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.
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
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
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
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|Thor: Only The Strong (reissue +DVD)
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-06-24 14:53:03
With a reputation that always seemed to rely more on their looks rather than the music, Thor were one of those heavy metal bands of the early '80s that you always heard about and saw their photos in all the metal magazines, but hardly ever could identify any of their songs as, well, noteworthy or memorable. Only the Strong is generally regarded as the one 'go to' album in Thor's catalog if by chance you decided to take that route, and in all fairness, it's not a bad one at that. With all the metal cliches that were running rampant during that era, there are actually some decent anthems on this one, such as "Start Raising Hell", the title track, "Knock 'em Down", and "Rock the City", steeped in some heavy riffs, blazing guitar solos, and the odd but effective vocals of herculean frontman Jon Mikl Thor. Somewhere between Judas Priest, KISS, and Manowar, the music of Thor hits on some of the necessary heavy metal elements, but the cheesy lyrics and laughable image just somehow prevented the masses from taking the band seriously. "When Gods Collide" is a perfect example of this; a pretty damn heavy song with some wild guitar playing, but the lyrics and Thor's vocal histrionics are just so silly it's not hard to think that if they had just toned things down a bit this band might have gone somewhere.
That being said, it's pretty easy to have some fun with this lavishly put together reissue. Housed in a 2 disc digipack set, you get the original Only the Strong album, a host of bonus studio, live, and demo tracks, and a DVD of live clips from 1982-1984. Much of the bonus material is of dubious quality, but the hardcore fan won't care much about that. Overall, it's a fun slice of early '80s heavy metal history, a novelty act that for the most part was more about style than substance, but did have a few good tunes in their repertoire.
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