North Carolina’s Valient Thorr may well be the world’s ultimate opening act. Their crossbreed of proto-metal and garage-y punk is engineered for maximum effectiveness, and has allowed them to warm up the crowd for bands as disparate as Motorhead, NOFX, and Gogol Bordello. This is due to the band’s authentic rock ‘n’ roll swagger, boundless energy, and mostly the entertaining antics (and wrestling boots) of their vocalist, the eccentric Valient Himself. Regardless of what band you actually paid to see, Valient Thorr will win you over by the end of that 35 minute set.
Unfortunately, they’re one of those bands where the good times on stage are difficult to translate onto record. On their sixth album, Our Own Masters, the band delivers another batch of raucous tunes as expected, but will they finally figure out how to get all that energy onto vinyl/mp3/whatever?
Opening cut “Immaculate Consumption” shows promise, pairing up a familiar riff to a ridiculously brilliant rant by Valient Himself. Check these lyrics: “Poor little baby’s momma can’t find a job, and she’s asking you for a handout/but you roll up the window and look the other way/gotta remember to DVR my show.” Heavy stuff, especially when delivered in one breath over music that sounds like Grand Funk Railroad on amphetamines.
The rest of the album follows suit, occupying the no-man’s-land between classic rock, vintage punk, and (really) early heavy metal. The bouncy, upbeat “No Strings Attached” definitely errs on the punk side of things, while the more melodic “Torn Apart” sounds like Valient Himself fronting Tesla. The aptly-titled “Crowdpleaser” is a fast and furious rager that I wish the album had a few more of. The twangy, hyperactive “Cerberus” is also a good time, featuring a bizzare acapella intro by Mr. Himself himself (I’ve been waiting this whole review to do that).
Unfortunately, those winning tracks are surrounded by a fair amount of filler. “Manipulation” and “Nervous Energy” both fall into the “just OK” category, while the 30-second “Life Hands You Demons” is completely unnecessary. The last cut, “Call Off the Dogs”, has a groove that the band must have picked up while touring with Clutch, but it also ends the album on an awkward note.
I recently had a conversation with Angry Metal Guy himself about album length. AMG firmly believes that no rock/metal album needs to be longer than 45 minutes, and while I can’t completely get behind that, I do agree that sometimes it’s better to just get to the point and get out. If you think about the albums that must have influenced Valient Thorr, most of them clocked in at about 30-35 minutes. Overkill, Kick Out The Jams, Jailbreak…the list goes on. Valient could have easily trimmed some fat and ended up with a record that was just as solid, if not moreso. It’s also worth mentioning that the production job (by Kyle Spence of Harvey Milk) is pretty underwhelming, and a pretty big step down from Jack Endino’s work with Valient on past records.
There’s still a lot of good stuff going on here, and if you’re a fan, this record will not disappoint. The interplay between guitarists Eidan Thorr and Sadat Thorr (no relation) is fucking classic, and of course Mr. Himself still delivers those endearingly off-key vocals and hyper-positive lyrics. But between the filler material and the wet-blanket production job, Our Own Masters still falls short of seeing the real deal in person [And that album cover offends mine eyes! — Valient Steel Druhm].