Bandleader, visual artist, entrepreneur, monster-maker, cable news pundit and World War II scholar Dave Brockie is dead. He leaves behind an enormous extended family of artists, musicians and cohorts that he supported, inspired, and gave a start to. The Richmond, Va., native is probably best known to Earth-bound scum as Oderous Urungus, the hulking alien frontman and mastermind behind heavy metal legend GWAR.
Simpletons would probably dismiss GWAR as a gimmicky novelty act, but real heads know that it was one of the greatest bands to ever grace our puny presence. Formed in 1984 in the midst of Reagan and PMRC-era censorship and paranoia, GWAR managed to take things far beyond the point of bad taste.
Its live shows usually consisted of the band and a revolving cast of musicians and actors elaborately costumed as grotesque mutants, putting whatever gross celebrity or politician in the nation's collective consciousness through meat grinders, or getting decapitated and sexually assaulted. All the while bloodying anyone in the first 15 rows. Getting through a GWAR performance and coming out in a ruined, dripping red shirt became a badge of honor for those into metal, almost like some sort of hessian fire-walking ceremony.
Brockie's lyrics were as socially conscious as they were salacious. "Rid yourself of all the worthless crap in which you wallow. Here's an iron fist of death for you to swallow," he sang on 1994's "This Toilet Earth." That album also featured the track "B.D.F.," a song so grotesque in its lyrical content the band's distributor Warner Brothers refused to release it at the time. And what a singing voice. Equal parts soulful and completely fucking brutal.
Musically, GWAR gave us some of the great riffs in metal history. Just try not to punch the air as the chorus of the anthem "Sick of You," from 1990's Scumdogs of the Universe, comes in. The band members explored all kinds of genres atypical of their peers at the time. The 1994 hit "Saddam A Go-Go" is basically ska-funk. 1995's Ragnarök saw them playing variations of jazz, ragtime and punk in their own special, vomit-inducing way.
After the death of guitarist Corey Smoot in 2011, 2013 saw the band releasing Battle Maximus, its 13th album and strongest effort in years. By 2014 GWAR was a full on living and breathing business, employing dozens of creative types in Richmond, Va. Plans were just announced for the fifth annual GWAR-B-Que. Oderus was a reoccurring character on the cable TV comedy Holliston, and making appearances on Fox News' Red Eye. GWAR was mainstream and underground at the same time. It was just always there. And that's why Brockie's sudden departure from Earth comes as such a shock. No matter what terrible thing was going on in the world, we always knew we could depend on Brockie (usually by way of his hilarious Twitter feed @TheRealOderus to put things in in the most perfectly disgusting perspective.
Rest in piss, Oderus Urungus.