‘Masters’ of the Looneyverse
Crawling from a hole deep in the earth of Chapel Hill, N.C., Valient Thorr again show they’re on this planet for a reason: to throw their uniquely ghoulish brew of punk and metal in your manly, grimacing face, only for its skin to drip off and reveal a smiling, headbanging skull. The band is a repeat offender at this sort of mendacious attack, and it’s high time to pencil in their sixth big entry on the rap sheet, Our Own Masters.
Twin guitars cross like swords thanks to wielders Eidan and Odinn Thorr, the drums pummel like Slayer’s Dave Lombardo on a Dead Kennedys cover and bearded crazy man Valient Thorr grunts and yells—often intelligently, if that’s possible—with the good-time menace of a young James Hetfield. In short, Valient Thorr puts a fresh coat of paint on the ol’ Chevy IROC-Z (the thing was due for another spin, after all) and drag races it from Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street straight into the underworld.
Take the dirtball abandon of “No Strings Attached,” for instance. Our guitar barbarians redline a chunky riff offset by tricky Van Halen-style phrasings as drummer Lucian Thorr crams fills into an asphalt-blazing tempo. Valient Thorr chimes in with the kind of party-hearty tone reminiscent of Ozzy’s solo years with Randy Rhoads. “We did what they said we could never,” he sings, “Stuck together through good times and bad”—hitting the kind of brash notes Ozzy did on “Crazy Train.” Later, despite the LP brimming with a kind of hyper-masculinity, Valient shows his romantic side: “I’ll do anything for you now, baby / That’s a guarantee, no strings attached.” As with many of the chances taken in Masters—and there are many!—it just works.
Chalk it up to the band’s very personal vision. “Manipulation” marries teenage confusion with metal self-empowerment (“Reality / You think you’re the master / But I hold the key”), while “Cerberus” is a blast of cowpunk madness about—who else?—Hades’ canine defender and “Master Collider” serves as the urgent, bulging-eyed prayer for protection from a worldwide cataclysm: “Mother Earth / Master Sky / Save us from / Collider’s eye.”
And lest you think the brothers Thorr look only to mythical imagery for inspiration, there’s also a distinct undercurrent of anti-consumerism at play, as in the humorous opener, “Immaculate Consumption,” where Valient chides those who “Pick up the TVs and phones and cameras alone / While the kids ain’t got nothing to eat.” Ah, yes! For all its variety and aggression, Our Own Masters proves a truly fitting album title: Few, if not the one, have cast so unique an alloy of hardcore and metal sounds.