THOR (1976–PRESENT). Jon Mikl Thor (vocals), John Shand (guitar, replaced by numerous, including Steve Price), Terry McKeon (bass, replaced by many including Keith Zazzi), Bill Wade (drums, numerous others including Mike Favata), Pantera (backing vocals during eighties).
One of the great unsung metal heroes is a man that was probably known more for his larger-than-life image than for his music. Thor, of the band by the same name, could seem ridiculous, but his sense of humor and nose for a hook, along with his bulging muscles, guarantees him a place in metal history. Jon Mikl Thor started as a professional body builder (at one time winning Mr. Young Canada) before turning to the far more lucrative career as a professional stage performer, where his tricks, such as bending a steel bar in his teeth and blowing up a hot water bottle until it burst, led to some notoriety. Thor eventually discovered that he also could carry a tune, and soon he was appearing on stage singing. A notable performance on The Mike Douglas Show in which a limber Thor sang a Sweet cover while blowing up his trademark hot water bottle led to a record deal and the classic metal hybrid Keep the Dogs Away.
After the success of that album in the underground metal and punk scenes (John Holmstrom of Punk magazine fame was an early and ardent supporter), Thor began a series of grueling tours that saw him playing in major venues (usually in England or Canada; for reasons unknown, Thor never seemed to break in most of North America). Thor also found a lucrative new source of gigs playing at comic book conventions, where his outlandish stage outfits, complete with capes and huge fake spikes (a precursor to the later outfits that bands like Manowar and Saxon would wear) inspired a new generation of metalheads with songs such as “Anger (Is My Middle Name)” and “Lightning Strikes.”
Over the next two decades Thor toured less frequently and his backing band went through numerous personnel changes as he turned more toward low-budget horror films where his muscular body served him well as a hero. Subsequent records were spotty and sadly much of his career output is out of print, fetching high prices on eBay to this day. After being all but written off in the nineties, Thor returned to form with the Thor Against the World album in 2005, where a sympathetic production team helped Thor return to his early sounds, a sort of mixture of Sweet and muscular metal. A DVD release, An-thor-ology, was put out by Smog Veil in 2005 and is an indispensable look at one of the great underlooked and underpraised metal giants.
Thor may have seemed like a god with his outfits and stage show, but what few realized is that Thor was one of the key innovators in bringing excitement and showbiz glamour to the formerly sedate metal shows of yore. Although his work can be hard to locate, listeners should be advised that anything from the seventies and eighties, as well as the Thor Against the World record, are essential metal listening.
Discography: Keep the Dogs Away (Midsong, 1976); Unchained (Mongol, 1983); Live in Detroit (Raw Power, 1985); Only the Strong (Enigma, 1985); Ride the Chariots (Star USA); Thunderstruck (Star USA, 1998); Triumphant (Thor Toen, 2002); Dogz II (Igroove, 2003); Beast Women from the Center of the Earth: A Rock Odyssey (Thor Toen Antimatter, 2004); Thor/Mata Ala Bestia (Got Metal, 2005); Thor Against the World (Smog Veil, 2005); Rock and Roll Nightmare (Smog Veil, 2006); Devastation of Musculation (Smog Veil, 2006); Into the Noise (Sudden Death/Antimatter, 2008); Sing of the V (2009); The Guardian (2010); Soundtrack-from the movie THOR-The Rock Opera (2011).