Posted by Rojas @ 12:05 pm on November 4th 2011

Gwar vs. Death Itself

I like Gwar. I don’t mean that I enjoy them in a hipsterish, ironic sense. I don’t mean that I find their stage show entertaining, although that is absolutely and emphatically the case. I mean that I actually enjoy and appreciate them as musicians. I listen to them in my car and at the gym. I will defend “America Must Be Destroyed” as one of the best albums of its decade on grounds of actual artistic merit. At their best, their grasp of the music of language—of alliteration, assonance, euphony, and other poetic concepts—is unequalled in pop music.
And, of course, I like it when they do this:

I first picked up the band in the mid-1980s, just prior to their arrival as a cult phenomenon via exposure on MTV; at the time I viewed them as nothing more than a hilarious satire of metal excess. At some point I became an actual fan. I’m not sure how it happened or why. I can defend it but I don’t especially care to try. And make no mistake, there’s times when they disappoint me; at times they are pretty clearly going through the motions in order to produce content (both “We Kill Everything” and their latest, “Bloody Pit of Horror” would qualify), and the stuff that they themselves seem to be proudest of is often really broad political material that reflects an unusually juvenile socialist mindset. But that’s a flyspeck in the face of the sort of creative energy that it takes to produce an operatic sound-collage like “Immortal Corruptor” while simultaneously engaging in a stage battle with eight robot penguins and a twenty foot paper-machie Tyrannosaurus Rex.

And all of this left me betwixt and between when, yesterday, the band’s lead guitarist (and best pure musician) died in his sleep on the tour bus. The public knew him as “Flattus Maximus”; beneath thirty pounds of rubber mask and spiked shoulderpads, he was a human being named Cory Smoot, though as fans we generally preferred to blind ourselves to that reality.

And I have no idea at what point it becomes reasonable to joke about this.

Because let us be blunt; Gwar is ALL ABOUT laughing in the face of horror, death, and atrocity. That would seem to be the band’s reason for existence. They execute public figures in effigy every night onstage. They toss members of their audience into a simulated meat grinder. Death by drug overdose is a common theme in their music; they are the only band of which I’m aware to not only sing about child rape, but to musically endorse the concept of PRE-NATAL child rape. They stand on stage encouraging their fans to chant “GWAR MUST DIE! GWAR GWAR GWAR!”

And now one of them has done so. And…you know what? It’s awful for his loved ones. The band is, based on their public statements, clearly devastated. I appreciated the guy as a fan, and I have no doubt that I will miss him. And…goddamnit…nobody wants to hear it right now, and I don’t especially want to THINK it either, but…

…but I cannot get past the fact that there is something damn funny about the whole thing. About a member of Gwar actually dying on tour. And nobody knows the cause of death at present, but if it turns out that he died doing the things that Gwar sings about, such as crack cocaine…well, in the same way, that will be even funnier.

The band is surely not in the mood for deathkomedy at the moment. It will no doubt be a while before they get around to building a comedy road show around death and oblivion again. But goddamnit, I hope they do. And I hope that WHEN they do, they can bring themselves to making the death of Flattus Maximus part of the gag, and in the most distasteful terms possible.

Because knuckling under, under these circumstances, and making the death of Cory Smoot a forbidden topic for comic treatments—well, frankly, that would be a betrayl of Gwar’s whole ethos, as far as I can see. And the ability to derive morbid laughs from their own, personal loss would be Gwar at its utmost—it would be the perfect and final victory of Gwar’s unique brand of satirical comedy. And without ever having known Cory Smoot, I daresay he might approve.

I won’t expect it soon, and I will be resisting the tendency to perform pratfalls on Cory Smoot’s grave until those close to him open the floor for it. There are human beings under the monster outfits and prosthetic genitals, and they get time to grieve. But here’s hoping that, in time, Gwar finds it in themselves to deal with this in the colossally insensitive way that only they can.


  1. Heart attack from pre-existing coronary disorder.

    Comment by Brad — 12/7/2011 @ 1:48 pm

  2. I’m as suprised as anybody. Meanwhile, it took the band something like a week to write the death into their stage show; their claim is that Flattus Maximus stole their skumship and escaped the stinking mudball earth once and for all. Good on ’em.

    Comment by Rojas — 12/7/2011 @ 2:12 pm


    Comment by Brad — 10/28/2014 @ 2:27 pm

  4. The comments are especially great.

    “If only I could claim this was spent semen stinging my eyes…”

    Comment by Brad — 10/28/2014 @ 2:34 pm

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