The Waterfront, Norwich August 13, 2022
by Owen Willis
It’s unlikely that Norwich will see another night of such horrendous taste for a long time.
Between odes to scatology, pantomime-esque mutilations of multiple world leaders and gallons upon gallons of ill-tasting (though apparently vegan) fake blood spouted indiscriminately into the audience, the evening can be summed up with one word – grotesque.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’ve come for.
Footfall is thinner than usual, with many would-be attendees likely having seen both acts at Bloodstock the night before. This proves no issue – fewer people crammed in allows for a larger, more kinetic pit.
Party Cannon make exceptional use of this extra room for activities; their irony-steeped demands of the crowd include inciting as slow a circle pit as possible, crowd-surfing the smallest member of the audience atop an inflatable dolphin, and a press-up contest finale.
Despite their crowd antics, toilet-humour lyrics and Toys R Us-derived logo, the technical prowess of the Fife five-piece directly is matched by how hard they work on taking the piss. Even whilst facing a multitude of sound issues, their lightning-fast switches from breakneck walls of sound into comically heavy down-tuned breakdowns are razor sharp.
Tonight’s standout performance comes from drummer Martin Gazur who, whilst barely being visible onstage (he’s so far off stage right that it looks like he’s playing out of the broom cupboard), commands the room with effortless blastbeats and blistering double-kick passages.
Successful in their self-professed mission of lowering Norwich’s overall IQ, Party Cannon’s commitment to saying the dumbest thing via impressive death-metal musicianship makes them even more endearing – they’re laughing both with you for getting the joke and at you for enjoying it in the first place.
An audience rendition of War Pigs serves as the intro track for GWAR: a full throated “Oh Lord, yeah!” firing the starting pistol for seven orc-like costumed freaks to launch into the scattergun thrash of Let Us Slay.
Whilst technical difficulties initially result in the band being near inaudible over a buoyed-up crowd during the singalong chorus of Sick Of You, these seem inconsequential by the time a Spitting Image-type caricature of Joe Biden wanders onstage to inform all attendees that the evening must draw to a premature close to make way for an international peace conference.
Frontman (or front-thing?) Blöthar the Berserker swiftly decapitates him; the blood jettisoned into the room having a ritualistic effect on anyone it touches. If we were already frenetic, from hereon out we’re feral.
Maimings are repeated ad nauseam throughout the set, though the most brutal is guitarist Pustulus Maximus’s prop-free impersonation of disgraced metalcore frontman Tim Lambesis – no imitation innards or papier-mache head, but direct references to “being a big strong man,” hiring a hitman to kill his wife and “growing boobs in prison” leaves the audience under no illusions as to who is under fire.
Beyond the simultaneously gaudy and macabre visual spectacle, GWAR’s music is surprisingly eclectic.
Each musician’s proficiency is already impressive for playing under their larger-than-life attire, but their incorporation of elements of glam, prog and old-school hardcore punk into their hard-as-nails thrash adheres to the belief of late GWAR founder Dave Brockie (“Oderus Urungus”) that the theatrics must always be secondary to the music.
As the last chords of a cover of If You Want Blood ring out, you can’t help but feel that despite all the distorted guitars, growled vocals and ultraviolent imagery, the overriding campness of the whole affair causes it to feel more like a drag cabaret than a thrash gig – more RuPaul than Ride The Lightning.
If that sounds like fun, you’re correct.
But condolences to the cleaners…