This is GWAR

This is GWAR // A Monster Documentary Review

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Slimy! Disgusting! Bad Taste! Putrid! and countless other terms of affection have been exalted at one of the strangest bands of all time — GWAR, an intergalactic, interdimensional, theatrical, and artistic punk/metal band from Richmond, Virginia. And now you can check out what all the fuss is about with the documentary ‘This is GWAR‘, available to watch July 21 on Shudder.

An experience that needs to be experienced

Growing up in Virginia, I was never familiar with the Richmond music scene in my youth. I spent most of my time focusing on the larger punk and straight-edge movement that spewed from Washington, DC in the 80s and ’90s — bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Fugazi, Pietasters, and even Good Charlotte. Looking back at it now, I missed out on the burgeoning art and music scene I will never have the opportunity to tangibly experience again. Thankfully I can get a whiff of that scene now, with this new documentary.

‘This is GWAR’ takes a deep dive into the mid-80s Richmond, VA music and college art scene with unabashed and uncensored abandon. The documentary opens viewers to the roots and origins of one of the strangest and most maniacal bands of any genre that has ever or may ever exist. We’re invited into the conversations with actors and comedians to talk about their fandom. And while some may surprise you, others may not. Weird Al Yankovic shares a story or two, while Thomas Lennon dubs himself a GWAR superfan. One of my favorites has to be Ethan Embry, who regaled the audience with a tale of a spectacularly drug-fueled dream featuring GWAR in the 1995 film ‘Empire Records’. Another excellent addition to the fandom story is heavy metal band Lamb of Gods Randy Blythe, who discusses Richmond’s music and arts scene as a local himself.

 Tragedy and Rebirth

‘This is GWAR’ also covers many controversial and tragic stories that have afflicted the band in their 35-plus year history, from the revolving door of members to the deaths of key players, including founder Dave Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus). Along with the highs of creating spectacular exhibitions, Brockie also dealt with many issues, legally and personally, throughout his tenure with GWAR. However, through it all, he was the only constant member from 1985 until his death in 2014. 

It wouldn’t be a complete story of GWAR if we didn’t also learn of their fight against censorship and the legal battles that ensued. They were forced to defend themselves and undertake these challenges in order to entertain in their authentic nightmare-induced style. GWAR’s story is unfortunately filled with constant fighting, changes, upheavals, and feelings of destitution and no hope. But thankfully, that is not how their tale ends. Today we see how they have continued to thrive and make new music. GWAR has added to their own mythos — a band that feels like it could only have come about through some excellent acid trips and drunk storytelling. 

Like Peanut Butter and Jelly, there’s GWAR and horror

Watch ‘This is GWAR’ if you’re interested in horror, metal, punk, or any of their subcultures. Watch it if you want to experience a taste of something that eschews the status quo of music that has flooded the airwaves and internet over the past 20+ years. Bands like GWAR have given a voice to the miscreants of the music industry. Musicians and groups such as Marilyn Manson, Cardi B, Eminem, Fever333, and Rage Against the Machine, that fight to end censorship of music, had the roads paved for them by entities like GWAR. Give ‘This is GWAR‘ a gander. Go in with an open and clear mind (maybe a bit fuzzy with bong-smoke, if that’s your thing), and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

// Need more horror-fueled music? Check out this interview and included links for more!