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Chiseled Norse god impersonator, semi-professional bodybuilder, on-stage wrestler, all-around performance artist (known to bend a steel bar between his teeth), sometime actor, and rock & roll singer Thor (full fake name Jon Mikl Thor) is a Vancouver, Canada native with a flair for both theater and music. Although most heavy metal fans would only become aware of his presence in the mid-'80s via power metal albums like Only the Strong (1985) and Recruits: Wild in the Streets (1986), the roots of Thor's act hail all the way back to the early '70s, when the still-teenaged winner of the Mr. Junior Canada bodybuilding title decided to parlay his sudden celebrity into a full-on character based on the ubiquitous Viking god of thunder. He disbanded the group in 1986 to focus on acting, but returned to music in 1997, releasing a string of albums that married Viking pageantry and metal, and even writing and starring in his own musical, Thor: The Rock Opera in 2010. In 2015 director Ryan Wise released the documentary I Am Thor, which chronicled Jon Mikl's rise from athlete to rock god.
After short stints doing everything from playing in bands to 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 proved 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 as "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 made 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 2005's 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, Thor released Devastation of Musculation. By this time, he was seemingly comfortable with his status as a cult object, and he 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. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia