Ride Of The Iron Horse

rating icon 6 / 10

Track listing:

01. Ride Of The Iron Horse
02. Lightning Rod (feat. KHEMI$T)
03. 5-0 Let's Go
04. Peace By Piece
05. Unlock The Power
06. No Time For Games
07. Bring It On
08. Flight Of The Striker (Unreleased 1987)
09. Had It Been Another Day (Unreleased 1986)
10. Watch Your Back (Unreleased 2002)
11. Hit And Run (1979 Demo)
12. 100% (1979 Demo)
13. Shields Up

In terms of personality and spectacle, THOR always warranted more than a footnote in heavy metal's written history. Led by rock 'n' roll diehard and body building champion Jon Miki Thor, the Canadians emerged from the fertile '80s metal scene with a sound that sat comfortably between MANOWAR and TWISTED SISTER, and a frontman known more for his feats of strength (blowing up hot water bottles, a specialty) than for his sturdy but unremarkable voice. Aficionados of the era will have definitely a soft spot for the band, and 1985's "Only The Strong" is an album that will have soundtracked plenty of beer-fueled shindigs over the years. But THOR never quite sounded as heroic or overblown as their frontman's impressive physique or the band's cool, comic book artwork suggested.

Nonetheless, you cannot fault a Norse god and his henchmen for being persistent. THOR split up in 1986 but reconvened in the late '90s for their first album in 12 years, "Thunderstruck: Tales From The Equinox". Since then, The King Of Muscle Rock's band has churned out a ludicrous number of new albums, ranging from the goofy bombast of "Beastwomen from the Center of the Earth" (2004),  to the festive "Christmas In Valhalla" (2018),  and on to 2021's "Alliance",  which features one of the all-time great heavy metal song titles in "Thor Vs. The Juggernaut (War of the Gods)". Their lineup has changed a few times, but despite being in his seventies, Thor himself shows no signs of slowing down. Three years on, "Ride of the Iron Horse" offers another spirited collection of thudding hard rock anthems, hewn from boulders, steel and charred tire-rubber.

A testament to dogged determination and a fearless DIY attitude, THOR's 29th album has plenty to commend it. A well-compiled splurge of brand-new material and revived curios and off-cuts from the old days, it rattles along with plenty of energy. The burly frontman's voice has weathered the years well, and despite lacking the power of, say, Eric Adams or Dee Snider, he half bellows, half narrates these songs with such conviction that fans will be polishing their horned helmets in celebration. Weirdly, Thor sounds like Johnny Cash reporting back from Hell on the atypical, opening title track, but thereafter "Ride of the Iron Horse" swings between the hard-edged radio rock of "Lightning Rod" and "Unlock The Power" and the glam metal bluster of "5-0 Let's Go" and "Bring It On", with occasional detours into sleazy blues-funk ("Peace By Piece"), ALICE COOPER-style, po-faced balladry ("No Time For Games") and even mutant surf rock ("Hit and Run", which dates back to demo recording from 1979). Everything has a slightly ramshackle and underproduced vibe to it, but THOR fans have never exactly been spoiled by flashy production values. What really comes across throughout "Ride Of The Iron Horse" is that you can't keep a cult heavy metal superhero down, particularly if he's immensely resilient and bigger than you.

Author: Dom Lawson
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