Somebody smart has probably already written about the boom in doom rock in these decidedly doomy times. Yes, there has been doom since the early 1970s, specifically going back to Black Sabbath, who flipped the proverbial script on the flower children of the late 1960s by serving up nihilistic lyrics bathed in molten reverb. But until the early oughts, the genre was strictly the preserve of one-dimensional long-hairs who smoked entirely too much weed and read (skimmed?) entirely too much post-colonial theory. You could probably point to The Sword as the first “crossover” doom-metal band –– the Austin quintet was embraced equally fanatically by long-hairs and irony-loving hipsters. Never mind that the band’s lyrics were purely fantastical and, unlike “real” doom-metal lyrics, had absolutely no bearing on the real world in real time. The music was huge and muscular and had that all-important quality: groove. Plus, if you’ve ever been to a monster rock show, you know that lyrics, well, lyrics are just garbled melodies.
In the spirit of The Sword, Vorvon explores the space in the Venn Diagram of Metal where killer riffs, rock music history, and irony intersect. “We’re kind of the safe metal band for hipsters to like,” said drummer Ray Liberio (The Me-Thinks, Stoogeaphilia, EPIC RUINS). “We’re not gonna be too heavy. It’s not all Cookie-Monster vocals. It’s weird, though, because we can play with [metal acts] FTW and Southern Train Gypsy or [hard-rock acts] The Phuss and Frisky Disco. For some reason, we cross those boundaries.”
Featuring two bassists –– Steve Steward (Oil Boom, EPIC RUINS, Kevin Aldridge & The Appraisers) and vocalist Will Wells (One-Fingered Fist) –– Vorvon has just released its debut EP, Bass Mountain, five songs that lurch, roil, and drive through metallic sludge and that will blow out your damn speakers. With Iommi-esque guitarwork by fourth member Rick Sharp, plus contributions from vocalist Sam Anderson (Quaker City Night Hawks) and saxophonist Jeff Dazey (Josh Weathers & The True+Endeavors, Gunga Galunga, Dazey Chain), Bass Mountain is also an are-they-joking-or-not homage to the band members’ love of schlock.
The lyrics to one song, “What Is Good in Life,” consist mostly of quotes from the epic 1982 sword-and-sorcery flick Conan the Barbarian. “To crush your enemies / To see them driven before / And to hear the lamentation of the women” is the response that Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger) gives in response to the question “What is best in life?” while surrounded by fellow warriors during post-battle bacchanals.
Horror and space opera are two other lyrical –– and musical –– points of departure for Vorvon. (The band gets its name from the space vampire in the late-1970s TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.) “Post-Apocalyptic Dune-Buggy Thriller” is, basically, a mini-movie. Built around an obsidian semi-bluesy riff, the song casts the smoky-voiced Anderson as a Nova-driving, sawed-off-toting survivalist who’s burning from fallout and heading for the sea, avoiding sirens and zombies, “cookin’ mutants,” and smoking sativa along the way. In the lead-off track, the ominous but groovy “Blood Cosmos,” Wells, his voice loud but clear, sings, “Spaceship drifts / Out in the black / I have a feeling that we ain’t coming back.”
All of the guys in the band contribute lyrics. “We all kind of suck at it,” Sharp said sarcastically, “so we think that with maybe a group effort, we can get some good ones.”
The band took shape in 2009, when Liberio and Steward were looking to do “something heavy,” Sharp remembered. “I kind of forced my way into it.”
Wells joined a short time later, and the unnamed band began jamming and writing at Smoke Tardis, the name of Liberio’s rehearsal space in Haltom City. (Tardis is the phone-booth/time machine from the British adventure-comedy series Dr. Who.) After about a year, the band had generated enough material to fill a live set. Vorvon played its first gig in August 2010 at The Moon and, in true crossover fashion, shared the stage with the Fort Worthian swamp-blues quartet Quaker City Night Hawks.
In early 2011, Vorvon did some recording, but nothing stuck. In the summer of ’11, though, the band found its way to Fort Worth Sound and laid down several tracks over the course of a few months. After mixing by The Echo Lab’s Matthew Barnhart (Tame … Tame and Quiet, The Baptist Generals, Red Animal War) and mastering by Chris Hanzsek, Bass Mountain was finished in the spring. Co-produced by the band and Mike Garcia, the album won’t be officially released until this Saturday, when Vorvon once again crosses over into non-metal territory and headlines an album release party with three hard-rocking Fort Worth acts –– The Phuss, The Dangits, and The Frisky Disco –– at Lola’s Saloon.
The show isn’t technically a “CD release party” –– Vorvon is forgoing discs in favor of digital files and vinyl. (Download cards with vinyl vouchers will be available at the show for $10 a pop.) There’s no telling when the vinyl copy will be out. Liberio, a professional artist and with Calvin Abucejo one half of the graphic design firm Pussyhouse Propaganda, is constructing a diorama for the cover art. “We’re doing these little tiny amplifiers,” Liberio said, adding that Bass Mountain’s cover art “will be like Devil’s Tower from Close Encounters, all on a one-inch scale.”
Unlike Thulsa Doom, Conan’s nemesis, Vorvon has no plans for world domination. For one thing, the guys are thirtysomethings with regular(-ish) day jobs. For another, the future is now. Always.
Go ahead and ask ’em. How far ahead can you guys see wearing your Vorvon glasses?
“A week,” Liberio deadpanned, setting up his drums for rehearsal at Smoke Tardis last week, Motörhead’s Lemmy staring out from the face of the bass drum.
“The next show, the next practice,” Sharp added. “You know these guys are so busy. I’m so busy. We just do what we can.”
Sat w/The Phuss, The Dangits, The Frisky Disco at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. $5-12. 817-877-0666.