THOR – Ride Of The Iron Horse

Cleopatra 2024

Reflecting on fifty years of tuneful thunder, Vancouver heavyweights go full-circle to head into the future.

Ride Of The Iron Horse

To follow this ensemble is to never know how close to Valhalla they are to take their next album, what with Jon Mikl making up for latter-day vocal foibles by embossing his imposing presence on different stylistic shifts of the band’s instrumental palette. Still, 2021’s brilliant "Alliance" – their fifth platter in a five-year stretch – upped the ante high enough for its successor to set quite a few expectations, and “Ride Of The Iron Horse” doesn’t disappoint neither with the recently recorded songs nor with the cuts that hark back to earlier times, although there’s nothing going as far into the past as 1973 when the bodybuilding champion first performed the mythological concept in front of the audience. Five decades further down the line, Thor’s thunder feels as strong as before… only there ain’t no sky to limit such a ride of the valkyries, let alone the chains of heavy metal.

To find the roots of abandon the band have always exerted, one should refer to a 1979 demo titled “100%” – a context-enhancing short acoustic showcase of the musicians’ ability to give their all for the sake of the song – which will help the listener delve into the similarly glamorous, if much more glorified, blues of the album’s title track whose exuberance is reined in thanks to the collective’s unhurried delivery of what amounts to be a spaghetti-western theme. However, the motorik “Lightning Rod” that has hip-hop hero Khemi$t in the guest spot aligns with the scintillating space-rock avenues to lead into the infectious “5-0 Let’s Go” where Kevin Stuart Swain’s guitar and bass licks shine ever so brightly, and the groovy and funky, folk-informed and half-spoken “Peace By Piece” that offers a sad story of a forgotten author. It’s a total contrast to the glittery, and funnily histrionic, “Unlock The Power” that, propelled by Lisa Freakrock’s frenetic beats, rocks ‘n’ rolls with a lot of gusto, and to the power ballad “No Time For Games” whose wall of sound seems so impressive – as do the roaring “Bring It On” and “Flight Of The Striker” that are bristling with catchy riffs: the former a fresh number, the latter an unreleased self-importance-filled smash from 1987.

And though “Had It Been Another Day” from the previous year boasts the period-typical production, its hymnal sentiment is at the right place even today, as is the electric dance in the heart of 2002’s “Watch Your Back” – theatrical yet tasty – and 1979 sketches “Hit And Run” and the Hammond-pressed “Thunder On The Mountain” which finely frame the newly fashioned anthem “Shields Up” that serves up a finale on vinyl. As for CD or digital versions, these end with “To The Extreme” which was not issued in 1999 due to its techno slant but fares so fearlessly now, hinting at the ensemble’s tentative timelessness, so Thor’s iron horse may ride into the sunset with all the hammer-driven grace.


March 23, 2024

Category(s): Reviews
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