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Thor: Only The Strong (reissue +DVD)

My previous experience of Thor runs to the 7" single of "Knock 'Em Dead", which on rediscovering that song on this beautifully packaged reissue of Only The Strong from the man mountain that was Thor, I've realised that I have no recollection of it whatsoever and can't find the single in question anywhere in my music collection. In itself that tells you a lot about an act and a frontman that pretty much blended the traditional Metal values of a less exuberant Judas Priest to the loin-cloth exploits of Manowar, with possibly even more theatrics than either. And to be fair to Jon Mikl Thor and his band, their muscle-bound exploits do also predate any "death to false Metal" shenanigans by quite a few years, even if the results are less memorable.

So what we have here is a comprehensive reissue of the album roundly considered to be Thor's best, with a further eleven bonus tracks bringing together four songs from The Edge Of Hell album (credited at the time to the band Tritonz), five demos from between 1981 and 1986 and two live tracks from '84. It makes for an interesting, varied journey, if not a wholly successful one.

First up is Only The Strong itself, an album which finds a solid band working their way through some full throttle, if repetitive fare and showing good intentions, while lacking in execution. Thor himself is a half decent singer and he has the gusto to ham things up without tumbling into ridicule - although the track titled "Thunder In The Tundra" did make me chuckle out loud, even if it is one of the best moments on offer. Yet it is also easy to hear why the likes of "Only The Strong", "Rock The City" or indeed "Knock 'Em Dead" failed to ignite the Metal masses. Guitarist Steve Price is certainly capable of ripping out tasty riffs and sizzling solos; but it's is the lack of sparkle, hooks or character that really sets this out as also ran stuff. It isn't all ho-hum, with "Ride Of The Chariots" being an enjoyable gallop and the aforementioned "Thunder In The Tundra" an undoubted chant-along. Although even here it is a stretch to suggest either are essential.

If you're a Thor aficionado, then the demos and live tracks will be of interest, the demos especially adding a rawness and roughness that some of the finished articles lack in their polished completion. Although it has to be said that both live offerings are of such poor sound quality that they begin to become unlistenable. It's an affliction which also blights the DVD disc of this release, with the sound and picture quality being questionable at best and awful in patches. Vocals become inaudible, guitars a mush, while the lo-fi, of its time camera work does nothing to help, being either grainy and fuzzy, or shot from crotch level on stage. To be fair, those in attendance seem to be verging on fervour as Thor blows into and then explodes "hot-water bottles", smashes breezeblocks on people's chests and bends steel bars with his bare hands - the music often becoming the sideline it in truth really always was for this band - brandishing all manner of swords and "hammers" as he does so.

If you count yourself amongst the Thor faithful, you'll adore this reissue, warts and all, while the unconverted will struggle from start to finish. Those who laugh and point at Metal for being wilfully ridiculous need look no further for proof that their suspicions were always correct… and then some.

Track Listing
1. 2045
2. Only the Strong
3. Start Raising Hell
4. Knock 'Em Down
5. Let the Blood Run Red
6. When Gods Collide
7. Rock the City
8. Now Comes the Storm
9. Thunder on the Tundra
10. Hot Flames
11. Ride of the Chariots
From The Edge Of Hell
12. Wild Life
13. Steal Your Thunder
14. Energy
15. We Live To Rock
16. All Evil In My Path
17. Forever And After
18. Anger Is My Middle Name
19. I Am Thunderhawk
20. Ride Away From You
Live In England 1984
21. Lightning Strikes
22. Thunder In The Tundra

1. Lightning Strikes
2. Ride Of The Chariots
3. Anger
4. Show Of Strength
5. Super Lung
6. When Gods Collide
7. Let The Blood Run Red
8. Gladiator Battle (Smash The Bricks)
9. Electric Eyes
10. Show Of Strength - Secret Of The Steel
11. Show Of Strength - Super Lung
12. Atomic Vibrations (Behind The Mask)
13. Thunder In The Tundra
14. When Gods Collide
15. UK Tour & Bus Antics

Added: June 24th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Thor online
Hits: 2425
Language: english

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