VALIENT THORR - Our Own Masters

Valient Thorr - Our Own Masters

12 songs
43:07 minutes
***** *****


I doubt that I would call myself a fan of stoner rock. That genre often sounds somewhat lazy, with the protagonists more interested in smoking the next bong than coming up with igniting song ideas. But then once in a while I get surprised at unawares, as is the case with Valient Thorr. I have come across them a few times in the past, but never spent so much time with their music to allow it to really win me over. Until now, with the release of their sixth longplayer Our Own Masters, on which the quintet from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, really cooks up a heady mix of stoner rock, heavy metal, Seventies hard rock and healthy dose of punk attitude that is the perfect soundtrack for this July's so far really hot summer.

Valient Thorr are lightyears away from the idyllic charm of the Andy Griffith Show, which is always the first thing that comes to my mind when I am thinking of North Carolina. But then they still incorporate this authentic kind of grittiness that one would expect from Southern state based musicians. Valient Thorr's band members are all greasy, bearded hulks of unwashed men, but that doesn't mean that they are primitive in any way. Vocalist Valient Himself even used to be a college professor, and once donated a kidney to his diabetic father. If that doesn't imbue you with a sense of respect, I wonder what will.

What I like most about Our Own Masters is how the band combines catchy songwriting with a dirty production that nonetheless leaves enough room for the two guitarists to come up with mind blowing harmonies, and the varied vocals also manage every facet from coarse shouting to charismatic melodies. Valient Thorr are a band that somehow begs for comparisons to other acts, but in the end they still end up with their very own sound. The genius lies in the fact how they are able to use well known ingredients that turn out to become something still rather unique. The melodic vocals are like one third Ozzy Osbourne and two thirds Phil Lynott, and also the guitar work often reminds me of Thin Lizzy. The band's punk attitude that never condescends to that genre's primitive anarchy allows for parallels to Turbonegro's best material, and I am thinking here specifically of Apocalypse Dudes. There are of course also Southern rock and sweaty blues references. It is actually astonishing how many different ingredients can be brought into this music that after all sounds very homogenic.

My personal highlight is the anthemic No Strings Attached which sounds like a crossover between Thin Lizzy and Motörhead and comes with some of the best vocal performances ever heard in hard rock music. The remaining material is of course also on a very high level throughout. Special mentions go out to the half minute hardcore blast Life Hands You Demons which couldn't have been made better by the likes of three letter bands S.O.D. and D.R.I., and to the Mojo Nixon-gone-wild country blues punk track Cerberus. Valient Thorr are to Southern hard rock that Fucked Up are to hardcore punk. Both bands take something familiar and transcend it into something blissfully superior. If you are still looking for the perfect soundtrack for your next windows-open and blast-all-out car drive, look no further!

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