Joseph Tholl – Devil’s Drum (High Roller Records)

Tuesday, 15th October 2019
Rating: 8.5/10

Probably best known from his twelve years on bass and guitar for Enforcer, Joseph Tholl gained encouragement from Robert Pehrsson to develop a solo album. Gaining solid support from current and ex-members of Tribulation, Enforcer, Merciless and Hellacopters among others – Devil’s Drum fuses together the man’s love of 70’s hard rock and 80’s influences in a compact but energetic offering. The stark musician in darker black/grey hues for the cover keeps the focus squarely on the sonic output – which gets to the roots of the genre inherent with his influences and how he channels them in an addictive, dynamic format.

The sound and vibe throughout these nine songs has a primal punch with in your face electricity – a purity that many miss in the hard rock records of today. His willingness to explore styles free from genre constraint can bring about affinities or inspiration from Thin Lizzy on the culturally-driven “They Fell From the Sky” all the way to early Whitesnake on the title track. His vocals are soulful and thoughtful – especially on arrangements that are more subdued such as the piano/drum groove driven “Follow the Fire” that allows his guitar playing to be a little more open and ambient for the atmosphere delivered. Even though most of the material has an upbeat, infectious nature, there is also this underlying sense of gloom and darkness that penetrates aspects of “In Eternal Rest” and “Through Endless Skies” to keep listeners engaged on a deeper level beyond the catchy melodies/harmonies. Yes, many will think certain tracks traverse a similar Black Trip vibe, but he’s also not afraid to fluctuate moods and make sure that his skilled guitar breaks aren’t wasted through superfluous noodling.

Devil’s Drum is one of those get in and get out records under a half hour. If you’ve been a fan of Joseph’s work in the past, this provides more insight into the man’s hard rock affinities.

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