With its signature denim vests and woolly beards, dizzying twin guitar leads, and a frontman who could make the most charismatic band leaders envious, Valient Thorr should be the biggest band in metal.
The North Carolina quintet already plays massive festivals in Europe. Hard-rock heavyweights Motorhead and Mastodon have recruited it for tours. Its songs have been featured in video games. And frontman Valient Himself placed second in www.metalsucks.net’s “Top 25 Modern Metal Frontman” and “Best Beard in the History of Metal” polls.
With its sixth album, “Our Own Masters” (out June 18), could the underground road dogs become the genre’s next big thing?
It’s entirely possible, given the quality of the album as well as a new management, booking and publicity team.
Valient Thorr plays Tremont Music Hall Wednesday, and while it doesn’t have a massive fan base in Charlotte, those in the know are loyal and loud. It’s a matter of metal fans discovering its old-school brand of hard rock, which brings to mind classic Thin Lizzy and AC/DC.
“Some places we sell out. Some places we still struggle,” says frontman Valient Himself, a Lincolnton native who moved to Richmond, Va., in September. “It’s crazy in Europe. Every single show is jam-packed. There are (other) places that turn around after years. For a long time, it was hard to get a crowd in Seattle. Now we’ve got a crazy crowd there.
“We’ve got big crowds in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, L.A., New York and Columbus, Ohio. Then I swear we’ve played Albuquerque between 15 and 20 times over the last 10 years and it’s always the same. It’s about promotion and distribution.”
On “Our Own Masters,” which was recorded with Harvey Milk’s Kyle Spence in Athens, Ga., the band tried multiple arrangements of songs – sometimes trying the same song six or seven different ways.
“Some (versions) were so different I was scared to show them to friends. I didn’t know what anyone would think,” says Valient Himself.
“The last few records have been tour, tour, tour and a month to write songs and another month to record them,” says guitarist Eidan Thorr. This approach gave songs longer to develop. “We were a little more prepared, instead of being married to something you just wrote two or three weeks ago.”
“They seem more finished,” adds Valient Himself.
The lyrics – which balance fantasy and social commentary – are embedded in Eidan Thorr’s and fellow guitarist Sadat Thorr’s distorted riffs and Iron Maiden-like interplay.
“We always try to stay relevant and write something where that message is wrapped up in the whole thing,” the singer says.
Eidan Thorr names his dad’s classic-rock collection and Jesus Lizard as inspirations, but Valient Himself says the only influences all five members agree on are Devo and Steely Dan.
“We don’t necessarily wear (our influences) on our sleeves. It’s all over the board. I think that’s what makes the Valient Thorr sound,” says the band’s founder, who holds an MFA from East Carolina and once taught sixth grade. “A combination of James Brown and MC5 – that’s what we wanted.”
When he founded Valient Thorr in 2000, “there was only rock music. There needed to be a roll. We always said we wanted to put the roll back in rock-and-roll.”
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