Issue 2010-029: Pain Of Salvation - Road Salt One - Round Table Review
Round Table Review
Tracklist: No Way (5:28), She Likes To Hide (2:57), Sisters (6:15), Of Dust (2:32), Tell Me You Don’t Know (2:42), Sleeping Under The Stars (3:35), Darkness Of Mine (4:17), Linoleum (4:55), Curiosity (3:33), Where It Hurts (4:51), Road Salt (3:00), Innocence (7:15)
John O'Boyle's Review
There are a few bands around that I like to listen to everything that they record, Pain of Salvation are one of those bands, along with Dream Theater, The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard and all the solo and side projects they are involved with, which strangely enough usually involves members of the previously mentioned bands, how strange. It can also involve having deep pockets. I know I know sad but true. What I like is their intelligent and structured approach, being able to construct intricate songs of epic proportions and also never recording the same album twice. This is really important and is what makes prog really special.
So, people of the world it’s time to celebrate! Pain of Salvation has just unleashed a new album Road Salt One, which is part one of a two part concept album. The album has a very unique but retro approach in sound and style. The album was recorded by Daniel Gildenlöw (vocals, guitar), Johan Hallgren (guitar, vocals), Leo Magarit (drums, vocals), Fredrik Hermansson (keyboards, vocals), and what an album it is. Like previous Pain of Salvation albums this is a real grower, make no mistake this is a very strong album which basically is the equivalent of an emotional train wreck in both its powerful approach and its subject matter. They are a prog metal band that is at the top of the table in their genre.
Let’s look at the history of their reviews from DPRP; One Hour By The Concrete Lake 6 out of 10, The Perfect Element 1 (9+ out of 10), Remedy Lane (8 out of 10), 12:5 (9 out of 10), BE (6 out of 10 to 9 out of 10) depending on the reviewer, Scarsick (7 out of 10 to 8 out of 10) and Linoleum [EP] (6.5 out of 10 and 8.5 out of 10) depending on who’s review you look at also. I haven’t included either of their DVD releases, although they do carry CD versions of the show, but just too quickly say they also score very high. So be under no illusions what we have with Pain of Salvation is band with a strong pedigree and proven track record.
No Way features a unique vocal approach from Daniel Gildenlöw which at times is very emotional. Gildenlöw has a unique and very versatile vocal approach and never disappoints always seeming to hit the mark tonally every time. This song is no exception to that rule even down to his vocals working parallel with the guitar phrasing in places. It has some very interesting piano and guitar work and featuring some fantastic bass playing throughout and as every some very firm and precise drumming.
She Likes To Hide slowly starts driving along with a bluesy feel that could have come from the Scarsick recordings. The song could fit right along side most of the tracks on that album. The guitar playing has a wonderful vibrato pitch; the supporting cast play somewhat understatedly, which melds the whole piece together very well.
Sisters is a chilling and haunting ballad, painful in approach which is governed by some rather atmospheric piano and keyboard work by Hermansson. The vocals work in tandem with the bass line, setting the metre of the song. This is classic Pain of Salvation with Gildenlöw’s wailing vocals.
Of Dust takes a ballad approach and more so than on Sisters. It is a much layered track with a lot going on, spoken word not as profound as on BE but the same approach, layered vocals and some much understated keyboard playing giving it an almost death march feel. This is a very powerful and emotional track, a very heartfelt approach vocally. I just love the ambience of this song. This is Gildenlöw at his best vocally for my money. “Come break my bones, come spread my ashes....” Lyrically this comes across as being very reflective in thought.
Tell Me You Don’t Know has a blues feel guitar phrasing. The vocals build as the other members start to participate involving some nice lead and rhythm work, being straight forward in approach and is probably the least stand out track. Which due to the really high standard of all twelve tracks present is not a negative?
Sleeping Under The Stars sounds like a carny’s song with its carnival keyboard sound. The way the song has been built has the Alice Cooper by numbers Welcome To My Nightmare era approach. It is the most unusual track on the album and quite frankly it’s probably the weirdest song they have recorded, in my opinion. The vocal approach is very much what you would expect with a hint of quirkiness thrown in for good measure, calculated and cleverly thought out, which all in all makes the song very effective instilling character. I just love this song.
Darkness Of Mine is dark and brooding in approach and a very fitting follow on from Sleeping Under The Stars. It starts slowly undulating in tone and speed, never trying to break speed records in approach but atmospherically, which heightens the whole aural experience.
