American thrash metal band, Gwar, are back with their 13th studio album, Battle Maximus, marking the first official release since the untimely death of long serving guitarist, Cory Smoot (credited as Flattus Maximus).

For those unfamiliar with Gwar, the band has one of the more interesting back-stories, describing the members' as "intergalactic humanoids, landing on Earth to rule mankind." Heavily rooted in sci-fi and gory subjects – as well as politically-fuelled satirical elements – the band have undoubtedly mastered the science of transferring strong visual elements from stage into sound.

Gwar has always merged thrash metal music with raw, punk vocals, giving the band a unique sound that can't quite be pigeonholed into a specific genre. As is the case with most of Gwar's previous releases, Battle Maximus uses build its tracks to tell a bigger story. In the case of Battle Maximus, the band plays out an epic duel between the recently deceased Flattus Maximus and his successor, Pustulus Maximus, adding more chapters to the band's already extensive, fictional history.

Setting the mood for the entire album, the intro creates the launching pad for the riff-heavy track, 'Madness at the Core'. The addition of new guitarist, Pustulus Maximus, changes the band's direction slightly, and more death metal influences are incorporated into the album; this is especially apparent in 'They Swallowed the Sun', 'Torture', 'Mr. Perfect', and 'Triumph of the Pig Children'.

Drummer, Jizmak Da Gusha, produces some of his best work to date and dominates the tracks with obscene drum-breaks and a crushing array of blast beats. One of the most interesting songs on the album is 'I, Bonesnapper', which features Gwar's cave troll in his first ever vocal debut. The track cannot by any means be considered musically genius, but then again, Gwar have earned their infamy and popularity through shock-value and borderline pornographic stage antics, rather than technical mastery.

The album's title track is an instrumental that features four guest guitarists and still manages to be nothing more than mediocre at best.

Gwar has never been a band that takes itself too seriously, relying more on their powerful stage presence and interesting subject matter. However, Battle Maximus shows that the band have completely refined their sound and have grown further into their respective characters, which may seem kitschy, but manages to add a gravity and sincerity to songs that, in any other context, would seem plain ridiculous.