Letís get right into it, I am a massive PAIN OF SALVATION fan. To me, they are one of the best bands in the Prog scene right now. I have heard their entire discography and am still blown away by each and every album, even after all this time. Of course, I would say their crowning achievement would have to be "The Perfect Element", to me, this is the album to beat. Two years ago, we saw the release of "BE" which was a whole new PAIN OF SALVATION. "BE" combined highly-symphonic sounds with folky melodies, Gospel rythms and was a total genre bender which caught fans completely off guard. Nobody really imagined that album to sound the way it did and most fans were disappointed with it because it wasnít really Metal, although I still think itís amazing.
So now, fresh off the press is POSís highly anticipated new album, "Scarsick", and needless to say the expectations are through the roof with this, POS has a lot riding on this album. Most fans were begging for a "Perfect Element PT 2" which they will not get. Basically, the new album is a total disappointment. The album fails in many areas that POS were clearly trying to expand on and the whole album is a mixed bag. Thatís not to say this album isnít good, itís alright, itís just far from what the fans expected.
The sound is a "back to the basics" album as described by InsideOut and is far more band oriented than "BE" was. We find much of the dark sounds and themes explored on the previous albums with a much rawer tone. We also get just a hint of what we found on "BE" to top it all off. We also get the POS experiments and total originality but something is just off. It doesnít sound nearly as powerful as it should and a lot of the ideas explored are poorly implemented.
The album is, once again, a concept album. Basically, itís about a modern, industrialized world (our world) and somebody rising against it. This is by far the weakest story ever told by the band and seems like more of an excuse for Daniel to go on a massive bitch-fest and whine about everything from the media to using the elevator instead of the stairs. Thatís the feeling I get when listening to this album. Iím not pulled into the story but rather get the feeling that Iím listening to Daniel complain for over 50 minutes about whatís wrong with the world. Not only that, but you must admit that all of POSís albums have a certain pretentiousness to them. This must be the most pretentious of them all because I really canít help but get the "Iím better than you vibe" on this album and it certainly brought the band down a peg in my book. Thereís one spoken word part in "Kingdom Of Loss" where it features Daniel telling us how we should live. Letís not forget the song "America" which is a mockery of one of Neal Diamondís songs that trashes America for 4 minutes. Get over yourself guys. I have always accepted POSís lingering pretentiousness in other albums but this one just pisses me off.
The lyrics are already setting most fans off with Christian undertones, arrogant delivery and ham-fisted "Donít you get it?" mumbo jumbo. Lyrically, "Scarsick" finds POS at their worst and comes off as a lecture and "preacher to the choir" to me. Theyíre very blunt and to the point as well, not like the old lyrics that would actually have double meaning and make the listener really think. These lyrics are presented right to you and offer no depth, I didnít like that at all. Also, Iíve also witnessed on forums Swedish fans trashing American fans and Americans standing up for themselves. I donít think POS knows the hate "America" inspired in people and the lyrics come off as though they were written by some cocky, arrogant 13 year old trying to make a scene in class because he thinks heís smart. Daniel sort of matches this critique, but heís older than 13. I really thought the band was above these levels of antics, oh well! Itís also a weird coincidence that "America" is their first officially released song from the album. The band really comes off as a bunch of assholes.
The originality is still rampant on this album and I will always have respect for the band because they always have the guts to change their sound and try something completely off the wall, however, on this album they have given birth to their worse track ever. "Disco Queen" is the musical equivalent of having a pineapple shoved up your butt. Imagine Goth, Prog and disco all mixed together and you get what I mean and yes, it is as bad as it sounds. Itís like the band was writing the song when they were suddenly possessed by the BEE GEES. I can appreciate what they were trying to do but that doesnít mean I have to like it. It's sloppy and corny as all Hell. "Scarsick" opens up with its title track right away and gets the ball rolling. Itís the POS we used to know. A hooky riff, some acceptable rap, a powerful chorus and a great ending, it really gets us off to a good start. "Spitfall" is horrible, an all rap track. I believe this is the first track that Daniel ever rapped all the way through on and itís official, Daniel is a horrible rapper. This track should have definitely been cut although the chorus is kinda catchy. Sorry Daniel, I guess you canít do everything.
"Cribcaged" is, in my opinion, the best song on the album by far. It starts with a slow, touching melody and builds into so much more, I also love the lyrics on this track. It slowly builds itself into a very strong sound and sends chills down my spine...although near the end it gets a bit distasteful with Daniel going on a literal "fuck this, fuck that" rant for about 2 minutes which seems a little out of place for a band as classy as POS, but I still like it. "America" is alright although I guarantee POS is gonna lose a bit of their American fan-base for this one. "Kingdom Of Loss" is unmemorable and goes nowhere, very boring song. "Mrs. Modern Mary" is a bit of a playful jazzy track a la SPOCKíS BEARD and serves as nothing more than background music, I find it too soft to really leave an impression. "Idiocracy" is horrible, the song goes absolutely nowhere during its entire duration. "Flame To The Moth" is very good, with Hardcore vibes going around. Danielís a good shrieker and the song serves as a massive eye-opener. This is the powerful POS we all know right here. All the elements are here. Finally, "Enter Rain" is POSís worse closer to an album, although itís decent, it just doesnít even come close to comparing to the likes of "King Of The Ruins" or "The Perfect Element." It doesn't really have a hard-hitting moment and just...ends.
The band should also think about changing their name from PAIN OF SALVATION to "The Daniel Gildenlow Experience" because the whole album centers around him and his singing which isnít a bad thing, heís an amazing singer, but for an album thatís supposedly more "band oriented" itís surprisingly shallow. Thereís isnít a single instrumental on the album and barely any soloís of any kind. Daniel sings nearly every single second on this album so anyone who just wants him to shut up and listen to some of the melodies or technicality may have a hard time.
Speaking of Daniel, he gives his worse performance on this disc. For the record, I find his best performance of all time was "King Of The Ruins" and nothing on this album even comes close. The rapping is horrible and Daniel doesnít aim for those really incredible high-notes we know he can hit, I canít recall a single moment where he went for one of those strong notes and made me go "wow" like on every other album before this.
It was just poor song-writing. Through the whole album, I just kept getting the feeling that something wasnít right. It just doesnít "feel" like it should feel and far from as thought-provoking or as powerful as it should have been. This will forever go down as POSís worst album, at least in my book, and Iím sure in most other fans. Of course, despite the review, if youíre a POS fan youíre gonna go out and listen to the album anyways and I canít blame you, but I guarantee that most fans will at the very least be disappointed with the album. The album comes out as listenable but forgettable and over-shadowed by the other albums. ďScarsickĒ does more wrong than it does right and like I said before, I can appreciate the album for trying different sounds and giving us a new album full of freshness every time and I can respect them for that, that doesnít mean I have to like it though. Also, I suggest they pull that pole outta their butts and take some air out of their heads, they need to get back down to earth.
(Online January 24, 2007)