Kingdom of Sorrow and Toxic Holocaust
Club Firestone, Orlando, FL • 10-3-08
Carl F Gauze
Mom always warned me that Heavy Metal was nothing but blood lust in the service of Satan. I was skeptical about that warning through both Kingdom of Sorrow and Toxic Holocaust, but when Gwar got on stage, I knew Mom was right. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Kingdom of Sorrow opened this rather early show, finishing up their set by 6:30. The band has impeccable credentials, members hail from Hatebreed, Crowbar, Type O Negative, and Ice Pick. Their two-chord, no-nonsense style got a few people moshing, even if it started with just one sad-looking chubby guy. Songs like “666” and “Death Master” took the straight road through the metal forest, but near the end of the set a few classic rock riffs snuck out of the metal undergrowth. It was almost as if head banging was losing its savor, and they needed to sneak out for a toke of melody every now and again.
The crowd grew a bit as Toxic Holocaust took the stage. These were the nicest, most diversity-minded metal heads I’ve run into. Hair lengths were set from skinhead buzz jobs to Rik Mayall-length hippie, and they repeatedly expressed gratitude for the opportunity to open for Gwar. They gave the “everyone is here to have a good time” speech, and then got most of the pit to mosh in a counterclockwise circle. Toxic Holocaust clearly knew more chords, and while their playing was showier than Kingdom of Sorrow’s, the sound was quite similar. That’s my biggest gripe with the genre — it’s harder to separate the good from the merely competent here than in any other style. These openers built a solid base for the headliner, but there’s was never any feeling of incipient riot. Even the security people seemed to have a good time and when I sat illegally on the stairs to get a better view, they didn’t boot me off ’til I made eye contact with them. No Jets or Sharks here, just a relaxed evening of pogoing your brains out. Where’s the blood lust we were promised?
As Toxic Holocaust cleared the stage and the curtain fell, Gwar’s slaves and roadies moved an amazing collection of props into place. They placated the audience with a video counting down the number of Seconds to Death. (There were 999). Like all good space cadets, the crowd picked up the end of the count but rather than the curtain raiser we wanted, they cut to a video of Sleazy P Martini, the band’s manager. He plugged his political platform of “Vote for me and I’ll kill most of you, leaving room for the rest.” I’m all for it, if I can send in a dozen or so names. As the video ended, things were clearly happening on stage. After a slight anticipation-building delay, the room finally got dark and the music got loud. Gwar hit the stage, insulted the audience, and blasted into their opening number. A baby mannequin was ripped apart and thrust onto the pointy bits of lead singer Oderus Urungus’s spiked costume as he waved his 2-foot Chekhovian penis at the crowd. Take THAT, Mr. Lord of Darkness.
Mr. Urungus is the only original member of the band that formed two decades ago in Virginia. This sort of rock and roll is hard on everyone, not just the drummers. He’s backed up by Balsac the Jaws of Death, Jizmak Da Gusha, Beefcake the Mighty, Flattus Maximus, and Bone Snapper. They all look like Transformers that hang out a strip joint instead of fighting evil in mid air, and a larger stage would have suited them better.
Gwar is all about theater. The music is just a soundtrack, albeit an ear-splitting, head-banging sound track. I caught a few song titles, but really, this is about the sets and costumes and special effects. If you want to hear the songs, buy the CD, but if you want the experience, this is a must-see live show. As the crowd frenzy grew, one of the stage slaves brought out the blood gun. Like a painter priming his canvas, he carefully sprayed the crowded pit with fake blood (Karo syrup and red dye number 4, if my taste buds are still working.) He worked methodically, covering all the fans yet carefully avoiding the lighting rack and the sound guys in the back of the room. Once the audience was lubricated, we entered the main event of the evening — a three-round wrestling match between the forces of Gwar and the forces of politics. It’s Mid-Galactic Wresting with Oderus and Bone Snapper against McCain, Obama, and Hillary. They gutted McCain, beheaded Obama, and ripped off Hillary’s boobs. I love free speech, especially when candidates seeking votes spray their own blood on an already blood-thirsty audience. Disgusting as it might sound, it’s not really all that different from the regular network debates, except for the bit about Urungus’s 2-foot penis.
Gwar will stun you, no matter which way you lean on music or politics. Rude, crass, noisy, and funnier than anything on The Daily Show, this is political commentary at its best. More than once I took pictures of happy, blood-soaked fans and if there was any disappointment, it was Mr. Urungus’s unused phallus. Something should have shot out of it — maybe some streamers, an American flag, or voter registration forms. It’s our right as Americans, right in there with Freedom from quartering soldiers and immunity of states from suits from out-of-state citizens. Go look it up.