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Pain Of Salvation - Road Salt One CD (album) cover


Pain Of Salvation


Progressive Metal

3.33 | 528 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars In an increasingly stale genre as Progressive Metal, Pain of Salvation have always stood out as being a bit different to the hordes of Dream Theater clones, and a damn good thing its been as well. Not once in their history has this band released an album that sounds like the one before it, or any album before it for that matter, and so it continues. This attitude of pushing their bounderies, never letting themselves settle into a comfort zone, has provided us with several stunning albums, and I still stand by my proclamation that The Perfect Element Part 1 is the best album of all time, but it has seen them push things too far at times, where their experiments have not worked as well for as many fans as others have. Infact, its fair to say that the two preceeding albums both can be said to have pushed things too far. BE is probably the most ambitious album, in its scope, to have been recorded since, well, maybe The Lamb... and you'll find as many fans that say its attempt to unify the concept behind it has led to the concept getting in the way of the music as will tell you its a triumph of modern prog, showing that there are no bounderies that a bit of skill and imagination can not cross. In a way they're both right. Then there's Scarsick with its brazen, hard hitting anti social story that attacked all of modern society with little grace but a lot of energy.

And so now, three years after Scarsick first impacted, we are here at the bands seventh studio album, Road Salt One. As I noted in my review of Linoleum, it should actually have been only two years between releases but the financial problems of record label InsideOut (thanks to owners SPV collapsing) led to the long wait before Century Media and EMI came to the rescue and the fact that Road Salt has been split from a double album to two sperate releases (Pt Two should be out early in 2011). The EP Linoleum gave us a hint at what was to come, but even I, a long time fan of Pain of Salvation, was caught by surprise at just how different Road Salt One is to all preceeding PoS albums. The '70's hard rock/metal sound/vibe that was introduced on Linoleum remains but where as the EP was still undeniably a metal album, though now with a very unique sound to it, the metal element seems to be all but gone from their music. The only thing more surprising than this is how badly some people seem to have reacted to it.

I must admit, when I first heard the album (the Ltd Edition version, naturally, I havn't heard the standerd one) I was a bit disappointed with it. It wasnt a bad album by any stretch of the imagination for me, but it was a long way from my expectations of powerful, thought provoking lyrics and music, the lynchpins of PoS's music, regardles of how different each album is. Though all the songs were good, only the closer Innocent really grabed me first time out, infact it almost seemed like an album of ballads! This seems to have come about by the fact that this is the first PoS album to not have a central concept linking all the songs together, though lyrically they all contain similar themes of love, lust, self doubt and introspection, and the music itself has much more improvised feel to it rather than the carefully composed and arranged pieces that previously made up their albums. With that in mind, dont expect to find gripping mini epics here along the lines of People Passing By, Idioglossia, The Perfect Element and Beyond the Pale as the afformentioned Innocence is the closest you get.

But, this album is definitely a grower and with each listen my appreciation for what the Swedish foursome have acomplished here grows. Though the songs have a distinctly more improvised and jammed feel to them, the bands signature use of layering the melodies of the instruments becomes apparent and is far more subtle than on previous albums, best demonstrated on She Likes to Hide, Sisters, Darkness of Mine and Innocence. The compositions themselves prove to be far more complex than on Scarsicks longer but more drawn out songs (where such complexity would have worked against the concept) helped along a great deal by this more subtle use of layering and counterpoint, where one melody is keped in the background away from the main melody, but easy enough to descern when you concentrate just a little bit on what all the instrumnets are doing the result is a far more involving experience for the listener.

Many people have remarked that this album isnt even prog anymore. Respectfully, that is a load of rubbish. The album does feel much more song oriented than before, especially since it is a collection of songs rather than the usual concept album, but each song avoids the boring old verse-chorus-verse format, or only repeats the chorus once before leaving it behind and moving the song on. Mainly though, I think its the attempt to creat a much more intimate feel to the music, an attempt to draw the listener in close and feel appart of it, in a way thats usually reserved for singer/songwriters, thats got people confused along with the much shorter than normal song lengths (3-5 minutes for most, similar to One Hour By the Concrete Lake) and not just the complet abandonment of metal, with Linoleum being the (the only track brought over from the EP) main exception, but an embracing of a much more low key style. They're just not out to rock in the way that they used to.

Lyrically Daniel Gildenlow is on some of his best form, tackling the subject matter of ones own insecureties with all the gusto and capability as Fish in is prime with Marillion, that other great theatrical singer who took on such themes in a similar way. Gildenow performs the vocals with the usual dexterity and dynamic that has made him one of the most distinctive and talented singers of the last 15 years, though for the majority of the album his voice takes on a more gruff or slightly strained sounding timbre, or a soft and almost delicate approach depending on the requirments of the song as aposed to the usually more smooth delivery.

The skill that the band plays its instruments is its usual high caliber but I'll single out drummer Leo Margarit and keyboard player Fredrick Hermansson for special praise. Margarit is the newest member of the band having replaced the retireing Johan Langel and I've got to say, he may even be an improvment. His style seems a little more fluid than Langels and fits perfectly into the overall feel of the album, proving that he was a very good choice to take over the stool. Hermansson is now the only other member of PoS, along with Gildenlow, that has been on all the bands albums, but surprisingly its here on Road Salt One that he seems to take a leading role for many of the songs with the title track being a particular hilight for him. Bass continues to be a problem for this group as once again Gildenlow has to take up that instrument, as well as his own guitar and vocal duties, since Simon Andersson left before recording of this album began. Maybe thats got something to do with the whole sound of the album because the very distinctive 70's sound to the bass is completely unique in the new millenium.

Overall this has grown into one of my favourite albums of 2010, and would probably have remained that way even if the year had had a much stronger collection of albums released (not the best of years in my opinion), but it still falls short of the first four albums they released. The opening two tracks, What She Means to Me and No Way, dont do much for me with the former being a Queen like four way vocal harmony and the latter a rather chauvanistic piece that only really offers much of interest towards the end of the song. The rest of the album is all very good with Sisters, Sleeping Under the Stars, Darkness of Mine, Road Salt and Innocence being the best tracks but the problem is that I could only really compare Innocence to the best tracks of the bands first five albums, where as previously there would always be three or four tracks that would reach that level, maybe even more. A good, strong album that explores a more introspective and intimate side of the band whilst pushing them on musically to yet more new pastures and is a definite improvment over Scarsick but doesnt quite match past greatness. The new direction is so different to what the band made its name on that they may loose a few old fans, but should also find themselves appealing to many more that wouldnt have got much out of their metal past. Well worth a listen either way, I just cant wait for Road Salt Two now.

sleeper | 4/5 |


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