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Periodically fun, but rather uneven - 60%

Noktorn, September 19th, 2011

GWAR's discography is all but consistent; the band has been in a stylistic metamorphosis basically since the beginning of their career, periodically plateauing along one stylistic line or another before trekking further upwards towards some unclear endpoint. Which isn't to say that the quality of their music is inconsistent; I'd go out on a limb and say that GWAR is one of the most consistent bands pound for pound in the metal (or related styles) scene. Who can name an unquestionably bad GWAR album, really? I certainly can't. However, at their worst, they can be somewhat mediocre or musically scattered, and "Ragnarök" is a good example of that sort of thing in the greater context of the band's career. A transitional album even for a band that seems to be perpetually transitioning, "Ragnarök" finds GWAR really starting to move further away from their rather pure punk roots in a punk/heavy/thrash/hard rock polyglot style that's both creative and somewhat unsatisfying due to its lack of concentrated style. Like all GWAR albums, it absolutely has its killer, classic tracks, but from song to song, this is probably one of the more skippable releases in the band's discography.

Of course, it's impossible to discount this release entirely when it features tracks like "Meat Sandwich," "Knife In Yer Guts," or "Think You Oughta Know This," all of which are more or less GWAR classics, alongside a handful of other tracks which definitely fall into the band's second or third tier. The title track smashes pretty hard, as does the closing couplet of "Crush, Kill, Destroy" and "None But the Brave." That being said, the rest of the album sort of leaves me cold; nothing is overtly bad, but the rather discombobulated array of styles on display prevents the album from really gaining the momentum to carry through smoothly. Listening to this release is generally a matter of it droning in the background, with one's ears perking up periodically for a good track just for the album to recede into the background again after it's over.

The crucial flaw of this release is that it's probably the most overtly rock-influenced GWAR album in the band's career. This isn't an issue in and of itself, but GWAR's ability to really grind out some meaty, powerful riffs and be legitimately heavy has always been one of their most underappreciated qualities. When the band is breaking out the Mötorhead references and keeping the aggression fast and thick, "Ragnarök" tends to be a really fun album; but when things get sluggish or just uninspired, there's not much to say. While this album isn't as overtly loaded with gimmick tracks like "We Kill Everything" or monodimensional as their earliest work, "Ragnarök" still tends to falter a bit compared to the band's catalog, and their later work in particular.

While I wouldn't say this is an album to stay away from, it's certainly one more for the dedicated fans of the band than the casual listener. The punks should try some earlier material, the metalheads some of the bands last handful of albums, with the mid-career reserved for those who still listen to The Tubes on vinyl. Or at least sleep with a GWAR bedspread at night.