Arts Post
Posted at 12:09 PM ET, 11/04/2011

GWAR guitarist dies: A look back at the band’s theatrics

Fans of GWAR, the shock rock speed metal band known for its monstrous costumes, are mourning guitarist Cory Smoot, who was found dead Thursday as the band was traveling to Canada for an upcoming show. Smoot, known to fans as the character Flattus Maximus, had been a member of the band since 2002.
((Courtesy GWAR))

According to the Associated Press, Smoots age and cause of death are unclear. Smoot was the sixth guitarist to play the role of Flattus Maximus, and in taking the role, he became a part of the the band’s theatrical onstage mythology. To see a GWAR concert is to see a series of comically gory vignettes, acted out by musicians in monstrous costumes that may have been inspired by the creatures of H.P. Lovecraft.

At a 2004 GWAR concert in Washington, the Post’s Mike Little detailed some of the band’s skits:

While the band ground out such classics as "Apes of Wrath," "Horror of Yig" and "Biledriver," the audience was treated to such Caligulan diversions as a woman in a bikini breathing fire, a pope doll being savaged by a large singing Tyrannosaurus rex named Gor-Gor, and a pair of bondage slaves flogging each other with the bloody entrails torn from a figure resembling the president of the United States.

Robert Gustafson, Examiner blogger, described the scene at the last concert Smoot played:

Most bands open the night with a high tempo crowd favorite, GWAR does not. They open by decapitating a seemingly helpless alien looking figure, only to have the decapitated head spraying the entire crowd with blood .

((Courtesy GWAR))
Their bloody theatrics align GWAR with an 19th century French theatrical movement called Grand Guignol. Named after a Parisian theater known for its particularly bloody plays, Grand Guignol featured mutilition, disembowling, beheadding, throat slashing, snd even acid-throwing. “Eyeball gougings were perennially popular, animal eyes being especially useful for this purpose because they could be relied upon to bounce when hitting the floor,” reports The Straight Dope. The theatrical tradition died out once horror films became popular, but some companies, like the Molotov Theatre Group in Washington, are trying to revive the tradition. It also lives on in GWAR’s blood cannons and mock-ritual sacrifices.

As Flattus Maximus, Smoot wore shoulder pads made out of dinosaur heads, and a red Cro-Magnon skull. Other GWAR members’ costumes are equally elaborate: Lead singer Oderus Urungus (played by Dave Brockie) wears a horned barbarian costume, and Balsac the Jaws of Death (played by Mike Derks) wears hooves and a mask shaped like a giant bear trap. Their creativity in prop and costume creation was recognized by a Richmond art gallery in 2006, Artspace, which hosted an exhibit of their work.

By  |  12:09 PM ET, 11/04/2011

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company