Fans of European heavy rock, and particularly Swedish hard rock bands, will need no introduction to Joseph Tholl. He’s been around since 2007 or thereabouts, with a wide range of bands starting with his own Joseph Tholl and the Escapades album dating from 2008, this being a pleasant collection of tunes that are distinctly softer than most of his output since then, most notably with metal bands Black Trip and Vojd, and stadium rockers Enforcer. Add to that a few others, and the fact that he’s still playing with both Vojd and (I think, occasionally) Enforcer whilst finding the time to produce this solo album – he’s one busy bee!
This new release (comes out 18 October) is the fruit of a sort of collaboration with friend Robert Perhsson. Robert mixed Devil’s Drum while recording his own band’s recent release with, guess what, Joseph appearing as part of that band (“Robert Perhsson’s Humbucker” – what a cracking name!) This other release, Out Of The Dark, came out on 13 September and I hope to cover that later.
The collection of songs on Devil’s Drum is distinctly less heavy than most of Joseph’s previous offerings, but still showcases quality guitar-led rock. Joseph plays guitar and sings, with a number of guests then playing different roles on individual songs. He says he’s been itching to make an album free of restraints like this for a while, producing a collection of songs that aren’t tied to a specific genre – hence the notion of a solo album. It’s taken over a year to make and that sense of “labour of love” comes through, inspired by all kinds of music. There’s several hints of vintage rock in here, harking back to Black Trip days, but also a wide range of more contemporary Indie styles.
The album opens with It’s Just Rock’n’Roll, which in itself is a bit of a spoof because Joseph has passionately dedicated himself to music at a cost to more conventional parts of life – with no regrets. So an infectiously simple song with driving riff and catchy chorus. Next up, They Fell From The Sky, is in a similar vein, short and punchy with a delicious guitar burst in the middle.
Follow the Fire then has a neat melodic interplay between keyboards and guitar, before Black Birds and In Eternal Rest are into what I would call Kooks / Razorlight Indie territory. Devil’s Drum is slower and darker but again well crafted – this is a fine bunch of friends and invited guests, and Joseph is no mean guitarist assuming the solo here is his. The Passage By The Sea has a rhythm that reminds me of Big Country, while I’m The Machine is short but sweet with some nice reverb and tasty riff to end it. Last track Through Endless Skies starts as a rumbling bluesy slowburner to round off the collection.
Throughout the album, Joseph’s voice bears a strong resemblance to Johnny Borrell, the lead singer for Noughties Indie band Razorlight (remember “America”?) – so for me the overall feel of the album is more “hard Indie” than the slabs of rock that fans of Vojd etc might expect. It’s all very catchy stuff so, although it doesn’t push too hard against any boundaries and it’s also quite short, it’s thoroughly enjoyable and you’ll find yourself singing along to most of it – and why not?!