Hell-O

Hell-O

Hell-O! is the first album released by rock/heavy metal/punk band GWAR. It was released in 1988, on Shimmy Disc Records.

GWAR's angle on this album is that of a morbid punk band (a la The Mentors, The Misfits, Butthole Surfers) obsessed with debauchery, violence and toilet humor. The songs generally support the theme of the group quite well, expanding the band's concept to comic proportions and supporting the back story.

The band play sooth-sayers to the United States ("Americanized" and "Ollie North") and modern human civilization in general ("Slutman City"), who have come to torture and enslave Earth for their own perverse sadistic pleasures ("Time For Death", "Bone Meal", "War Toy", "I'm In Love (With a Dead Dog)" - a tender episode in canine-alien relations). Like Superman, GWAR seem to enjoy superhuman powers on Earth, having their way with anyone and everyone they come across. However, they are not without enemies - a character known as Techno-Destructo has followed the band to Earth to recruit (or enslave) them to serve "The Master" in a holy jihad against the universe ("Techno's Song"). Don Drakulich plays Techno on the album (the part would soon be taken over by Hunter Jackson). Other songs follow similarly crazy themes - the "GWAR Theme" is a car-eating anthem, "Je M' Appelle J. Cousteau" features famous aquanaut Jacques-Yves Cousteau in a Dada-esque romp, and "AEIOU" disputes whether the English alphabet is the property of Satan or Gor-Gor (another GWAR character who would later surface in the song/video of the same name). "Rock N' Roll Party Town", the first song ever written by the band, concludes the album in scenes of rock debauchery vaguely reminiscent of Kiss (who the band, with their showmanship and larger-than-life personas, seemed to be an 80s underground version of). The original vinyl album contained a comic book about the band, featuring artwork parodying Picasso's Guernica (renamed "Gwarnica" here) and poking fun at the "this is your brain on drugs" commercials ("This is your brain on GWAR..."). The album's cover art features the band gleefully slaughtering Earthlings (particularly skinheads, who would attend the band's early shows and harass them with heckling, violence and throwing food, such as toast, onstage) and bulldozing their bodies into ditches (a reference to the Nazi concentration camps in World War II).

The album is a divisive point among fans of the band, who generally love it or hate it. Hell-O is the least-frequently played album in concert and discussed by the band in interviews, although this could be because the band's line-up has changed to the point where no one from this period is still in the band (save Brockie himself). "GWAR Theme" and "Pure As The Arctic Snow" are the two songs most often played live (though they are rare in appearance), and occasionally, the band will play a medley of songs from the album, ranging anywhere from 3 songs to (more recently) 12 songs, which is more than half the album.

Musically and conceptually, the record fits in with and came from the arty 80s noise rock or "scum rock" scene (Butthole Surfers, Pussy Galore, early Ween) with similarities to grunge (Tad, Mudhoney), funny punk (Meatmen, Angry Samoans, Dead Milkmen, Happy Flowers, Nig-Heist), punk (The Mentors, The Misfits, Black Flag, Samhain), hardcore (Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Ministry) and heavy metal (M.O.D., S.O.D., Slayer). This last genre would be where the band would move on later releases (similar to the transition Suicidal Tendencies underwent between first and second albums). As such, when the album was released on CD, it was remastered (possibly remixed) to bring out the bass and make the production smoother. However, the original vinyl release finds the band squarely in the punk or indie rock universe (rock critic Mark Prindle rates it among his favorite albums by the band). In this context, producer Kramer's work on the album makes sense.

On the other side of the fence, detractors of the album criticize its raw production. Chuck Varga, who played The Sexecutioner, recently posted on GWAR fan page Bohab Central that he was so disgusted with the sound quality of the recording that he walked out of the session after hearing a few tracks. "I know the bands music and it sounded much better than it did on Hello," he said, going on to say that producer Mark Kramer "didn't care how GWAR sounded" and "gave us one of the most embarrassingly recorded LP's in history." The [low] quality of the production is further indicated by the length of the recording session - the course of a single weekend. However, consensus across the board is that the album wasn't as bad as We Kill Everything (an album especially reviled by Dave Brockie and Michael Derks).

The European Shimmy Disc release of Hell-O! features a bonus track, "Black And Huge," found on GWAR's next album, Scumdogs of the Universe. The song found on some copies of Hell-O! is an earlier version (originally recorded to be released as a single on Sub Pop records), and is the first GWAR song to feature Michael Derks as a member (having replaced Stephen Douglas as BalSac The Jaws of Death). The remastered Metal Blade release of the album does not feature this song. This version of the song fits in with Hell-O! more than it does with Scumdogs, as the guitars are not tuned down a half-step, and the tempo is faster (and Oderus' vocals are more of the singing style from this album). A video for the track was also filmed and included on the TVD and The Next Mutation video collections.

Track listing

Line-up

Miscellaneous

  • When the beginning of the song "Ölllie North" is played backwards, the actual beginning of the song happens to be a slurred rendition of a part of the bridge to Careless Whisper.
  • The Netherlands release of this album contains the bonus track "Black and Huge" as track 17.
  • This and "Scumdogs of the Universe" are the only GWAR albums to date to be released on vinyl.
  • Early cassette & the vinyl releases also include the song "Black & Huge".
  • In 2004, this was supposed to be re-released with Scumdogs of the Universe on DRT, but that never came to pass.

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