Linoleum which was the title track off the same named EP, which was released in 2009. This could again have been from the same sessions of Scarsick, having riffing powerful guitars, Hammond organ passages and some subtle Fender Rhodes work supplied by Hermansson. Initially when I first heard this track I though that the plot had been lost by all involved. Further rotation allayed those fears as this is a real grower of a track, even with the inclusion of Gildenlöw’s growly approached vocals which is negated by some very poetic phased vocal work too. This is a very aggressive song about loss of control, and has been fully supported by the band to make sure that this feeling is confirmed to the listener.
Curiosity starts off slowly before quickly taking the Foo Fighters approach in song writing style, wordy and then taking an anthem chorus vocal approach, which will soon have you singing along, being the most commercial feeling track on the album. It is a much layered track vocally which has been used by Pain of Salvation before. Magarit’s drumming can be heard all over this track never letting up on either pace or power.
Where It Hurts slows the whole show down having the same feel as Sleeping Under The Stars. What I mean by this is that it again could come from the same Alice Cooper era Welcome To My Nightmare, with its approach, almost a Years Ago / Steven pairing. It’s this sort of subtly throughout the whole album that really ties it altogether as a conceptual piece barring the subject matter of course.
Road Salt sees the band taking the ballad approach again, with the beautiful sound of some very exquisite keyboard work which will have you captivated. The vocal work takes a back seat on initial listening such is the melody being played. Once you put the pair together WOW, beautiful. They compliment each other perfectly.
Innocence is the closing and longest track on the album which really drops into retro mode the most for me. The structure of the song with all the interactions is complex but very effectual. It has an Eastern feel to the sound, it’s not an easy listen, but whilst you listen you will be saying to yourself, “did I just hear?” This is has the Pain of Salvation mark of quality stamped all over it. This is what they do the best, challenge the listener, provoke re-action but most importantly craft excellent songs.
In the press blurb Gildenlöw commented:
“Road Salt One is twelve tracks of sweaty gravel, asphalt butterflies. Un-trodden paths, and brave decisions. It will not beg for your liking, it will not make excuses; it will not carry you safely across the dangerous waters. If you don't pick up its pace it will leave you stranded at the curb of the road. Yes, Road Salt One might indeed be a harsh lover, but if you have the guts to follow it whole-heartedly and dare to surrender to its voice, it will take you places you need to visit.”
This is an album that is just filled with Pain of Salvation's trademarks which if you are prepared to take the journey and travel the road you will be richly rewarded. Yes it is retro in sound in places, (but doesn’t lose any of the modern feel either), this doesn’t make it a bad thing. How many of you go back to the old classic albums (retro sounding), wishing that they still sounded like that recorded? Exactly!
This is certainly a grower of an album. The more you listen the more you will hear the more you will love this album. As with Scarsick for me, the first time I heard it I was unimpressed, which has been the case with some of their previous recordings, (Scarsick is on my Desert Island Disc list, if proof was needed), it’s like a good book or bottle of wine, it takes time for it to mature, adjusting your palette, to work your way through it, understanding what has being created, only then will you realize that this is a classic. This is where the reward is my friends.
There will be those like myself that will buy this album come hell or high water, those that will consider buying it and then those that will avoid? What ever group you fall into, you will be richly rewarded by spending your hard earned cash on this. From the opening line, “There is no way that you can love her like I do?” I wouldn’t be too sure about that Mr. Gildenlöw. I shall carry on down the road as I can’t wait to see this live and hear Part 2…
Dave Baird's Review
Introduction: After the very patchy Scarsick PoS follow-up their Linoleum EP from the end of last year with a full CD's worth of bluesy retro-prog
I was quite enthusiastic in my review of the Linoleum EP and stated "I've grown to love it very much in the last week and I'm really hungry to hear more". Well that time has come, but do I find my appetite sated? No, I'm afraid not! Now why this is the case it perhaps not that obvious, on the face of it Road Salt One shares much with it's predecessor: tinny production, grungy overdriven guitars, classic keyboards - mostly piano, Hammond, Fender Rhodes and a touch of Mellotron, and on top of this of course Daniel's dynamic vocals and thought-provoking lyrics. Positively, the only track which is repeated from the EP is the title-track Linoleum, which I liked very much back then, but sounds a bit tired here, probably because it's exactly the same, no different mix, structure or anything - now that's a missed opportunity as far as I'm concerned and a shame for all those that did buy the EP. I think there's also a certain element that the new direction on the EP was such a shock as to be refreshing, that's missing for me this time, but obviously for those that didn't buy the EP it will sound quite arresting. That's still not the whole story as Pain of Salvation have added a new feel on several tracks here, particularly the wonderful Sisters and their superb Swedish Eurovision entry Road Salt. Both of these tracks are quite slow and mellow, the second being very bare-bones being almost exclusively sparse Fender-Rhodes and solo voice, in fact a tremendous vocal performance (and interestingly the production is quite different, far more modern and it sounds deeply lush and rich). Sisters is much fuller with full band backing and strings on top, but once again it's the soaring, passionate vocals that grab you by the balls and don't let go, even after forty listens I find this track not only astonishing, but with an incredibly catchy melody that I can't stop whistling throughout the day. It's interesting that both of these tracks are pretty much opposite of the style that made PoS popular, namely prog-metal, they are anything but. As it was I found myself analysing a little what it is about Pain of Salvation that I like so much.
