Early Man, Skeletonwitch, Six Dead Horses
Backbooth, Orlando, Fl Aug. 2, 2008
by Jen Cray
Valient Thorr has made it their mission to save the planet through the cleansing power of rock 'n' roll. Anyone who has ever experienced the awesome vibrations that emanate from them during one of their performances can tell you that they may be closer to their goal than they realize.
Such was the case at Orlando's glorious little hole in the wall (Backbooth) when the band tore through town with a trio of killer metal acts. Not only did I not witness one fight or angry altercation, but the room was packed full of smiling faces. Valient Thorr is not your average metal/punk hybrid band from Venus (Did I mention they're from Venus?); these guys exude a warm feeling of positivity even while ripping through songs about corrupted governments and never-ending wars.
As I stepped inside, local openers Six Dead Horses were wrapping up what sounded like a set steeped in southern fried sludge metal. I saw just enough of their set to whet my appetite for all things loud, abrasive, and heavy. The following opener delivered on all counts.
Ohio's Skeletonwitch looks and sounds as if the last 20 years never happened. Front man Chance Garnette gestures dramatically with an arm that's decorated from wrist to elbow with steel spikes. Dueling guitars and lightning drums recall the early days of Metallica, and buried deep beneath the gruff vocals of Garnette are accessible melodies not often discernible in this style of black metal. When all of this combines with deer skulls and billowing smoke machines, it becomes pretty apparent that Skeletonwitch have done their heavy metal homework and aced the exam.
After the monstrous metal of Skeletonwitch, the thrash metal of Early Man could have easily become opening band filler had the Brooklyn band not been so damned impressive! With flying V's slung proudly across their chests, guitarists Mike Conte (who doubles as vocalist) and Pete Macy, and drummer Adam Bennati get billing as the main members of the band, but the mystery man on the bass quietly stole the spotlight with his full body approach to playing. The man was so into his bass lines that he seemed to float around the stage as he clawed out the notes.
Vocally, Conte channels Ozzy and Layne Staley. Musically, the band sounds like Black Sabbath sped up. Not only are they good, but their commanding presence onstage is undeniable.
Of course, every previous band fades into the background a little bit once Valient Thorr hits the stage running. By the time that happens, the room is sweaty shoulder to shoulder. The beer is flowing and the good times are playing out. When the first note is struck and Valient Himself spits out the first lyric, already in the faces of his loyal Thorriors (the fans), joyful chaos ensues.
Before the first song comes to a close, the vocals go out and Valient Himself is forced to not only finish the song without the aid of a microphone, but then to improvise while the crew fixes the problem. Not a problem for the ever talkative Viking man. No topic is too bizarre, whether it's discussing Disney World, his kidneys, or the reliability of a good pizza, talking is an art form the man has mastered.
Two songs later he is put to the test again when drummer Lucian Thorr breaks his snare drum and decides to jump off the stage and head out to the van to get a replacement. When one of the openers passes their snare onto the stage as a fill in, Valient Himself instructs the crowd, "someone tell Lucian to get back in here."
The whole set was such a blur of excitement that I can hardly recall what songs were played, let alone in what order. I just know that I heard both "Exit Strategy," and "Heatseeker" at some point in the night, so I was happy!
Valient Thorr shows are known for their unpredictability, and isn't that what we're all searching for when we attend these high energy shows? A little excitement? What's unique about a Valient Thorr show is that no matter how vicious the pit gets, or how much sweat rolls off of Valient Himself's hairy chest and onto the upturned faces in the crowd, there seems to be this bubble of safety that surrounds the mayhem of it all... or maybe I've just gotten lucky, the times I've seen them play.
Maybe everyone woke up the morning of the show and decided to spread the cheery good vibes, or maybe everyone just wanted to have a few beers, see a kick ass live band, and have a good time. Whatever the case may be, Valient Thorr's recent battle for the future of the planet on the streets of Orlando, Florida can be chalked up as a win.
To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.