Get on yer time machine and set the dials for a parallel universe. Or simply use this record as a vehicle.
Given heavy rock’s original dalliance with hellish things, it’s a major surprise there’s been a long wait before someone came up with a song titled “Just Like Robert Johnson” and pitched it amidst other gloomy tales that span from a troglodyte’s joys to the Wonderland anabasis. As far as originality goes, the third album from this Swedish band is deeply rooted in the ’70s, but for those who go all dewy with a prospect of David Coverdale and Jon Lord joining BLACK SABBATH instead of raising WHITESNAKE, “Soul” is pure delight.
A feast of Hammond-oiled riffs, it may wield a contemporary blade in the opener “This House Is Going Down In Fire” and bow out in a slightly alt metal way with the piano-augmented “Where The Roses Never Fade”. Yet when Mats Gesar’s guitar cuts through Joakhim Aslund’s organ and Kjell Bergendahl’s wail gets incendiary, there’s no stopping to the likes of “Caveman’s Crib” where blues licks – and a “Black Night” quote from drummer Sebastian Olsson – hit the mirror ball. While “In My Hour Of Dying” fleshes out Tony Iommi’s familiar figures with Swedes’ own sweet melodies and “Whenever I Fall” rolls down the “Slide It In” route, they’re as life-affirming as it gets.
Moments of pleasure are plenty here, the title track pouring hot sludge into the listener’s skull and “Eleven Maids” welding folk vibe to a samba groove, whereas Peter Johansson’s bass adds tragic weight to “The Death Of The Last Mermaid”, an epic ballad which projects vocal harmonies onto the group’s otherwise hard veneer. By the same token, the singalong of “Follow The White Rabbit” chases the radio-friendly beast, and if THALAMUS go on air, they can hit the big time – deservedly so.