GIG REVIEW: GWAR, Ghoul & U.S. Bastards Live at Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
Theatrical metal is not something one hears in terms of subgenres of metal, but it should be and the foundation of that subgenre was on display at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Thursday, October 26, 2017. Supporting legendary headliners, Gwar, on their Blood of Gods tour were U.S Bastards and Ghoul, respectively. The tour also included the fabled Doyle (Misfits) but he did not play at this particular show due to needing emergency eye surgery. Presumably, that lengthened the playing times for the rest of the guys which was okay by us.
Opening for the national acts was U.S Bastards, a post-punk rock band out of Richmond, Virginia. There must be something going on in Richmond as there’s so many amazing metal bands that hail from that area. U.S Bastards delivered a high-energy performance and garnered a fair crowd reaction. The room was relatively full but not packed. We actually walked in towards the end of their set but heard enough to be pleased with the output.
The theatrics kicked in when Ghoul hit the stage. Their set opened with a strange duo emerging from the darkness, one resembled a demented old lady in a wheelchair-type contraption. The other was an equally demented car salesman-type who mimicked along with pre-recorded dialogue that repeated throughout the set. Ghoul themselves performed in their signature fashion sporting burlap sacks over their heads. They all bore a striking resemblance to Oogie Boogie from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Them juxtaposed against the backdrop of the actors made for a surreal experience. The parade of characters just kept getting weirder with each song culminating with a fairly elaborate monster that I could swear I saw on an episode of Dr. Who back in the ‘70s. Beyond the onstage antics, Ghoul put on a great show highlighting their musicianship with riff-heavy songs rife with unique time signature changes and thundering drum lines that were oddly satisfying.
After a relatively brief break, Gwar woke up the crowd with some more pre-recorded dialogue explaining some background of the mythos of the new album, The Blood of Gods, which included two 8-foot tall dudes in hazmat suits who would eventually shed their heads to reveal high-powered super-soakers that sprayed fake blood, which was really just red tinted water, literally everywhere. Nowhere in the room was safe from the technicolor spew that was being emitted. The glittering liquid streams were both red and green and it became very clear as to why there were several fans in attendance wearing white shirts. Gwar’s stage show was very chaotic with all the elaborate “costumes” and added characters frolicking onstage through songs like Hail! Genocide, I’ll Be Your Monster, Death to Dickie Duncan and Saddam A Go-Go. Gwar’s performance was baudy and raucous, technical and trivial and even bordering on shocking. During Crushed by the Cross, one of the cast of characters showed the audience a giant replica ass to which Beefcake the Mighty did quite some damage to with the long end of a cross. When the cross was finally removed, it sprayed the crowd again with copious amounts of fake blood and was then replaced by a huge plastic turd that kind of looked real hanging low out of that replica ass. I couldn’t help but wonder how the parents with kids there were planning to explain that.
The fun just kept coming with a giant smiley-faced poo that was sawed in half and an epic battle of even more weird characters. The fake blood, vomit and semen was everywhere and I really felt bad for whoever had to clean that place up. But, experiencing both Ghoul and Gwar was well worth being drenched in colorful liquid. Both bands gave epic performances and blew the minds of all in attendance, even the little children, though they were probably scarred for life.
Overall, this tour was a masterpiece of the bizarre, an epic telling of a collection of freakish fairy tales perpetuated by the two premier theatrical metal bands, Ghoul and Gwar. And I just coined the term theatrical metal. You’re welcome.