GWAR / Napalm Death / Eyehategod - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

GWAR / Napalm Death / Eyehategod

Live in Philadelphia (2021)

live show

Weird that the face of an intergalactic killer mercenary that has slaughtered countless beings could somehow be comforting, but indeed it was at GWAR’s October 30, 2021 show at Philly’s Franklin Music Hall. Indeed, long time GWAR nemesis Techno Destructo stalked out onto the stage, still jacked into his cyborg-rig, and it was somewhat of relief to see an old familiar face at the band’s 30 year celebration of the seminal Scumdogs of the Universe album. But then, quite horrifyingly, he held up the decapitated head of deceased GWAR frontman Oderus Urungus.

Urungus died seven years ago, but somehow the wound is still fresh and Techno’s proclamation seemed puzzling. While Oderus’ died nearly a decade ago, Techno claimed that just that evening, he snuck up behind Oderus as Oderus was taking a whiz and snipped his head off with a fearsome robo-clamp-arm. Yet, just as Techno patted himself on the back, a bohab (an extreme GWAR fan for those not in-the-know) ran onto the stage and cried something along the lines that his friend had been attacked and killed while in bathroom. And, oh yeah, he was also wearing an Oderus costume…

Frankly, it was one of GWAR’s best gags and it really set the tone for the night. A fair amount of “oh no they didn’t” mixed in with some clever commentary (if you really listened) and a LOT of ripping metal. Almost every track of Scumdogs got a spin, but not in order, to keep the show exciting. The band was raw and driven, and the riffs really cracked out across the crowd. The breakdown on “King Queen” really hit hard as did the mosh section on “Maggots.” Newer scumdog Blothar (who now sings like Beefcake used to sing…) has really elevated himself and has now sits comfortably in the lead singer’s throne. His voice is a bit more full and has more depth than in the past, and now he is both bringing these classic hits to life without trying to replicate Oderus. And while it might not be fair to keep bringing up the loss of Oderus, frankly, it did leave a massive whole in the band, but at this point, Blothar is filling that hole better than anyone else could (surely, that sentence is littered with potential for GWAR comedy).

As thrilling as it was to hear this classic album in a live state, it was equally thrilling to see some old “friends” back up on stage. Throughout the night, Techno ran back on stage to battle and also sing “Techno’s Song” and “The Private Pain of Techno.” I really liked it when during “Private Pain,” Sawborg Destructo (in earlier times, Techno’s replacement) fight over the mic in a sort of “I’m a little bit country / I’m a little bit rock n roll” moment. Techno has always been GWAR’s best nemesis and near the end there was battle of massive proportions.

Equally as thrilling was to see none other than the Sexecutioner, who did a marvelous version of his song in that fantastic sorta French sorta Transylvanian accent. The crowd went wild during the famed “lalalalalalalaaa- GENIUS!’ portion. Throughout the night, when not singing, Sexecutioner beat slaves, killed foes, and even dismembered a few audience members. On a similar note, GWAR slaves Mike Derks and Mike Bishop, who have astoundingly survived 30 years as the band’s pin cushions, were sighted slinking around the side stage. Much to GWAR’s consternation, those two slaves have claimed to be 2/3 of the driving force behind the writing of Scumdogs, despite the band denying the claim. It was nice to see the slaves surviving against the odds and witnessing the fans getting down with the classic album, even if guitarist Balsac seemed to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in beating Derks between riffs, while Blothar applied the same attitude towards Bishop.

Meanwhile, during a “usual” GWAR set, if there is a such a thing, there are a few points where the band splashes blood… and other substances… on the crowd. At the Scumdogs 30 show, it seemed the band was spraying the crowd with body fluids the ENTIRE time. The band really wanted it to be a bloody celebration and after the show was over, the floor was literally covered in a half-inch thick lake of blood.

We must acknowledge that GWAR has taken some losses over the years, but as intergalactic mercenaries, this is the job they signed up for… or more accurately, that they were created for by their Master. To that end, the Scumdogs 30 live show was a triumph- the band sounds great, they’ve licked their wounds, and they are still charging forward with gleeful ferocity… if only to pause here and there for drugs and the mutilation of unsuspecting humans.

Just before GWAR, the house soundsystem played the majority of World/Inferno Friendship Society's The Anarchy and the Ecstasy, to my great astonishment. Being that it was October 30, it was a moving and fitting tribute to the hallowed Jack Terricloth, though of course, it carried a certain sadness with it as well...

Before GWAR, quite a different style band took the stage- the mighty Napalm Death. Perennially hard and perennially political, Napalm Death brought their A-game to the stage. Frontman Barney Greenway was revved up, kind of jumping, kind of stomping, kind of… prancing across the stage. He couldn’t seem to stop moving, and even when he had to stand still to summon a guttural growl, he transferred that kinetic energy to his neck, causing his head to bounce around like a bobblehead. I’m not sure if I never noticed it or if he’s updated his style, but Greenway’s stage presence, with is intense, but not necessarily aggressive energy, seems to be distinctly influenced by legendary anarcho punker Dick Lucas.

And to that end, Napalm Death’s own anarcho-punk origins seemed to shine through their more modern extreme metal machinations. While the band bases their sound around a twisting, sometimes chaotic, sometimes ordered metal march, the speed and intensity with which they play has the pulsating energy of Discharge and even Crass at its most intense. Long running drummer Danny Herrera might use the double kick a lot, but his percussive symbol striking is very much reminiscent of “I ain’t thick it’s just a trick.” The bass of Shane Embury has a certain ring of Why? to it. And quite fittingly, Greenway made it a point to make short, but poignant, political commentary between songs- I also liked how he uses a reusable metal canister for water instead of standard issue water bottle, walking the talk, as it were.

The band focused on the oldest stuff and the newest stuff, for the most part, and their classic rework of Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks” is always a great touch and is especially timely, considering the mold festering on the edges of scene these days. “You Suffer” was also presented in all of its 1 second glory. Napalm Death have been a band for, get this, over 40 years (though current members have been in band for about 30 years each), but they have the passion of kids hitting the road for the first time.

The show opened with a low rumbling set by Eyehategod. Near the beginning of the show, frontman Mike Williams announced “You’re all sexy… except that one guy over there.” It set the tone for the set, with the band alternating between dark, lumbering odes to depression and addiction, punctuated by self-aware quips. At time it wasn’t clear if Williams was actually annoyed or just playing a character, but the band cranked out 40 minutes worth of anguished sludge metal. For his part, Williams sounded in top form, echoing both Ozzy and Tom G. warrior in his delivery. Frankly, the band sort of completed a conceptual triangle between the two other bands- EHG contemplated mankind’s social condition, ND contemplated mankind’s political condition, and GWAR contemplated mankind’s cosmic condition.
Who knew there could be such philosophy buried under a geyser of blood?