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Thor

A Vancouver native with a flair for theater and music, Thor (original alias Jon Mikl Thor) is a Norse god impersonator, a semi-professional bodybuilder, an on-stage wrestler, an all-around performance artist (known to bend a steel bar between his teeth), a sometime actor, and a power metal vocalist. Although most heavy metal fans only became aware of him during the mid-'80s through albums like Only the Strong (1985) and Recruits: Wild in the Streets (1986), Thor's rock roots date to the early '70s, when the teenaged winner of the Mr. Junior Canada bodybuilding title parlayed that celebrity into a full-time rock & roll theatrical character based on the ubiquitous Viking god of thunder, releasing his debut, Keep the Dogs Away, in 1977. After 1985's Live in Detroit, he disbanded his group, but returned to music in 1997, releasing a string of albums that married Viking pageantry and metal. He also wrote and starred in his own musical, Thor: The Rock Opera, in 2010. In 2015, director Ryan Wise released the documentary I Am Thor, which chronicled his rise from athlete to rock god. Thor released Beyond the Pain Barrier and Electric Eyes in 2017. 2019's Hammer of Justice was followed by 2020's Rising and 2021's Alliance. Following two long tours and a short break, Thor issued Ride of the Iron Horse. After short stints doing everything from playing in bands and starring in a Las Vegas revue dressed in gladiator gear to working as a nude waiter in Hawaii, Thor landed a booking on The Merv Griffin Show! in 1976. This exposure was enough to help him secure a recording contract, and, along with then-bandmembers John Shand (guitar), Terry McKeown (bass), and Bill Wade (drums), record a debut album the following year. Keep the Dogs Away adopted Kiss and Alice Cooper's hard glam style (self-labeled "muscle rock") but failed to connect with audiences, and relegated Thor and his ever-changing cast of bandmembers to a club-playing existence for years to come, with only the occasional independent EP (1979's Gladiator, 1980's Striking Viking) to document their music. Thor's career wouldn't heat back up again until 1984, during an era in popular music's trajectory that was far more propitious to his over-the-top shenanigans and power metal posturing. That year, a series of singles released by the tiny Albion label generated enough press and consumer interest to draw the attention of on-the-rise metal label Roadrunner, which in turn quickly issued 1985's "warrior metal" album Only the Strong, featuring guitarist Steve Price, bassist Keith Zazzi, drummer Mike Favata, and backup singer Pantera. Follow-up albums like the same year's Live in Detroit, 1986's Recruits: Wild in the Streets (which also served as the soundtrack for the film Recruits and starred Thor himself), and 1987's Tritonz were all released by smaller indie labels. Thor took another stab at film stardom with his role in the 1987 movie Rock N Roll Nightmare. He continued to focus on his acting career but returned to the recording studio about a decade later, releasing 1997's Thunderstruck: Tales from the Equinox, followed by 2001's Dogz II, 2002's Triumphant, and Thor Against the World. In addition, two collections named An-THOR-logy emerged: the first, from 1997, was an LP, and the second, from 2005, was a film collecting the sights and sounds of Thor's first decade of existence. A year later, he released Devastation of Musculation. By this time, he was seemingly comfortable with his status as a cult object and continued to make the sort of music that kept his small but devoted following happy. Released in 2008, Into the Noise reunited him with guitarist Steve Price, and 2015's Metal Avenger showed he was still capable of delivering his trademark "body rock." In 2015, Thor and his band were the subject of a feature-length documentary, I Am Thor, which spawned a career-spanning soundtrack, and they ventured back into the studio for 2017's Beyond the Pain Barrier. Accompanied by a cast of younger musicians, Thor developed a fresh outlook and even more stamina. In 2018 he issued two more albums for Deadline Music in Electric Eyes and Christmas in Valhalla. In 2019 they released the studio outing Hammer of Justice combined with the Return of the Thunderhawk DVD. It chronicled the band during the recording of Beyond the Pain Barrier, and detailed its harrowing tour, including the marriage proposals that occurred during it. Though Thor and company were playing smaller venues, they performed as if they were selling out arenas. In February of 2020, Thor released the ten-track studio full-length Rising. Unable to tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thor wasted no time conceiving and crafting a studio album. In addition to his core band, he enlisted a massive cast of metal's current -- and classic -- performers to assist him. Alliance was finished in early 2021 and issued in July by Cleopatra. It featured guest appearances by members of W.A.S.P., Manowar, Soilwork, Anthrax, Danko Jones, Raven, Striker, and more. Thor celebrated his five decades in music with the Cleopatra release of Ride of the Iron Horse in March 2024. The 15-song, all-original set was composed of then-current compositions and unreleased recordings from Thor's earliest years.
© Eduardo Rivadavia /TiVo

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