness in tracks like “Bloody Mary” and “Beauteous Rot” with a wee touch of punk apparent at times. Despite the slight variances and the disposable intro, it’s the most consistent GWAR album ever.
Still, the most potent tracks rise to the top. “Immortal Corruptor” is particularly fearsome and seems to have been deliberately engineered to be their best song ever, juxtaposing monstrously simple riffs with some clever acoustics in the intro, a dynamic arrangement with untouchable percussion, and some interesting 7/8 timing. There’s also a greater emphasis on lead guitar throughout this album, with Flattus Maximus providing some impressive Mike Scaccia-inspired lead blitzes when the moment calls for it. “Battle Lust” is a prime example, also featuring a bit of playful percussion to vary what is otherwise straightforward modern thrash. Check out the neat verse/chorus sequence: it’s fast verse and half-time chorus into mid-paced verse two and double-time chorus. A simple trick, yet effectively memorable. “Licksore” is vicious in its brevity, notable also for having perhaps the most delightfully ridiculous lyrics on the album. Speaking of lyrics, “The Song of Words” is an interesting experiment with the band’s musically-backed narratives (see: “Slaughterama”). A naysayer could compare the “constant lyric” approach with hip-hop, but Oderus’ impeccable diction and charming growls sell the piece in my book.
Indeed, this is perhaps notable as the most incessantly quotable GWAR album of all, ranging from over-the-top epic metal theatrics to vulgar hilarity. On one hand you have the unmatched visceral imagery of:
“Your gilded domes mask perversion. Your mildewed tomes beg for inversion”
“My eldritch warsuit is pasted with brains”
“Beefcake the Mighty, clotted with spew, his sword falls, skulls burst in two.
The eyes burst from sockets, he is not through, thousands of warriors he does this to.”
And on the other:
“It’s not your complexion that gives me an erection”
“Bloody Mary. Slutty? Very. She used to shave her pussy now it’s getting pretty hairy”
And my personal favorite, “Ripped out guts, gouged out eyes. If you kill them, they will die!” which reminds me of my favorite chorus ever, from the likably awful Pennsylvanian scum thrashers in Serious Injury: “Killicide, killicide, you will die if you don’t survive!” Great stuff, if you can handle the advanced coordination necessary to bang your head and laugh your ass off at the same time.
Featuring a thick but clear modern production, a greater emphasis on musicality (particularly the fearsome drum performance), and the catchiest songs in their catalog, Violence Has Arrived is the pinnacle of GWAR’s concentrated efforts in metal supremacy, transitioning them into the heavy-renaissance period they thrive within to this day. But while their later efforts are more than worthy, few can claim to strike as quick and surely as this one.
With this album, Gwar have stopped being a comedy act who wrote music to go along with their obscene comedy, to being a full fledged metal band with the occasional bit of silliness and humour. And, as a metal album, this is good. Seriously. I was surprised as well. Gwar have put out a genuinely good album that actually made me get into their earlier stuff to an extent as well.
A rather dull and uninteresting intro that a lot of bands seem obsessed with attempts to set the tone with a sample from the movie Gladiator. Then the first real song starts with power and might and thrashing. Battle Lust is your typical thrashy album opener - it is fast, it is heavy, and it's catchy. Definitely the best song to start the album with, and definitely a highlight of the album. And it stands out because much of the rest of the album is pretty mediocre. It's not bad, and in comparison to their previous efforts, it is very very good. But on its own, regardless of Gwar's career, the album is just a good album. There are six songs ranging from good to very very good, amidst five mediocre songs, and two tracks of complete filler (one of which is the intro, the other of which is the rap track Song of Words. I don't care if it's a parody, rap is not funny. It is just damnable).
The production on the album is good. The bass is audible and easily distinguishable from the guitars despite it just doubling the guitar parts for the most part. The guitars sound good enough, if a little thin at times. The drums sound good, though I do have a problem with the snare during some songs. Because there is a bit of variety in the album, the snare sounds out of place on the heavier tracks, but fits in perfectly with the more rock influenced tracks. Technically, the musicians give an adequate performance. It's Gwar - don't expect soaring guitar solos or grand amounts of shredding. Gwar are simple, fun entertainment. The few solos there are on the album do fit the music well and don't seem out of place.
