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Gwar makes good theater

Troupe rolls on with blood, guts and a lot of heart

Gwar (from left): Balsac, the Jaws of Death (Mike Derks); Oderus Urungas (Dave Brockie); Jizmak Da Gusha (Brad Roberts); Beefcake the Mighty (Casey Orr); and Flattus Maximus (the late Cory Smoot).

Gwar in Boston’s Theater District? Oh the times, they are deranging.

Gwar’s arrival to the Wilbur Theatre on Tuesday is just one more indicator that the mayhem-making dudes hailing from the Slave Pit in Richmond have earned a bit of cultural respect.

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“We’ve been at this 27 years, running the recording studio and production company. But we knew all along that we were working the long game,’’ says Dave Brockie, one of Gwar’s founders and de facto leader. “But it has been surprising the last seven or so years just how well things are going.’’

In his Gwar persona of Oderus Urungas, Brockie has provided commentary on Fox News’ “Red Eye’’ news program. He’ll also be talking sports on the radio and DirectTV broadcast of “The Dan Patrick Show’’ on Monday. The horrific Oderus has helmed art shows in New York City and been a celebrity at horror-themed events. Likewise, the band is now on the invite list at festivals such as Bonnaroo and Europe’s Sonisphere and Download.

Gwar is more than a band; it’s a theatrical shock troupe. The musicians are costumed characters, creepy aliens with a back story about how they were banished to Earth as punishment and then made it their mission to wipe out the human race on this “mudball’’ planet. During the course of a Gwar show, gallons of blood (and other theatrically concocted bodily fluids) gush from stage to audience as Oderus and crew lay waste to a cast of pop-culture and political figures trotted out in storylines rife with as much satire as gore.

Gwar’s determination inspired others in the musical underground, including the members of Municipal Waste, a thrash-metal band also from Richmond.

“They made it on their own hard work, and they were willing to help other bands. They put us on our first national tour,’’ says Municipal Waste drummer Dave Witte as his band is again joining Gwar on the road.

Municipal Waste is readying the release of its fifth album, “The Fatal Feast,’’ which is already generating a good deal of buzz. Like Gwar, Municipal Waste found its following on the road, and also like Gwar, was never afraid to toss humor into the mix - an uncommon move in the typically brooding world of metal.

Brockie envisioned Gwar as a metal band from the outset, but never found musicians who could or would play metal.

“Back in ’85, it was just easier to get punk rock guys. Then it got sort of punk metal. Then it got super experimental,’’ he recalls.

Brockie says longtime members Brad Roberts and Mike Derks eventually joined him on the “dark side.’’

“We made ‘Violence Has Arrived’ and that was a very well-received metal album,’’ Brockie says of that 2001 release that triggered a burst of Gwar appeal.

A few years later the lineup shaped up to be one of the best for the band, with Brockie singing as Oderus; Derks shredding guitar as Balsac, the Jaws of Death; Roberts bashing out rhythms as Jizmak Da Gusha; Casey Orr handling bass as Beefcake the Mighty (now performed by Jamison Land); and Cory Smoot lashing out on lead guitar as Flattus Maximus.

Then in November, Smoot was found dead on the band’s tour bus, and a coroner determined that he died from an underlying heart problem. Gwar finished last year’s US dates as a four piece and will again perform as a quartet for what Brockie believes will be the final time before bringing on a new guitarist, and likely a whole new character (the characters rarely disappear, even as numerous musicians have passed through Gwar).

“It was the roughest things this band has ever had to go through, just as such a loss would be on any family,’’ says Brockie. “A lot of people wondered how we’d finish the tour, and we looked at it like it was an extended wake.’’

After completing the so-called “Return of the World Maggot Tour,’’ the band will retreat to its new Slave Pit, where all things Gwar come to life. Nine active members cook up set designs, costume tweaks, and other assorted parts of Gwar’s sound and vision, and that number doubles when it’s time to tour. Brockie says there is always new talent knocking on the Slave Pit door.

“We’re always happy to welcome younger people in. When Casey left after the last European tour, we hired Jamison, and he’s only 31. Older dudes are already crusty, and entrenched in their bad habits,’’ says Brockie, who promises a bunch of fresh ideas musically and visually.

“We’re creating a new Gwar solution on how to handle Cory’s replacement,’’ says Brockie. “All I can say is that people will be excited. It won’t suck. Though we have had brief forays into suckdom, this won’t be one of them.’’

Scott McLennan can be reached at smclennan1010@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcLennan1.
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