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Thor - Metal Avenger

    Ian Jane

  • Thor - Metal Avenger

    Thor - Metal Avenger
    Released by: Cleopatra Records
    Released on: October 30th, 2015.
    Purchase From Amazon

    2015 has been a big year for Jon Mikl Thor. The 'I Am Thor' documentary has been playing the festival circuit to pretty much universally rave reviews and Cleopatra have reissued his seminal Unchained E.P. with a bunch of bonus tracks and a DVD that includes footage of the album release show from the long gone Marquee Club in New York City (complete with footage documenting the introductions from not only Tiny Tim but Mr. 10 ½ himself, Marc Stevens!) and a bunch of other neat stuff.

    The icing on this year's beefcake, however, is the all new album Metal Avenger. Over the decades Thor has experimented within different musical genres - metal has always been a big part of it. His debut, Keep The Dogs Away, is a straight up glam rock album and he's incorporated elements of punk rock into his music over the years too. This latest effort finds Jon collaborating with a whole bunch of his friends from the metal and punk scenes for fifteen all new tracks of anthemic foot stomping rock n roll. And because we obsess over Thor records, and by 'we' I mean 'me,' we're gonna go track by track through this beauty. Long time Thor co-conspirator Frank Soda is all over this record too, and that's a good thing indeed as they work well together.

    The album starts off with Out Of Control, a weird spacey bit that starts off with some appropriate lightning sounds before that big riff comes in and puts you in your place. This isn't complicated, but it's pretty bad ass - it's got a big, big sound and the production accentuates that. Jon's vocals kick in and of course he's singing about Valhalla and Odin because that's what he does, but right from the start you say to yourself, 'Holy shit!' because this is great. Jussi Lehtisalo from Circle plays bass on this one.

    Track two is even more fun. Metal Avenger not only once again features Jon's timeless vocal style way up in the mix, but it's got none other than Motorhead's Fast Eddie Clarke handling guitar solo duties. This one is fast, dirty and easy to sing along to, just as a good great Thor track should be - catchy as all Hell. ALL HAIL THE METAL AVENGER! This is the lead single from the album and it's definitely the right choice. Clarke's solo is killer too.

    Kings Of Thunder And Lightning is heavy, a little sludgy in spots, at least to start - but then it chills out and we get some riffing with Jon singing about dragons and chariots of death overtop and the mighty metal sounds of Vancouver's finest rise to a pretty heavy crescendo with Scott Carlson of Repulsion doing some awesome backing vocals on the chorus here.

    One of the more interesting collaborations on this one is Master Of Revenge. There's a bit of a punk attitude here, it's fast and a little snotty but never so far removed from the muscle rock you know you want to seem out of place. Henry Rollins, yeah that guy from Black Flag, he joins in on the chorus and it's pretty wild to hear Rollins and Thor just going for it on this track. This is four minutes of Fist pumping awesomeness in musical form. This one is just way too fun. I had this playing in my car on the way into work the other day and when some asshat cut me off it made me want to drive him off the bridge we were driving on. I didn't, but maybe I should have. REVENGE!

    Destruct starts off with some crooning vocals over some sloppy, unhinged guitar. Things get to thrashing a bit here as Thor goes on about what happens when your walls being to crumble and your castle turns to rubble. That's not good at all! You're screwed when that happens, don't look to Thor for help, no sir. This track features Brian Forsythe of Kix handling lead guitar solo duties and he lays it on nice and thick in this dirty sounding straight ahead rock n' roll number.

    If you like Thor, odds are pretty good you like hammers, and hey, this album has you covered with the sixth track, entitled The Hammer. Why? Because 'heavy is the hammer that sends them back to Hell' that's why! None other than the great Jay Jay French of Twisted fuckin' Sister fame handles the guitar solo on this one, so all you S.M.F.'s out there take heed! This is kind of like Thor doing a blues rock track, which is weird when you think about it, but somehow, despite the odds stacked against it, this track works.

    Taste Of Victory is kind of a weird track because not only does it feature Betsy Bitch of Bitch fame helping out on vocals but it's also got Rikk Agnew from Christian Death helping out with lead guitar duties. Thor and Betsy go back and forth trading off of one another, sort of feeding off of each other really, and this is a weird, heavy, glammy musical stew of snotty punk and metal and sludge that'll get you singing along in no time. Frank Soda gets co-writer credit on this one so you know it's good.

