Ladies and Gentlemen, this is my album of 2004. PAIN OF SALVATION has released a masterpiece that will blow your mind just like it tore down the confinements of the Progressive Metal tag. Tore down? More like ground those confinements to dust. PAIN OF SALVATION have never been the typical Progressive Metal band (like those SYMPHONY X/DREAM THEATER wanna-be bands). They’ve always had their style ever since their debut album, “Entropy”, but this one is such a departure from their previous work it’s just shocking.
For starters, the concept is just so layered and deep it’s mind-boggling. As their previous work, this is also a concept album and this time around, there are two stories involved (at least) and somewhat intertwined. The first is about God trying to figure out His origins (to keep things simple, I’ll use He in reference to God for now. I have my own beliefs, but let’s not get into that) and the second is about a wealthy businessman that decides to invest in cryobiosis and then decides to freeze himself until humanity finds the cure for mortality, only to wake up to find out that no one is left alive. Lofty concept and frankly, quite an ambitious one. Thankfully, (and not surprisingly?), PAIN OF SALVATION delivers in this area.
Now, enough introduction, let’s talk about the music on the album. PAIN OF SALVATION, as stated before, has always set out to hone their craft and be unique in the world of Progressive Metal, but the jump from “The Perfect Element” (I have yet to hear “Remedy Lane”) to this is astounding. This is less of an album than it is a musical journey. The music goes through so many different styles, ranging from heavy, odd-timed MESHUGGAH-ish riffing to Celtic to Classical to something that seems to be off of a Broadway musical and amazingly enough it all works musically and within the concept of the album and doesn’t sound pretentious or forced. The music is written in such a way as the intro feels like the beginning of creation and the way the moods of the album change, you can somewhat picture the evolution of the world throughout the entire album, with “Imago” giving you the feeling of a world being born, to “Nihil Morari” being man’s rejection of all things spiritual and opting to just advance technologically, no matter what the consequences are (kinda like these days….). The music is very layered and very subtle, just like typical PAIN OF SALVATION, but infinitely more so on this album. This is an album that is more narrative than anything else and to be able to truly appreciate it, one must listen to all at once, without any distractions and try to just immerse itself in the music.
The songs on the album are a lot more narrative than their previous work, but it works far better within the context of the song. However, the one thing that may turn a lot of people off to this music is the amount of spoken word passages and samples on the album. They are integral to the understanding of the concept of the album, yet after repeated listens, I can understand why some people would be fed up with them. There is the monologue “God” has in “Animae Partus”, a pretty humourous skit before “Dea Pucuniae” and God’s answering machine in “Vocari Dei”, amongst others. To be honest, the album feels more like a movie than an album, (without the visuals) and if you look at it from that point of view, all the various bits and pieces of the album will seem to fit together better. The music on the album is the work of a genius.
Furthermore, this genius, Daniel Gildenlöw, is the best vocalist in Metal today. The range of his emotions is astounding, as he can play the part of anyone, from the peaceful deity in “Imago” to the cocky, arrogant Mr. Money in “Dea Pecuniae” to everything else in between, he portrays the feelings of those characters impeccably. His voice is perfect for whatever mood the song needs to get across.
If you’re going to pick this album up, some advice: Do not make the first place you listen to it be in the car. If your reaction would be anything like mine, chances are you’d just stare at your cd player in disbelief and be overwhelmed and not realize that you should be watching the road. Also, it is a very experimental album. The band tries their hand at writing Celtic influenced music (“Imago”), a slow dirge that is very soulful “Nauticus” and something that feels straight out of a Broadway musical (“Dea Pecunae”, which I love). These are very different from Metal and highly unexpected and may turn you off. One more thing: If you’ve never heard any PAIN OF SALVATION before, this is NOT what you should pick up first.
All things considered, this is THE album of 2004. (Online January 23, 2005)