“Beyond The Pain Barrier” — Album Review

  By VennerRoad, 23rd Aug 2017

Last year, Thor re-released “Keep The Dogs Away”. Their latest offering is a big improvement.

Beyond The Pain Barrier

A critique of this album can be found here.

(Some of the following quotes have been edited for punctuation, etc).

The current album has twelve tracks beginning with Tyrant, which according to the man who penned the words is about:

“The evil ruler Psykon from the previously released concept album Metal Avenger. However, the tyrant can be perceived as any of the numerous Tyrants that are on the Earth today”.

After The Calling comes the title track. As Jon Mikl Thor provided the lyrics, as he was a bodybuilder, and as “No pain, no gain” is a bodybuilding slogan, there is an obvious connection. Obvious but wrong. According to the man himself:

Beyond the Pain Barrier is the sequel to Metal Avenger. It continues the story. It takes the listener on an epic journey beyond the world of Psykon into the Pain Barrier and Beyond. The Pain Barrier is another dimension similar to Ragnarock of Norse legend and Armageddon. Beyond the last battle between good and evil. But to relate the meaning more down to earth, everyone in everyday life has barriers they must surpass just to survive or move forward to a greater level. Many are painful.”

If you don’t understand that answer, you can find the title track of that concept album on YouTube and the album itself on Google Play; short but instantly likeable, it features Fast Eddie Clarke, who is best known as the time-serving lead guitarist for the now defunct Motörhead.

Track four, When A Hero Dies, is a tribute to two friends and colleagues: John Fansano and Jeff Decker. John Fansano was an American film man who died in July 2014 at the relatively young age of 52; his directing credits include the 2005 TV film Murder At The Presidio and the 2007 TV film A Family Lost; Jon Mikl Thor appeared in both.

Jeff Decker was a guitarist who had actually played with Thor; he died April 27 this year while the band were recording this album.

Asked if On Golden Sea was about anyone in particular, Jon Mikl would reply only:

Yes it is personal. There are elements of real people in my lyrics who are inspirational and share the realm of the characters in the story.”

Of the solo composition Phantom’s Light, the man himself said:

“This is a song about voices and visions. It was a full moon. I was in the wilderness in Northern British Columbia. In the distance from my campsite it looked as though someone was walking with a lantern. I just let my mind open up. I grabbed my guitar and looked at the starry sky. It was a song that I sang around the camp fire that night.”

After Twilight Of The Gods comes Galactic Sun, arguably the most commercial track on the album. Of this, Jon Mikl says:

“I’m a big Beatles fan. I like writing melodic songs. I have quite an archive of songs that are four chords, very commercial that don’t always work with Thor.”

Clearly, this one does.

Track nine, The Land, was written by Thor guitarist John Leibel, who says:

“This is a song that I had with Ted back in the Dawn Of Valor days, that never really reached its full potential back then. The original concept behind the song was to set the stage for what was going to be a concept album. Unfortunately that never came to fruition. I had originally written the musical arrangment in 2008 and I let the lyrics be written by a former Dawn Of Valor vocalist. The lyrics ended up being an absolute disaster with the exception of the chant of The Land during the chorus, the verses ended up sounding like some fairy tale Peter Pan (expletive deleted!) which really hurt the song. So when the opportunity came up to do the album Ted and I re-worked it, I added a new middle section musically. When it came to the lyrics, Ted stepped up and did a great job talking about a Sea Captain and the perils he must face including mutiny, being lost, a failed mission, and the longing to return home to dry land. I can happily say that after Ted and I re-worked it, we made The Land the anthem it was meant to be and Thor knocked it out of the park with his vocal delivery.”

The Ted alluded to above is Ted Jedliki, bass player with Minnesota band Dawn Of Valor and now sharing lead guitar with John Leibel in Thor; he wrote the last track on the album, and explained Quest For Valor in depth:

Quest for Valor ties into my music past. Lead guitarist John Leibel and I formerly played in a band called Dawn of Valor and had written the music to this song years ago. John had a version of it back in 2008 when I first met him. The song was never finished, however. In a sense, this song has been on a quest of its own. We finally finished the musical arrangement earlier this year and borrowed from the name of our former band to title the song. Quest... is a big, epic song with lots of various parts, time changes, and styles. When it came time to write lyrics I knew that they had to match the magnitude of the music. I looked at the title and what it meant to me. What would it take for one to find valor? What would this quest look like? Bravery against all odds. Never giving up. I believe the entire band is seeking valor, as we fight against the odds to find success as a traditional metal band in a time where it is not the mainstream choice.”

Also worthy of note is the solo composition by non-band member Martin Gummesson. Deity In The Sky is:

“based on the Mayan god, Itzamna. He’s a god and creator thought to reside in the Sky. There is no exact meaning to his name, at least not to science knowledge. He has many forms. He can appear as a high priest and even as a bird deity.”

Jon Mikl Thor was born in 1955 so is clearly no spring chicken, but like Al Atkins, founder of Judas Priest, one gets the impression that neither he nor the band will be retiring anytime soon. Check out Thor on YouTube, and if you like what you hear, go to his website, locate the album, and click the buy button.

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