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Pain Of Salvation - The Perfect Element - Part 1 CD (album) cover


Pain Of Salvation


Progressive Metal

4.23 | 1151 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fair warning: I am not a fan of progressive metal and I haven't heard much that could change my opinion of the genre in the last decade. However, PAIN OF SALVATION comes closer to accomplishing this task than even OPETH, and from a completely different angle (so to speak). Whereas OPETH tickled my interest with a split personality of barren atmospherics and raging blasts of intense grind, Gildenlow & company infuse their songs with a textured emotional heaviness to match the distortion. A POS song won't bludgeon you senseless, but it may wrap its sonics around you and press you inexorably down into the earth.

All metaphors aside, "Perfect Element Part 1" is an intense experience. There's a shaky start; "Used" is an uncomfortable blend of numetal aggresion and a too-poppy chorus that nevertheless almost works. The sputtering distortion on the guitar betrays this band's ties to the post-grunge 90s rather than the usual DREAM THEATER school of 'no loose ends' prog metal, though it seems distressingly out of place on first listen. On the other hand, Gildenlow's voice typically hovers a little closer to the standard Geoff Tate paradigm- but has a versatility and natural quality that QUEENSRYCHE's frontman never quite attained. At times he rants like Mike Patton without the humor, and at (too infequent) other times he squeezes out a gritty, bluesy wail that would put ex- SOUNDGARDEN's Chris Cornell to shame ("King of Loss" has some good examples). The drums are frankly amazing; I don't know how percussion conoisseurs rate Johan Langell, but to me he displays an astonishing energy and barely restrained fury that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up during such workouts as the hectric opener of "Ideoglossia" or the pounding climax of "In the Flesh". They're not just a speedy band, though; between the slow, post-apocalyptic heaviness of songs like"Ashes" and "Song for the Innocent", and smooth melodic sections like the one in "Her Voices" (and, again, "Innocent"), the band proves that they've mastered a sense of dynamics that surpasses the usual 'hard fast part and then slow quiet part' structure of heavy music.

Get the picture yet? This is not a happy fun-time band, or one that is overly eager to have their virtuosity acknowledged...this is a band that expresses dark passion in a unique and effective way. Okay, some of the uniqueness is too incongruous; the spoken word bits stretch the patience a bit (for example, I would have liked "Morning on Earth" considerably more without them) as does the occasional tacked-on element (an industrial drum loop here and there, a dated glossy synth sound like the opener to "Her Voices", a few jazzy flourishes like those in "Dedication"). Still, for every awkward second there is a minute of richly textured intensity. Maybe a little too much intensity- at 75 minutes, you're likely to feel physically and emotionally drained before the final title track is over. I recommend easing yourself into it...nah, forget that. Gulp it all down in one go; you'll get the full benefit of all the smooth transitions and recurring themes, and the potential fatigue is worth the deliciously overwhelming experience.

Bottom line: I urge anyone who appreciates emotional intensity in music to give "Perfect Element Part 1" a try- even those who, like me, usually run from anything called prog metal.

James Lee | 4/5 |


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