|Planet Earth in the year 2008 must look like a pretty strange, messed-up place to an outsider. From election-year sensationalism, global warming hysteria and widespread warfare to reality show overload and the latest celebrity meltdowns caught on film, it may seem to some that The End is imminent.
But there's hope for the human race. Just ask the extraterrestrial members of Valient Thorr, the rock n' roll saviors from Venus who crossed the solar system to warn Earthlings about the error of our ways, delivering a message of redemption wrapped in rock n' roll, with pounding drums and shredding guitar licks. The grizzled time-space travelers may look like a chapter of the Hell's Angels, but there's much more to this band than meets the eye. Their combination of heavy rock n' roll and thought-provoking lyrics gives their legions of fans-dubbed the "Thorriors"- food for thought through their staggeringly productive output. The group has averaged close to 250 tour dates a year, and is currently polishing up their fourth album in five years, Immortalizer, set for release on June 17 on Volcom Entertainment.
After fleeing their overpopulated, war-torn home world of Venus and finding some prime North Carolina real estate, Valient Thorr officially announced their current Earthling incarnations in 2001. Since then, these interplanetary dudes have been on a single-minded mission to spread their revolutionary, metal-tinged gospel as far and wide as possible, to ensure that we don't share the Venusians' fate. And it's literally a universal message, Valient Thorr's charismatic frontman, Valient Himself, states: "It doesn't matter where you're from, it's where you're at and what you're gonna do."
The new record follows the band's self-released 2003 debut, Stranded on Earth, which prompted their first major tour of North America—a whirlwind 47 shows in 52 days. Upon signing with Volcom in 2005, Valient Thorr released Total Universe Man, the success of which allowed the Venusians to quit their undercover Earthling day gigs—which included the members earning Masters Degrees in various Earth studies and Valient Himself's stint as a 6th-grade teacher-and hit the road full-time, including high-profile stints on that year's Vans Warped Tour. Those incendiary appearances got the band asked back on the 2006 Vans Warped Tour, which coincided with the July release of their Volcom follow-up, Legend of the World, and found them headlining the main stage with Warped favorites NOFX and AFI. In all, 2006 was a breakthrough year, as the band toured incessantly for a stunning total of 272 shows with such varied acts as Joan Jett and the Black Hearts, Eagles of Death Metal and Gogol Bordello.
Valient Thorr is not a group of aliens to rest on their laurels, so 2007 was equally intense. Starting off on a lengthy trek with fellow heavy rockers Fu Manchu, Valient Thorr also spread their intergalactic message to Europe for the first time, and co-headlined the inaugural Volcom Tour with labelmates the Riverboat Gamblers. The year was capped by a triumphant victory, as Valient Thorr was selected by metal heroes Motörhead to accompany them on a three-week tour of Germany.
Taking some much-needed time off of Earth's crazy system of roads, Valient Thorr recorded Immortalizer in Seattle with legendary Earthling Jack Endino, producer of seminal albums by Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney as well as younger upstarts Hot Hot Heat and High On Fire. Recording with Endino in his hometown of Seattle, Valient Thorr continued to work from the starting point of their classic 70's influences such as Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy as well as those groups' more obscure yet equally important contemporaries like Master's Apprentices and Sir Lord Baltimore—all of whom kept the guitars heavy while adding some funky bounce to the rhythms. It's no coincidence that Valient Thorr shares more in common with that past era of greatness than today's formulaic, watered-down sounds. As Valient Himself puts it, "When rock lost its roll, it lost its soul. We're putting the roll back in rock n' roll!"
While older albums tackled the world's problems straight on with a blunt, in-your-face attack on the Bush Administration, war in the Middle East and capitalism run amok, the band is now taking a more allegorical approach. In addition to double-barreled assaults on the pompous A-holes in D.C., Immortalizer uses veiled references to comment on the everyday obstacles that life throws at everyone, whether it's dealing with the death of a family member, your old lady running out on you, or trying to keep your head up while being a homeless traveler.
The latter is a particularly personal situation for the band, as embodied in the new track "Nomadic Sacrifice." Considering that Valient Thorr has spent the last three years touring with barely a break, it doesn't leave them much room for a "normal" life, let alone a little personal space from time to time for your average Venusian. These road warrior experiences will be captured with Valient Thorr's upcoming DVD, In Heat, expected to drop this April.
Valient Himself's previous experience as teacher has also informed his lyrics. "This crazy Earth system creates rotten people with messed-up values," he explains. "I wrote some of these new songs about these rich parents who don't care for their kids, they just put 'em on pills and turn 'em loose for the schools to worry about. Luckily, they've got Valient Thorr to show them the error of their ways."
The lyrical content isn't the only heavy element on Immortalizer. New guitarist Voiden Thorr brings a sharper metal edge into the fold, joining fellow six-stringer Eidan Thorr for an über-heavy, double-axe attack. Meanwhile, drummer Lucian Thorr and bassist Nitewolf lock down earthy grooves, ensuring that the faithful will keep their heads nodding and fists pumping.
"Our live show is where it's at," Himself explains, "no one can deny that. We play all over the world, with kids singin' our songs, and they don't even speak English! It makes you realize how small the Earth has become through the internet."
Indeed, these hardcore Thorriors memorize their favorite Valient Thorr songs, make their own Valient Thorr jackets, stickers and posters, and track the band from show to show, town to town. Cities worldwide have their own Thorrior chapters, each with their own logo and set of colors that are unique to them, all of which come together through the global forum at www.thorriors.com.
Valient Thorr will—of course—be back on the road for most of 2008, bringing their heavy metal mayhem to Europe throughout June and back in July to start touring the U.S. in support of Immortalizer's release. And you can be sure the band won't be slowing down anytime soon; after all, Earth needs them now more than ever.
"I might be from another planet, but I know the language Earthlings speak, and it's definitely rock n' roll," says Valient Himself. "We're just getting started. I got some last words, but I hope I don't have to say 'em for a good long while."