Review Summary: Vintage hard rock at its most personal and thoughtful.
Hailing from Sweden, Thalamus are among the most notable purveyors of vintage hard rock. The band excels in bringing back the spirit of the 1970s with its retro sound centered around permeating groove, soaring vocals and a prominent use of Hammond organ. Such a stylish brand of heavy rock happens to be vastly popular in the band's homeland where their previous album Subterfuge
debuted in the top 6 of national charts on the grounds of such excellent singles as “Blind” and “Still Dancing On My Grave.” Expectedly so, the act's third full-length, produced together with Daniel Bergstrand (In Flames, Meshuggah, Evergrey), can be seen as a direct continuation of their old-school style sporting just enough hooks to be commercially viable.
Thalamus are genuinely committed to their craft though, and Soul
is an ample evidence of that. The album's title signifies a distinctly heartfelt approach to lyrics. While tackling plenty of subjects ranging from death and depression to vivacity and love, Kjell Bargendahl strikes a perfect balance between his personal experiences and the hard rock canon. After all, it is his supreme sense of melody that, along with thoughtful lyrics, largely makes this record so retrospective and soulful. He also has the pipes to carry an amazing chorus of the title track, yet never falls into a 'show-off' mode at the expense of song craft. The subdued lament of “Marooned In Space” may be the most emotionally wrenching tune on the entire disc.
Since all songwriting duties have been collectively carried out by the whole quintet this time around, Soul
sounds even more refined than the group's previous releases. Their presentation is still reasonably diverse though. Such bouncy heavy rockers as “Caveman's Crib” and “In My Hour Of Dying” are juxtaposed with bluesy slow-burners in “The House Is Going Down In Fire” and “Just Like Robert Johnson.” There's still some room for pleasant surprises, like sublime progressive rock leanings of “Eleven Maids,” the jazzy guitar solo in “Whenever I Fall” or muddled backing vocals that propel “Follow The White Rabbit” to refreshing effect. Despite all these elements, the album still feels overly homogenous at points simply because several passages and motifs overstay their welcome. One cannot escape the feeling that certain songs would work better if they were more concise and focused. The closer "Where The Roses Never Fade" is especially at fault.
may not be perfect by any means, but its shortcomings paradoxically make for a large part of its charm. Although this record might be deemed as naive and cheesy by some, Thalamus play the style of music they are passionate about clearly aiming at listeners who share their sentiment. The fact that they deliver their melodic brand of vintage rock with both finesse and poignancy only enhances their chances of reaching a much wider audience.