The undeniable highlight of the album is Immortal Corrupter. Anyone who says otherwise must be on glue. This song isn't just "good for Gwar." This song is simply fantastic. There are a good variety of riffs in here, some tempo changes and a guitar solo in 7/4 timing. There are a lot of bands who throw in a few bars of an atypical time signature just to show they can pull it off - this works. And it works very well.
While there's nothing on the album as great as Immortal Corrupter, Abyss of Woe, Apes of Wrath, Beauteous Rot, Happy Death Day and the aforementioned Battle Lust represent the album very well, ranging from thrash to mid-tempo straight up heavy metal. And then Happy Death Day, which I'd describe as heavy punk if I liked punk. Which I don't. But it is undeniably catchy and fun.
Lyrically, it's typical Gwar. A lot of the songs fit into the Gwar's ongoing theme of being aliens or whatever the Hell they're supposed to be. The lyrics are filthy, vulgar and disgusting. But what's to be expected with a band who previously penned the song "Baby Raper." If you want your average metal love of violence and gore, then you have Battle Lust and Immortal Corrupter. If you like Gwar's penchant for perversity, then Beauteous Rot. And if you want straight up distasteful controversy, how does "Happy Death Day to Columbine" sound for a chorus? One of Gwar's ongoing themes is freedom of speech, and satire. Sick and twisted things happen, and banning any and all references to them doesn't make them go away. Which is what I get from their lyrics.
In short, the album is fun, and much more accessible than their earlier efforts. If you are remotely easily offended by sick lyrics, or aren't interested in skipping some boring songs to find some real gems, it's probably not for you.
On this album, GWAR finally starts writing real songs that are much heavier than in the past. They're still funny and completely not serious, but the musicianship is much higher. From the first real song on the album, "Battle Lust", you know it's for real. Oderus has a great heavy metal voice, and makes full use of it. He really sounds evil as he spits out his hilarious/gruesome lyrics, and the comedy is still there, like when he sings "...don't even pause to perspire", then the music stops and he continues on with "well...maybe a little bit." The next song, "Abyss of Woe", is one of the best. Beefcake has a really nice bassline in the beginning, and the song has got background "Whooaaahhh"s in it, which are great for singing along to. The next two songs, "Anti-Anti Christ" and "The Apes of Wrath" are some of the best songs GWAR has made. "The Apes of Wrath" is probably the heaviest on the album. It sounds downright thrashy, and is a generally aggressive song-all the elements come together well.
Violene Has Arrived's highlight is undoubtedly "Immortal Corrupter." It is by far the best song on the album, and probably the best song GWAR has ever written. It starts off with a mellow acoustic intro, and the bass comes in too before the song gets heavy. Beefcake's playing on this album is shown the best on this song, and is much better than typical metal bass that's just following the guitars and lost in the mix. The track also features some of GWAR's first double bass, as well as a really crunchy guitar tone, and even a guitar solo. The guitar in general is really great on this song; it features some of the best riffage on the whole album, a mix of 80s thrash metal with newer sounding stuff.
After this song, the rest of the album seems like an after thought. They're good, especially "Beateous Rot" and "Happy Death Day", but it's hard to compare with the first half of the album. It doesn't matter though, as the album as whole kicks ass and shows that GWAR is much more serious now, and not going anywhere.
*note: I wrote this before War Party came out. Keep that in mind.
This album is a bit of a change for GWAR. I've always said that they could be as good as Slayer if they weren't too busy fucking around and just being strange. On this album it seems like they’ve done just that, cut back on the fucking around and focused more on playing some good, fast thrash. This is probably their most technical album yet, they play some really good solos throughout the album and their overall ability seems to have risen somewhat. Oh, sure it's still the GWAR we all know and love, and they're still funny as hell but they've taken their playing more seriously. There are some really fast solos in a few of their songs, something I haven't heard too much of in past GWAR albums. It's much heavier too, more thrashy than their other stuff. Lyrically, the album is just ridiculous, but again, that’s what we’ve come to expect and love about GWAR. Overall I give this album a 9/10. It’s one of the first metal albums I had, and it’s still one of my favourites.