[EDITOR'S NOTE: The original version of this piece implied that Vulvatron, who debuted at Riot Fest, and on GWAR's Twitter, was GWAR's lead vocalist. While she is a new member of the band, she is one of several vocalists. We have altered the headline from "All Hail Vulvatron, GWAR’s Unlikely New Frontwoman" to "All Hail Vulvatron, GWAR's Unlikely New Vocalist]
The public face of GWAR — the all-singing, all-decapitating, blood-and-guts-drenched thrash metal horror circus of Richmond, Virginia — was always founding member Dave Brockie. He took the stage in the impossibly foul guise of ringleader “Oderus Urungus,” of course, but sans makeup, he was a much-loved fixture of the Richmond scene, and when he passed away from an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 50 earlier this year, a dark cloud seemed to pass over the metal community.
After a few months, GWAR began making moves to carry on without Brockie, a move he undoubtedly would have appreciated. The show must go on, after all. The lineup has been in near-constant flux ever since a ragtag bunch of punks and art students christened themselves Gwaaarrrgghhlllgh (later shortened) and released debut album Hell-O! in 1988. Dubbed the Slave Pit, a rotating cast of lurid characters has come and gone over the past two decades, but never without Brockie.
Now, the band was left with a seemingly impossible task: finding a new front-person. How could anyone ever replace the outrageous, magnetic Dave Brockie? They couldn’t, and the GWAR crew knew better than to try, so they came up with something entirely different, and entirely unexpected. The band that has spent 30 years shocking the conscience of middle America might have made their most shocking move of all.
Meet Vulvatron, a spiky purple Amazon whose massive (prosthetic) breasts occasionally shoot geysers of blood out onto her hapless audience. Vulvatron is not dancing, or breathing fire, or keeping the slaves in line (though one assumes she’ll be adept at all three). For the first time since the departure of dancer and backing singer Slymenstra Hymen (Danielle Stampe) in 2000, GWAR has a female member, and she’s out in front.
She’s one of GWAR’s new vocalists, joining vocalist Blothar (Mike Bishop) whose Beefcake the Mighty character was introduced in 1988. But Vulvatron, who made her debut at the band’s recent Riot Fest gig in Chicago, marks a shift in the way GWAR female personnel have been presented onstage. Before, GWAR women like Amazina, Temptress, and to an extent Slymenstra were relegated to bit parts. Vulvatron commanded a central role, stepping away from her mic only long enough to battle her monstrous bandmates or spray the audience with goo. She’s played by Kim Dylla, an accomplished clothing designer and musician in her own right, and her appointment as the new high priestess of GWAR is going to make some waves.
Why is it so important that one of the biggest bands in metal has just added a female member to its ranks to replace one of metal’s biggest personalities? How could it not be? It’s no secret that metal’s demographics still skew heavily towards straight white cis men, but this decade has marked a definite shift; audiences are diversifying. But there is still a lot of work to be done. Representation matters, and now, all of a sudden, there’s a big, brash, bold new female personality on stage with a legendary band. Moreover, she’s just as gross and goofy as her male bandmates, whether she’s slaying dinosaurs or disemboweling Nazi skinheads onstage or drenching her minions with the aforementioned boob-blood (a move which, as a bit of trivia, references Slymenstra’s past crotch-spewing exploits).
Vulvatron’s costume is skimpy, but so are those of her bandmates; it’s not a Gwar show unless everyone’s arse is out. She occupies a powerful role. She’s nobody’s girlfriend, or groupie or background dancer; Vulvatron is in charge. She gets to be a monster instead of a princess, and that is immensely important for younger girls who are just starting to explore heavy metal.
Despite their shock-rock tactics, gory onstage antics and cartoonishly offensive lyrics, GWAR has a fan base that ranges from kids to people with grandkids. Over the top as they may be, the members have assured everyone that it’s just an act; they’re not here to rape your dog or corrupt your children. They just want to have (their version of) a good time, one with as much gooey fake blood as possible. And as backwards as it might seem given the band’s scandalous nature, there really is a great role model buried beneath the latex. These scum-dogs are about having a strong, empowered female character, not about sexploitation. Back when I first got into metal, I idolized musicians like Jo Bench and Angela Gossow, and now, thanks to a bunch of art-school weirdos turned thrash aliens, the next wave of head-bangers have a more colorful option. Hail Vulvatron!