Gwar, often stylized as GWAR, is an American heavy metal band formed in Richmond, Virginia in 1984, composed of and operated by a frequently rotating line-up of musicians, artists and filmmakers collectively known as Slave Pit Inc. Following the death of frontman and lead singer Dave Brockie in 2014, the group has continued without any of its founding members.
Easily identified by their distinctively grotesque costumes, Gwar's core thematic and visual concept revolves around an elaborate science fiction-themed mythology which portrays the band members as barbaric interplanetary warriors, a narrative which serves as the basis for all of the band's albums, videos, live shows and other media. Rife with over-the-top violent, sexual, and scatological humor typically incorporating social and political satire, Gwar has attracted both acclaim and controversy for its music and stage shows, the latter of which notoriously showcase enactments of graphic violence that result in the audience being sprayed with copious amounts of fake blood, urine, and semen. Such stagecraft regularly leads Gwar to be labeled a "shock rock" band by the media.
Since its formation, Gwar has released thirteen studio albums, two live albums, and numerous singles among other recordings, and has sold over 820,000 records in the United States. Fueled largely by the controversies surrounding their concerts, Gwar experienced brief mainstream notoriety during the first half of the 1990s, receiving regular airplay on MTV as well as frequent in-character guest appearances on daytime talk shows, satirizing the topics of censorship and media violence. Though the band's mainstream popularity declined by the end of the 1990s, Gwar has retained a dedicated cult following. The band's extensive videography consists of both live recordings and long-form feature films, most notably 1992's Phallus in Wonderland, which earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Long Form Music Video. Outside of music and video, Gwar has expanded its franchise into comic books, trading cards, a board game, signature beers, barbecue sauces, and e-liquids.
The band's characteristic costumes are generally made of foam latex, polystyrene foam, and hardened rubber. The costumes cover very little of the band members' bodies; the bare parts are accentuated with makeup. They further their production in concert by spraying their audiences with fluids. Most of the fluids are made of water and powdered food coloring which, for the most part, flakes off or washes out easily. The thicker fluids are made from a clear seaweed extract called carrageenan, which is also used in ice cream and milkshakes. Gwar does not use syrups or stage blood because they dry solid and can damage the band's costumes.
Another trademark of Gwar's live show is its mutilations of celebrities and figures in current events. Notable victims have included O. J. Simpson, John Kerry, Mike Tyson, every American President since Ronald Reagan, Jerry Garcia, Pope John Paul II, Osama Bin Laden, Michael Jackson, Al Gore, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Paris Hilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Adolf Hitler, Lady Gaga, Marilyn Manson, Jerry Springer, Mr. Lordi, Sarah Palin, Snooki, Mitt Romney, Pope Francis, Justin Bieber, Tony Abbott, Donald Trump and many others. The band also makes frequent references to political and historical figures, fantasy literature, and mythology. For instance, the song "Whargoul" makes reference to Minas Morgul as well as the Eternal Champion of Michael Moorcock. Gwar also has many references to Lovecraftian themes . In addition, the title of their fifth album Ragnarok comes from the Norse mythological event Ragnarök. Gwar were nominated for two Grammy Awards, one for Best Metal Performance for "S.F.W." and one for Best Long Form Music Video for Phallus in Wonderland. The group's performances also included fire dancing until the Slymenstra Hymen character left the band.
Gwar is the end result of two separate projects merged into one. Dave Brockie was the vocalist and bassist for a punk band named Death Piggy that staged mini-plays and used crude props to punctuate its music. Bands would occasionally practice in a room at the Richmond Dairy, a deserted bottling plant that had been taken over by hippies. The hippies rented out interior areas to various artists and musicians. It was at the Richmond Dairy that Death Piggy met Hunter Jackson and Chuck Varga , both attendees of Virginia Commonwealth University who had set up "The Slave Pit", a production space for Scumdogs of the Universe, a movie they intended to make. Jackson would create props for Death Piggy to use on stage. Brockie had an idea to use the costumes made for Scumdogs of the Universe and have Death Piggy open for itself as a barbaric band from Antarctica, playing nonsense songs while sacrificing fake animals. The name of the joke group was "Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh". The members of Death Piggy began noticing that more people were coming to see Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh and leaving immediately after the set. After several refinements, including shortening the band's name, Death Piggy was phased out in favor of the band now named Gwar.
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