Mongol Horde 1983 / Cleopatra 2015
Hammer of the gods goes down on a muscular expansion of cult classic that adds paraphernalia to the molten metal.
Musical heavyweights, towards the first decade of their existence Canadians THOR were a complete athletic package, as the band’s leader Jon Mikl seemed equally comfortable on the bodybuilding pedestal and on-stage. It had been five years, though, since the release of the quartet’s gold-certified debut, “Keep The Dogs Away,” when they started working on the “Unchained” EP which would take the group to the crest of a freshly fashioned metal wave and make them welcome in the realm of NWOBHM. A DVD portion of this reissue finds the ensemble over in England, Thor battling HAWKWIND’s Nik Turner as Loki, and in the U.S., presenting the mini-album with Tiny Tim opening. Yet it’s not Mikl’s antics such as bending iron with his teeth or having cement blocks crushed on his chest with a sledgehammer that still matter; it’s the music that’s still strong.
So forget about the hilariously heroic video for “Anger” – even more ludicrous in the footage of failed takes – as the song itself is a brilliant, one of the first to boot, attempt to marry a sharp riff to a disco beat. It might be not as obvious in the skeleton recording of these pieces from 1982 but crystallized with some panache about a year later, and the deluxe edition allows for a nice comparison between five of the six tracks which comprised the original EP, albeit the dance of “I Am Your Sire” didn’t make it onto vinyl. There’s a clean-cut pop strain, still, to the clang of the keyboards-adorned “Lazer Eyes” or “Lightning Strikes Again” where a catchy guitar attack provides a gritty backdrop to the booming voice, while “Rock The City” proudly wears a ’70s hard rock stripe on its fringed sleeve.
The latter composition as well as the anthemic “When Gods Collide” woulds be re-recorded for 1985’s “Only The Strong,” and bonus tracks on offer come from that period. But for all its pounding, “War Hammer” is more glam than the MANOWAR setting of the day dictated, and “Rebirth Of The Hero” paints the charge by numbers, if not without a flourish, whereas “Rag-Na-Rock” rides to glory, indeed. And then, here’s the theatrical “Unchained (When Rises The Moon),” the only piece on display to cross over the 5-minute mark not wasting a second for a shallow bravado yet offering a cinematic adventure, one that’s much more interesting than the visual portion of the package, as is the swaggering rock ‘n’ roll “She’s A Nightmare” which was finished in the Noughties. By then, THOR lost their initial naïveté and a tad of their appeal, but they’re still here, so unchaining bestowed a great sense of freedom upon them.