"Beyond the Pain Barrier"

By Dark Starr

This is the new disc from Thor. That's the metal act, not the actual God of Thunder or related Marvel Comics superhero (or the Wormwood writer, either!—Dr. M). The music here lands in the general vicinity of the old-school New Wave of British heavy metal. It's definitely a bit rough around the edges, but it's also delivered with a lot of conviction. It's a bit over the top, along the lines of Manowar, in terms of lyrical content. That suits the music and the image, though. 

The metal modes that start "Tyrant" are both meaty and mean. The cut has a bit of an NWOBHM sound as it works into the vocal movement. It is a powerhouse cut that's suitably raw. The mid-track guitar soloing has a bit of a technical metal leaning, but the soloing near the end makes me think of KK Downing a bit. 

A bit more of a rock and roll based metal stomper, "The Calling" isn't quite as raw as the opener. The title track has more of that NWOBHM sound. The guitar soloing is particularly intense. It is a screamer with a fierce, pounding intensity. The vocal performance sometimes feels a bit short, though. 

Starting with a balladic mode, "When a Hero Dies" is almost more of a straight rock and roll song than it is metal. That said, the crunch and guitar soloing bring metal to the party. It is one of the most different, and one of the most successful, cuts here. "On Golden Sea," on the other hand, doesn't work as well for me. It's a bit over the top and feels a little clumsy at times. Still, the guitar soloing is top-notch. 

The rhythm section starts "Phantom's Light" and holds it for the first half minute or so. Then the guitar joins to move it forward. It drops to a more stripped back arrangement for the first vocals. The cut alternates between powered up and more dropped back sections and returns to just the rhythm section for a segment later. 

Fierce and fast, "Twilight of the Gods" is a really screaming number. It's one of the most potent of the set. It has some moments that feel a bit awkward, but that adds to the charm, really. There is a definitely an NWOBHM thing here. 

Raw and driving, "Galactic Sun" has a definite psychedelic angle to it. In fact, it feels like what you might get if you mixed NWOBHM with old school garage psychedelic rock. It's a nice change and oddly effective. No big surprises here, "The Land" is just more raw old school metal. It has some decent hooks and solid guitar riffs. 

A bit meaner in texture, "Deity in the Sky" is also more effective. It's a dramatic and powerful piece. More hook laden, "Thunder Road" leans more toward mainstream rock music. Still, it has a metallic edge and some left-of-center elements. 

At almost seven and a half minutes in length, the closing "Quest for Valor" is the longest cut of the set. It's the epic in terms of scope, too. It has a diverse arrangement, moving through a number of different sections. It makes me think of Manowar in some ways.