    Heavy Load is a heavy, riffy, slow burn track that builds really well. Some kind of noodly guitar soloing in a few spots but check out Jon's vocals around the half way mark when he start wailing on this one, it's pretty impressive and unexpected from a Thor track. Scott Carlson helps out with backing vocals again. This uses a faux radio broadcast of sorts that leads into….

    Legions Of The Psykon World! This is one of those songs where Thor needs to get an army together to help him in his quest, so you're either ready to join the legions of the Pyskon world or you're not. If you're not, just get out of the way or you'll get steamrolled by this one, as Thor's hammer transforms into a sonic sword of sorts! None other than Jack Starr of Virgin Steele contributes a guitar solo to this one. The esteemed Mr. Soda handles guitar duties here.

    Drive has a bit more of a punk sound to it, which makes sense when you realize that Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys plays lead guitar on the track. It's fast, a bit snotty, with some nice harmonies in the background too. More guitar work from Soda here too, there's very much a 'vintage Thor' sound to this track that should make it appealing to those who have been following his career for awhile now. Glammy and heavy, cocky and bombastic.

    Stars Upon Star, which once again gets Betsy Bitch sharing vocal duties, shows us the softer side of Thor. Even the God Of Thunder needs love, right? So why not take time out of your busy day for what is basically a power ballad? Betsy and Jon kinda-sorta harmonize here. They don't always pull it off but even when they don't, there's a really awesome sincerity and earnestness behind this track that makes it endearing. If this one doesn't choke you up a little bit get yourself to the hospital because your heart has stopped and you are obviously an inhuman monster incapable of feeling anything.

    Hand's down my personal favorite off of this record is simply T.H.O.R. - why is it great? Well, it's simple really:

    T - for Thor!
    H - I hold the Hammer!
    O - for Overlord!
    R - so let's Rock!

    That's the chorus, and the chorus is most of the song, but on top of that you also get D.O.A.'s own Joey Shithead sharing vocal duties here. When this track was recorded, truly Vancouver must have trembled under its weight. Thor and Joey worked together previously on the ARE U READY album, it's a kick to hear them back together again. If you're not singing along to this one by the time it's over, well, I don't know what to tell you. Rollins and Betsy Bitch get in on the backing vocal action here too.

    Atomic Man is not the same as Megaton Man, a track from Thor's album Thor Against The World. Nope, it's an all new track about walking the streets with a sword in hand and just doing what you've got to do in situations like that. These duties can and will include ruling the night and making your enemies run.

    Wings Of Destiny, the penultimate track on the album, features Niklas Stí¥lvind of Wolf on guitar solo detail with Frank Soda helping out here too. This might be the most theatrical of the fifteen tracks on the new album, the vocals are nutty and the track is considerably faster than everything else on the record. It's a good one, a fairly unhinged really, but still using that sort of 'Thor anthem' style as a backbone.

    Bringing things to a close Law Of The Universe once again sees Soda handling all the guitar work on the track. It starts off slow, Thor doing a sort of spoken word thing about Mother Earth, but he starts crooning as the rest of the band kicks in and he notes that only the strong survive, guys like he. The law of the universe may very well be that you've got to be tough, and I guess if you're not tough you're not going to survive. You can learn from this one. It's a somber tune but it closes out the album nicely.

    And yeah, this one delivers. It's been a few years since we've gotten some new music from Thor but Metal Avenger is the best thing that's come from Vancouver's muscleist man in a long time. Jon's vocals sound great, everyone accompanying him brings their A game and the plethora of fun guest spots really solidify this one in the upper echelon of 'post comeback' Thor albums.

    • Ian Jane
      Ian Jane
      Ian Jane commented
      Editing a comment
      Ha, thanks.

    • Barry M
      Barry M
      Super Fiend
      Barry M commented
      Editing a comment
      My favourite line:
      Originally posted by Ian Jane, Thorskald
      If you like Thor, odds are pretty good you like hammers

    • Andrew Monroe
      Andrew Monroe
      Pallid Hands
      Andrew Monroe commented
      Editing a comment
      Great, great review. Seriously, the enthusiasm just pops off the screen and gives you a ball thump. Hey! Wake up! The guest list is amazing Major respect to this guy for keeping it going for this long and seemingly still doing quality work.
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