If you’ve been paying attention [like when you told us here, here, here, here and here, you mean? – Ed] you’ll already know how big a fan I am of the Alberta rock band One Soul Thrust. So you can imagine my excitement when news came over their Patreon (yes, I am a patron) a while back that there was a new album in the works, called Slaves to the Sky, Masters to the Mess. Well, naturally, I started digging for as much information on it as I could find – a lyric snippet here, a track name there - and waited somewhat impatiently as it slowly came together over the intervening months until, last week, an email arrived from singer/songwriter and general all-round Canadian rock goddess Salem Jones to say that THE ALBUM IS FINISHED and would I like to review it? Oh, now let me think about this for a minute... erm… YES!!!
So here’s a track by track of my first listen through:
Right from the start of Full Circle, there’s a smile on my face, as first the drums and then twangy guitars start to, yes, circle in my headphones. Salem’s voice is on top form as always, soaring almost prog-rock like over that stripped back clean sound at the start, which then develops into unctuous, multi-layered rock roundness (I know what I mean) as the song goes on.
Black Frank is next and I love, love, love the sound of the guitar in this. It’s definitely a much grungier sound than the previous track and Salem’s voice matches the bluesy tone, the spoken sections adding a real bar-room intimacy to the song. But that doesn’t mean it’s a quiet track, far from it. It builds into a wonderful crescendo that would be amazing to hear live. Also any non-Disney song lyric that can fit in the word Supercallifragilistic is a winner in my book. Almost my favourite track on the album. Almost.
Anyway, One True Flame is next and is good old-fashioned rock and roll with the OST twist. It reminds me a lot (in a good way) of the early seventies hard rock classics by Led Zep and Deep Purple. I’m not entirely sure though that the harmonies totally work for me, imho Salem’s voice doesn’t need any help here, even from herself, but it definitely gets the foot tapping and the head banging.
Hey Man is a much mellower sound (think Eagles rather than Ozzy) letting Salem carry the melody over a solid rock accompaniment. It’s good but it takes til after the half-way point for it to really hook me with the guitar break kicking it up several gears for me.
The Fight for Love is a gorgeous ballad that immediately brought Evanescence’s Bring Me To Life to mind at the start of it – it has that same sound, even though it’s totally different (again I know what I mean). As it goes on, it settles into a more expected OST sound, the guitar-work taking a beautiful counterpoint question/answer phrasing to the voice that is very interesting.
Yes. What else can I say but Yes to Yes, as that’s the name of the next track. A wonderfully funky track with glorious backing that is so very nearly 70s disco (all that it’s missing is the stabby brass blasts) but I would never say that out loud. Definitely a “bop in your chair” track.
Track 7 is The Sacred and The Profane and the start of it gave me goosebumps. There’s such a darkness to that bass riff; it just eats into your soul. And then the soaring, almost “Albatross”-like lead guitar which lifts you into the light again is just glorious. And then the drums kick in and it’s just perfect in every way. Or, so I thought until the final 30 seconds or so, when perfection was improved upon as I heard a sound that absolutely made my jaw drop. This. This is my favourite track on the album. No question.
However, Nitric Oxide is THE singalong track of the album. A simple, almost sixties, melody with SUCH a catchy chorus that I was singing it long after I had finished listening to it. I also spotted a neat reference back to the previous track in the lyrics. This one definitely passes the old grey whistle test.
I must admit that the start of Sister Wild Child reminds me so much of Suzi Quattro’s Can the Can! This is no bad thing though and it’s a good fun upbeat track that again showcases the talents of every member of the band, not least the fantastic proggy keyboards.
The rhythm is what catches my attention in Feel Free, with very distinctive drum phrasing very much to the fore, creating an almost jazz-like counterpoint to the rest of the song. It takes a little getting used to but it’s definitely very interesting.
Hunger and Sweat has the most deliciously muddy bass! If you’re a fan of 90s grunge, you will really get the sound of this track, it slurs and slides beautifully and I love the soundscaping at the end. My actual thought about this track was “if Sheryl Crow had a slightly heavier band (and could sing), this is what If It Makes You Happy should sound like” so that probably tells you all you need to know.
Golden Souls is the penultimate track on the album and is also the one which has been chosen as the first single – see the pre-release “lockdown” version of the video for it below! It’s a solid choice for first single as it’s a good gateway song into the rest of the album; quite commercial but still with sparks of the glorious sounds that the other tracks provide – not least the vaguely bagpipe-esque guitar riffs partway through - and I love the “they’re here” voices soundscaped in at the end.
The final track on the album is Summer’s Over and it’s a complete change to the rest of the album. Gone are the heavy guitars and driving rhythms. Instead we have stripped back acoustic sounds accompanying Salem’s glorious voice. This time the vocal harmonies absolutely work to give the song a “round the campfire” feel that evokes smoky smells and sunsets with a group of great friends; the perfect way to end the album.
It may be some time before we can all gather round a campfire like that again. And it will also be some time before we can get our hands on the promised vinyl version of this stunning album, with production delayed because of the lockdown, but I will guarantee you one thing - it will totally be worth the wait.
Image - One Soul Thrust, artwork by Erin Rietze