Review: Gwar “Violence Has Arrived” [Metal Blade Records]

Review: Gwar “Violence Has Arrived” [Metal Blade Records]

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If there was ever a band that needed a comeback, it was GWAR. After the bloated Carnival of Chaos and the horrid disaster of We Kill Everything, GWAR’s imperative was to craft an album that would re-captivate their audience. The band would not only succeed, but flourish and redefine themselves for the better. Welcoming in the beginning of a new decade and century, Violence Has Arrived would mark the start of the “new” GWAR. Heavier, faster, and certainly more serious than their past adventures, ‘Violence’ adopted the demeaner of an alien Viking filled with blood lust, emphasis on the BLOOD and the LUST. Hell, the title says it all, indicating that GWAR was less concerned with telling jokes than slaughtering entire legions of aliens and humans alike. Of course, their sexual, perverse, and satirical humor would remain, albeit far more appropriately restrained. Yes, ‘Violence’ was an outstanding victory for GWAR and in turn became one of their most highly regarded albums! Twenty years later and its impact on the band as well as their fans is still alive and well. Truly, Violence had Arrived.

Forgive me if I allude to GWAR’s previous failings in We Kill Everything, but I cannot understate how much I believe the band used it as an example of what not to do. So much so that the two, ‘Violence’ and ‘WKE’ are polar opposites, yin and yang, good and bad, etc. In ‘WKE’, the musical stylings per song were a mismatched cluster of irreverent genre choices. Here, GWAR locked themselves down under the war cry of Heavy/Thrash metal and stuck with it. The furthest the album strays from this would be on the tracks ‘Bloody Mary’ or ‘The Song of Words’, which take advantage of rock elements and spoken word respectively. I’d like to commend the album on this for several reasons. Firstly, GWAR nailed thrash back in the 90s and I feel it was always their strongest suit. So, to continue this but with a heavy metal twist and tone was creative! They were playing to their strengths while subtly testing the favorability of a more straight-faced, heavy metal band to resounding success. Second, the slight variations in this styling act as callbacks to fan favorites of GWAR’s past. The rock sound was always a hit with tracks like ‘Sick of You’ and Hell-O, and ‘The Song of Words’ behaving like a spiritual successor to the crowd-pleasing ‘Slaughterama’. Even if fans had not been in favor of this more Viking/heavy metal inspired GWAR, bolstering down on a single genre was the safest bet.

‘Violence’ gave a rise to some of GWAR’s most genius writing of all time. Seriously, check out any GWAR concert and for every track taken from ‘Scumdogs’, you’ll fine one plucked from here to. The tracks ‘Abyss of Woe’, ‘Beauteous Rot’, ‘Bloody Mary’, etc. are all rousing anthems and ballads of heavy metal majesty infused with GWAR’s dry (or sometimes wet) wit. Of course, one cannot mention standout tracks without the appearance of one, ‘Immortal Corrupter’. Man, what a track. If GWAR had ever soared to epic musical heights with such simple writing, then they had done it with this song. The chorus has a hook that sinks right into you, the performances are genuine, and the lyrics are ingeniously written to be captivating. It’s so close to perfect that it hurts to admit that I think the song ‘Happy Death Day’ is as good, if not better! A track dedicated to all the real-world horror and violence that is inflicted upon the world that it seems almost comical. GWAR’s celebration of the fact, cheering on tragedies is so purposefully ironic and playful that I can’t help but cheer along! It’s also ironic that I find it the warmest and welcoming track. A perfect final track to go out on.

Speaking of warm and welcome, the album’s sound is a breath of fresh air for the band. ‘WKE’ had a sound that… existed, so to go from that to ‘Violence’ certainly makes me appreciate thousand times over. The album is decidedly modern without a sign of aging and sounds as clear and crisp as the day it was recorded. The drums have such a nice clarity to them, making every impact and strike come through with pristine definition. The guitars and bass have that warm tone I mentioned earlier and have a classic heavy metal sound that sells the album on its new direction. Brockie’s (Oderus) voice comes through perfectly, projecting every growl and chant with an almost uncharacteristic level of depth. It really feels like GWAR is in my home and going to kill me. The performances as well are all delectable. Brockie is back and finally caring about the material, so it makes sense that his performance as a killer space Viking alien has a ferocious, demanding presence. The drumming is frenetic, kinetic, and not for the one-minute asthmatic. The strings courtesy of Casey Orr, Mike Derks, and Zach Blain all pack a hefty punch and envelop you with a professional performance. The riffs are smart, yet simple, once again harkening back to ‘Scumdogs’, making this probably one of GWAR’s smartest albums writing-wise. It’s a shame Blain didn’t stick with the band past this album, though we’d soon see Smoot take the role of Flattus.

So, is this GWAR’s best album? In some ways yes and some no. Personally, while I appreciate the singular genre choice, I can’t help but harken back to the 90s where albums like ‘America’ and ‘Ragnarok’ amazed me with how diverse they were. And to be brutally honest, there are tracks on this album that do not interest me at all. I can’t be bothered to listen to ‘Biledriver’, ‘Licksore’, ‘Anti-Anti-Christ,’ and others on their own without thinking of the better tracks. To me their either too safe, or too stereotypical heavy metal. I will admit that they’re still bounds more fun than *your favorite, non-GWAR band*. On the other hand, the album is perfect for fans who wanted GWAR to get their shit together and make actual pieces of art. And hell, this album is a favorite among swaths of GWAR fans, and I completely understand why. Revisiting GWAR’s discography in order would make me place this at number 3 out of all the albums so far (though there’s a possible challenger to that position in the future). Regardless, it’s been 20 years since this album was released and it still kicks ass today. I champion as the album that saved GWAR and will hold up for as long as time demands it. HAPPY DEATH DAY!!!

Score: 93 out of 100

Release date: November 6th, 2001

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