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Saturday, May 30, 2009

CD Review: Jon Mikl Thor - Sign of the V

Jon Mikl Thor - Sign of the V
2009 Vulcan Sky Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Jon Mikl Thor is one of my favorite people in this business for his generosity alone, much less his refusal to quit. His success runs parallel to his native countrymen Anvil in two resemblences: one, his fame is fleeting and relegated to a period of time well-passed and two, the fact Thor doesn't give a rat's ass how long it's been, he's going to keep getting in your face whether you want him there or not.

As much a cult figure of the metal scene as (until recently) Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner, Jon Mikl Thor (as a refresher course) is a former bodybuilding champion in the one-time elbow-rubbing company of Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno. Thor turned into an underground performance hero as early as the mid-seventies with his chunky rock and metal burps combined with jaw-dropping feats of strength (imagine how hard it was for this guy to get dental insurance) and Valhallian stage brawls.

Beyond the muscular facade of Jon Mikl Thor which has found him in front of the roving lens (including the B-film Rock 'n Roll Nightmare) as well as metal mutants saluting his berserker persona, Jon Mikl Thor's albums at-large are, well... Ears of the beholder, shall we say.

I've always appreciated Thor's chum bucket sound which largely hails NWOBHM chugging and power strikes, and despite the fact Thor's albums are loose cannons production-wise, it's always been another facet to his shtick, whether you're talking about Only the Strong, Thor Against the World, Dogz II or his attempt at a comic-book soundtrack, Beastwomen from the Center of the Earth: A Rock Odyssey.

A Thor album is never pretty and it's never going to make the all-time shredder or power metal greatest lists. You come to Jon Mikl Thor for pure escapism and if he does anything with his muddy mode of metal, he does that. However, on his latest venture Sign of the V, credited to his full name instead of the abbreviated Thor, the Canadian thunder God simply has fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

This album is practically a vehicle for Jon Mikl Thor to goof around instead of focus on anything directly. When you hear local rappers Adam H and Heavy Eric scatting beneath the overdubbed "Power US," you're wondering where the heck Thor is coming from since this is hardly territory he's covered in the past. It's as anti-Thor a tune as he's issued and in the process he appears to be making a cheeky comment about the corporate crush smothering the United States the way he and his backing vocalists literally bark "The power...the power...the power U S!!!" In other words, instead of strapping on the cutlery and swinging at fantastical demons, Jon Mikl Thor is looking to push the envelope just a hair and throw his hammer down at his neighbors' feet while throwing them a party for their patience.

Sign of the V refers to Thor's home province of Vancouver and as the album opens with the Gary Glitter-esque, whoa-ohhhed marching theme "Vancouver Millionaires," you already know by attrition this album going is going to take itself as seriously as Thor must've initially felt way back in 1976 when appearing on the Merv Griffin Show. For the record, the Vancouver Millionaires was a champion hockey team in the early 1900s and whose legacy is owned and protected by Thor himself. See the man about a Millionaires t-shirt; yours truly has one! To keep the puck theme going later in the album, Thor uncorks the very good metal rally, "Eyes On the Cup."

Thor also has a good time raking himself (or rather his character) over the coals on "Pump Energy Man" and the quite pumping "Stay Young, Feel Young" as he preaches dietary mandates and comes off like a parody of Schoolhouse Rock. "Stay Young, Feel Young" is almost jokey in its throbbing gym-bred tempo.

Along the way, Sign on the V mashes the album's coolest set of riffs with "I Want More" and goes into a classic metal throwback motif with "Primetime Hero," the latter of which sees Thor putting more effort into his vocals and well getting away with it considering he lulls, shouts and gurgles nearly everywhere else. Ending with one of his trademark synth-drenched ballads reminiscent of Thunderstuck: Tales from the Equinox, "Crimson King," Sign of the V is another noncommittal bit of rock tomfoolery from a guy whose heart is as big as his biceps.

Neoclassicism out the door, Jon Mikl Thor is a guy ready to burn carbs with you using a less-polished form of flexing rock and at his age, to be sporting both his physique as well as the urge to entertain, he probably deserves his own documentary film akin to Anvil's.

Rating: ***1/2


DPTH International said...

Thor albums tend to be hit and miss with me. You have the right perspective though. Nice review.

I've always prefered his more heavy metal work, but Beastwomen ... has some nice moments. I'll have to check this one out.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

thanks, man, just beware, this one is quite silly but has its moments...I just think Thor is simply having fun...I really like Beastwomen too but definitely the earlier stuff is the real meat of his work

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