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Thor: Alliance

Former bodybuilding champion and early purveyor of chest-oiled hyper macho metal/rock Thor has returned with yet another album to add to his rather prolific career. Alliance sees our muscled hero teaming up with other artists on the vast majority of it's 17(!) tracks that span over an hour and boyo let me tell you, it feels much longer than that.

For the uninitiated, Thor is largely the product of singer and namesake Jon Mikl Thor. He's a former Mr. USA and Mr. Canada and despite having plenty of beefcake accolades to his name, he wouldn't be satisfied until he brought his own swole brand of fantasy rock/metal to your home speakers. His 1985 sophomore album Only the Strong is a fun and hard rocking traditional metal album with a cult following, and to this day JMT argues that it was he, not Manowar, who pioneered this specific brand of epic heavy metal. Well, fair enough I suppose, even if Manowar's output is vastly, VASTLY superior to Thor's in almost every way. I'm not gonna question a man that used to perform feats of strength on stage and could break me over his knee even today.

Back to the matter at hand, Alliance has a decent amount of variety stuffed into it's 17 tracks. Having a different guest on almost every track helps with this, and it's one of the few reasons I managed to make it through the entire LP. I did want to see what everyone here had to bring to the table, and sadly the answer is not much. The heavier songs here pretty much follow a modern traditional metal template, with niblets of power and symphonic metal sprinkled in. There's also tracks that sound like early 70's party rock, more along the lines of Thor's earliest output. Going back and forth from the two styles is a bit jarring, but that's hardly the worst thing Alliance has going for it.

To be blunt, Thor can't sing. His buffness's vocal delivery basically consists of equal parts uber-cheesy narrator from some sort of fantasy radio program and your drunk uncle singing the hits of his youth as the Thor family reunion karaoke session peters out. Clearly knowing his vocals aren't particularly up to snuff, there are guest vocalists all over this behemoth of an album, but largely their addition just tends to make the songs sound chaotic and busy as opposed to adding much of anything to the experience. The biggest offender to this has to be "The Ultimate Alliance", featuring 2 guest vocalists and 2 guest guitarists. These guests vocalists (one of whom is Nina Osegueda from A Sound of Thunder) can sing circles around Thor, and the guitarists are fucking ROSS THE BOSS and Chris Holmes so you'd hope this would be a rousing anthem of trad metal glory, but it's just a mess. The vocalists just sing over each other, and Thor is content to basically play narrator as the chaos unfolds. And as grating as this and the other more metallic tunes on the album are, I'd rather listen to all of them on repeat all day than have to suffer through the bizarre and unlistenable retro rock found elsewhere on here.

Songs like "Because We're Strong", "Queen of the Spiders", and "Good Stuff" have no place on this album, or any album for that matter. Sounding like a fever dream version of old timey rock-and-roll or early glam rock in some respects, it's just not good at all. It's like a more distorted early Alice Cooper or New York Dolls, but with no memorability and vocal stylings by the rambling guy that sits in front of the bus station. A good third of the album is made up of this dreck.

The heavy material doesn't fare much better, but it has its moments. Opening track "We Need Musclerock" actually has a pretty fucking cool intro (talk about false first impressions), and maintains it's Hammerfall-esque groove throughout. Guest vocalist John Gallagher actually sounds worse than Thor on this one, but maybe that's just because It's the first track and his voice hasn't had a chance to make me want to drink bleach yet. Even with that said, it's not a bad song. "Ode to Odin" follows a similar blueprint, and it's enjoyable, but overall these songs are unmemorable, and nothing of this earth or Valhalla itself could fix those vocals. Woof.

This kind of stuff is my wheelhouse, usually. I love the oiled up muscleman imagery of Boris Vallejo and tales of epic journeys and barbarians, as well as traditional heavy metal of all stripes. And had this album been maybe 8 tracks of the quality of "We Need Musclerock", it would be a worthy and amusing exercise in old school epic metal. Sadly, there's no saving the bad tracks here, and the fact that Thor simply can't sing is a dark cloud that perpetually hangs over the entire album. It's a shame, because I want to love any album that wears it's fantasy cheese on it's sleeve so unapologetically, but by Odin's beard I can't recommend this.

1. We Need Musclerock
2. Niflhel (Realm of the Dead)
3. The Ultimate Alliance
4. Ode to Odin
5. We Will Fight Forever
6. Because We Are Strong
7. Rock Around the World
8. Queen of the Spiders
9. Power Hungry
10. Bounty Hunter
11. Battlements
12. Thor vs. The Juggernaut (War of the Gods)
13. Generation Now
14. After the Laughter
15. Good Stuff
16. Congregate
17. We Will Fight Forever (Reprise)

Added: August 4th 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 492
Language: english

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