By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The Bay Area’s own thrash-metal equivalent of Gwar, long-running bloody hooded cannibal rockers Ghoul bring their theatrical shenanigans to Slim’s Thursday when they headline their “Weapons of Mosh Destruction Tour.”

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Founded in 2001 by singer and guitarist Digestor (who may or may not in actuality be Sean McGrath, veteran guitarist/vocalist of iconic Oakland death metal band Impaled), Ghoul has crafted a preposterous mythology that is just as entertaining as the quartet’s humorous, gore-spattered thrash.

Claiming to hail from the mythical Eastern European country of Creepsylvania, the group is equally inspired by metal icons like Exodus and Slayer and campy horror flicks. Joined longtime bassist Cremator (aka Ross Sewage of death metal acts Exhumed and Impaled), the early line-up of Ghoul built a reputation for hectic riffs, over-the-top lyrics and hilarious, heavily-accented stage banter during live performances.

Initial efforts We Came for the Dead! and Maniaxe showcased the band’s thrash/death metal roots, but also revealed their ability to branch out with the post-apocalyptic parody of the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World” and the surprisingly straight surf instrumental “The End?” mixed in with corrosive metal tracks. The band more recently put out a full EP of surf and fuzzed-out biker soundtrack tunes, Hang 10, that echoed the sci-fi surf of Man…or Astro-Man?

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But it was the crew’s increasingly theatrical stage show that earned it spots touring with obvious costumed metal inspiration Gwar and invitations to play metal festivals in the U.S. and Europe. Introducing elaborately outfitted characters like Killbot, the Mutant Mutilator and Commandant Yanish Dobrunkum and storylines that tied into songs, Ghoul has refined its spectacle to entertaining new heights. The group’s most recent blood-soaked metal opus Dungeon Bastards for Tankcrime Records pushed their sound in more of a crossover metal/punk direction that nods to the ’80s efforts of S.O.D. and D.R.I. The San Francisco stop of the band’s fourth edition of the “Weapons of Mosh Destruction Tour” will also feature one of the Bay Area’s most compelling combinations of furious riffs and snarky, self-deprecating humor with the cyborg metal of Captured! By Robots.

Founder JBOT (aka musician Jay Vance, who had played in the ska-punk groups the Blue Meanies and Skankin’ Pickles) came up with the idea for Captured! By Robots after he got sick of dealing with his human bandmates in 1997. However, after building his new crew of collaborators — the percussive pair of androids DRMBOT 0110, and AUTOMATOM and guitar/bass robot GTRBOT666 — JBOT was enslaved by his creations.

Forced to front the band in chains, JBOT has been dragged across the U.S. on multiple tours featuring the band berating the singer between raging death metal songs and into the studio to record several albums of the group’s apocalyptic death metal laced with the bots’ misanthropic sense of humor. While the line-up of the robot musicians would shift of the two decades in operation — the loving Ape Which Hath No Name and the Headless Hornsman both were part of the show for a time — JBOT and company have grown to become a cult attraction with its collision of comedy, metal and performance art.

Captured! By Robots traveled the country with its 20th anniversary Your Future Is Death Tour last year, playing songs from the band’s latest and arguably darkest album Endless Circle of Bull–t along with classic tunes. While it was reported that JBOT would be taking a break from C!BR to concentrate on his recently revived Teddy Bear Orchestra, the robotic crew will join Ghoul at Slim’s for Thursday night’s show. Portland, OR-based hardcore upstarts Cliterati (who also record for Oakland’s Tankcrime Records) and rising SF crossover metal band War Bison will warm up the crowd.

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Ghoul with Captured! By Robots
Thursday, Aug. 16, 8 p.m. $16-$20