By Brian Tucker
(originally published in Performer magazine)
November 18, 2007 – The Soapbox – Wilmington, NC
Enough time has passed since the passing of James Brown so that the moniker ‘The Hardest Working Man in Show Business’ can be passed down to, or rather, extrapolated to a band. Valient Thorr, given their performances and constant (and a seemingly unyielding) touring schedule, makes them a shoe-in for the title. They’re a high energy hard rock band whose music is injected with elements of funk, soul, southern boogie rock, and delivered by a front man with what recalls Old Testament vocal power. Make no mistake, this is combustible, relentless, hard rock and roll.
A recent stop at The Soapbox in Wilmington, N.C. illustrated once again their ability to rip a stage apart, unleashing tireless and meaningful hard rock music. Once again their show was like a musical bomb going off – a grinding sound, interrupted by well timed, punctuated breaks and furious guitar runs. It was laced with social commentary by a lead singer Valient Himself whose passion was akin to a fire and brimstone preacher.
Before the set band members ran into old friends and smiled profusely as they caught up by upstairs, third floor doorway. Valient Himself and the band’s bassist carried a keg bucket full of beers and ice across a very worn hardwood floor to the stage. Within moments the band got started, introducing a new song – one of three new songs played during the evening. For “Parallel Daedulus,” the singer told the crowd was “about friends you haven’t seen in a while.”
Two songs in and Himself stopped to talk, something he’s known to do between numbers while stalking the stage. He moved in short distances, ending thoughts with scorched syllables. The mood is playful, yet sincere and he’s eager to turn up the heat. But its Sunday and the weekend appears to afford a more laid back night of kicking out the jams.
“Thank you for coming out. I know you could be home on Sunday night watching cartoons,” Himself says, “but you can Tivo it.”
The band gets into “Heatseeker” as guitarist Bennie Powell plays feverishly at stage right, playing guitar notes ostensibly without effort and gripping the guitar like a machine gun. Their bassist stands tall and rocks back and forth, towering like Grendel with a mop of black curly hair at the lip of the stage.
Between songs there’s a technical glitch and Himself asks about a guy from the last show they played at the Soapbox, the one who got a Valient Thorr logo tattooed on his ass.
“Where’s the guy with the ass tattoo?” he said. Someone from the audience said he’s in Wilmington just not at the show tonight. “We got to get his phone number. Catch up after the show.”
The remainder of the set continued to build tension, climbing without any foreseeable climax. They finish the show with material from Total Universe Man, songs whose funk metal bravado shook the place, like a car careening out of control. It began with “Hijackers” and “We Believe in Science” led into “Tough Customer” for an exhausting finish. Afterwards, the band stood by the stage speakers and talked with fans, Himself still gripping a microphone.