Darkness Of Mine and Where It Hurts have quite some laid-back moments mixed with pacier riffy sections, but can be considered predominantly moody and melancholy, the latter most certainly so with it's bitter-sweet Fender-Rhodes and vocal theatrics. The longest track on the album and the closer, Innocence, starts with a uninspiring riff, but evolves into a much more interesting piece which by any measure, is quite a classic sounding Pain of Salvation track, could have come off a number of their previous releases were it not for the production. Again it's characterised by a strong vocal performance and those delicious dark moods and a lot of textural changes. So that's all my big positives, I think that's five of the twelve tracks (we didn't receive the bonus track with our review MP3's). What's left... Of Dust has a real Be vibe to it, sounding a lot like Nauticus (Drifting), starts well but the monologue section, although poetic, is tiresome after a few listenings. Tell Me You Don't Know is the low-point of the album for me, it's too retro and generic, could be any number of bands from the early 70's, fair to say that I'm not a blues fan either... Seems to be all Pain of Salvation albums need to have a "funny" track these days and Sleeping Under The Stars does the job here. Again lyrically it's very relevant, and cleverly constructed, the music itself is also clever and well-played, imaging a cross between a Bavarian "oohm-pah" band and a Greek/Crotatian bouzouki orchestra and you're there or there-abouts. It's fun to listen to, a bit of an interlude if you like, time will tell if it becomes a track to skip. Curiosity is also too generic and although Daniel appears to be singing about the different perception of love/sex comparing men and women he's perhaps too blatant in his approach - yes it's very clever, but, well, boring and irksome after a couple of plays.
Although there are at least a couple of really superb tracks here (Sisters, Road Salt), the album is missing the killer-track. Looking back to the EP we have Gone, which is to my mind the best piece they've done since Remedy Lane and WILL be one thing to look forward on Road Salt Two. One again this track is melancholy and moody, with Daniel performing vocal acrobatics and high theatrics; all mixed with a great lyric. And this seems the key, lyrical content, texture, originality, dark melody, themes of despair, hurt, loss, betrayal... This makes for the best Pain of Salvation. I really wanted to like this album, but all this generic bluesy stuff doesn't float my boat at all, and the in-your-face lyrics don't do Daniel justice, even belittle the listener. No-doubt there's quite a lot of people who totally disagree with this, but hey, despite all our attempts to be subjective, in the end it's just my personal opinion.
Conclusion, tricky one to score, so I rated each track individually and took the average which came to 6.75 out of 10 (can I do that? - Errr no!)
Tom De Val's Review
If there was ever a band that was content to plough their own furrow, its Pain of Salvation and in particular their leader, Daniel Gildenlöw. Whilst many of the band’s fans would doubtless like them to churn out facsimiles of The Perfect Element Part 1 or Remedy Lane ad finitum, that’s not Gildenlöw’s way. Following the overblown conceptual album Be and the stylistically all-over-the-place Scarsick, its no real surprise that Road Salt One once again heads into different musical territories, although there are nods to the past that long time fans will notice and appreciate – if they’re still along for the ride, that is. In the typically ebullient (and rather pretentious) press release for the new album, it is claimed
"It will not beg for your liking, it will not make excuses, it will not carry you safely across the dangerous waters"
No easy ride then, but then I doubt many fans were really expecting a return to the comfort zone. The real question is, of course, whether it’s any good, to which my answer would have to be ‘some is … and some isn’t’.
The opener No Way introduces some of the key elements of the current PoS sound – a re-invention based around grandiose, seventies-style hard rock, with bluesy guitar licks, boogie-woogie piano and Gildenlöw’s emotional, here at times almost histrionic vocals high in the rather raw, back-to-basics mix. The more balladic main verses are well handled, but the would-be big build up to the song’s climax is rather stilted, and the indulgent, drum-solo heavy ending is less than satisfactory.
