Valient Thorr -- yes, Valie
nt -- stack the deck with their sweaty, hard-rockin', cock-waving performances. You're really
going to want to like these guys, and whether or not you'll do so is a matter of willpower and tolerance for shamelessly retro arena-oriented guitar rock. This music sounded stale twenty-five years ago. At this point, it's hard to say what
it sounds like, beyond wry observations on the risks of taking up its cause.
Frontman Herbie Abernethy's hoarse, almost plaintive shouts are the source of much of Valient Thorr's appeal. Opener "Prologue: Civil Blood Makes Civil Hands Unclean" is literally Abernethy screaming about how worried he is that his band won't be able to put on a righteous enough show to please the crowd, and in the subsequent song, "Showdown", the band demonstrates that this really isn't a concern. They rock plenty hard, pulling out the solos and the percussive assaults left and right. The only problem is that, with the exception of Abernethy's desperately energized performance, it's all quite stale. Beneath that strangely charismatic veneer, you'll find the same crashing drums, the same crashing guitars, the same tired solos you'd find in any other arena-metal record. The band has stacked the deck with charm and moxy, but as much as you want them to pull it off, they're missing that special X-factor that could win arena rock skeptics over to their cause. Warmed-over riffs and a charismatic frontman don't guarantee good music; in Valient Thorr's case, they add up to a fleeting distraction that quickly gives way to boredom.