She Likes To Hide continues the bluesy angle, a slow shuffle with some soulful, gospel tinged vocals on the chorus. This is OK, but goes nowhere fast and feels like filler. Thank goodness for Sisters then, hands down the albums best track and the one song on the album I’d put on a ‘best of’ compilation. Based around a haunting, melancholic piano lead melody, this sounds (unlike many of the songs here) fully developed and is well structured, with a sense of impetus and plenty of dramatic moments. Gildenlöw’s voice is at its best here, at once fragile yet charismatic. The massed choir-like vocal effects used in the second half of the song are highly effective. I only wish the production was a little fuller and beefier, as the loose, rambling sound mix doesn’t allow the band to land the punches that they would normally (although I’m sure that will be rectified in a live setting).
Back down to earth with a bump for the rather tedious Of Dust, which mines the same sort of American deep south slave song vibe as was last heard on parts of BE. The vocals are admittedly impressive but that’s about it really. Tell Me You Don’t Know is a simplistic piece of blues boogie which seemingly tries to go for the spirit of Exile In Main Street-era Rolling Stones, but doesn’t really get close.
Again, just as you start to think Gildenlöw is losing the plot he comes up with the inspired Sleeping Under The Stars, an unusual song that can best be described as a sort of polka-cum-waltz wrapped in a carnival atmosphere; it has a very surreal, otherworldly feel to it. Undoubtedly a bit of an oddity, but its imaginative and the oft-kilter feel works in its favour.
Next up, Darkness Is Mine does as its name suggests have a bleak feel to it; it’s a slow burning track which has the first real example of the trademark churning guitar riffs that used to be so prevalent in PoS material. It has to be said that ultimately this is more of an exercise in showing off Gildenlöw’s versatile vocal skills than a coherent song in its own right. Based on a boisterous hard rock riff, Linoleum has a catchy chorus but again doesn’t really feel that ‘complete’ a track; the mellower mid-section shows promise but ultimately doesn’t go anywhere, just padding the song out.
Curiosity is one of the album’s stronger tracks, with more of a modern rock feel, a sense of excitement and purpose missing in other songs, and one of the best choruses, possibly due to its simplicity - essentially just based around singing the title of the song over a descending scale, with good backing harmonies. Best of all, at three and a half minutes, its concise and doesn’t outstay its welcome. In contrast to this rather bubbly tune, Where It Hurts is a rather eerie semi-ballad, with an anguished vocal from Gildenlöw. A big riff is hinted at then appears, but due to the anemic production doesn’t land the blows it should do. From a promising beginning, this is yet another song that ultimately drifts around rather aimlessly.
The title track, a sparse, melancholic ballad, is quite an affecting piece, all the better for remaining stark and stripped back throughout its length. Closing cut Innocence has a good opening riff around which the song is built, but once again loses its way – there are some good ideas here, but they’re not joined together in a compelling way, and my attention was wandering long before its seven odd minutes had played out.
So in conclusion, whilst I commend Gildenlöw for following his own muse rather than pandering to what his fans appear to crave, the results are pretty patchy this time around. There are some strong tracks – Curiosity, Sleeping Under The Stars, Road Salt and especially Sisters – and some of the other songs contain powerful moments, but there’s too much filler here, and no real sense of purpose to many of the songs. Although it came in for quite a bit of criticism, I actually find Scarsick to be a stronger overall album. My reaction to Road Salt One is more along the lines of my one to BE – I can admire the craftsmanship and the ideas, and there are some stand-out tracks, but I’d have to say it’s a bit of a struggle to put the thing on all the way through, and I’ll doubt I’ll be doing that much now this review has been written.
Gert Hulshof's Review
Probably one of the albums, many have been waiting to be released and amongst the waiting crowd was myself. The first new album since Scarsick, although to ease the long wait a bit we have had the pleasure of hearing the EP Linoleum last year. I have also been wondering, will Pain of Salvation continue in the direction set out on Linoleum and will they bring us ’70ties oriented songs on the new album. It is now time to find out the answer. YES they do.
As always, expect the unexpected when you listen to a Pain of Salvation album and Road Salt One is no exception to that rule. As the title implies Road Salt One is supposed to be the first CD in a 2CD series. When listening to Road Salt One the thing that becomes obvious is Pain of Salvation have tried to recreate the beauty of the psychedelic eras of the late Sixties early Seventies. And they have utterly succeeded. If it were for a psyche ballad or a psychedelic rock tune they are all here present in this latest work.
Not so long ago I have reviewed a CD by a Dutch group, Modest Midget, I then called their music retro progressive and this Pain of Salvation album takes that one step further. I have no intention whatsoever to go through all the songs separately, instead I will let you have some overall remarks to the album. The happy listener is treated with songs varying with dark introvert lyrics, to more happy intonation lyrically but never truly joy. All through the album the retro feel stays present, sometimes with familiar sounding tunes like Sleeping Under The Stars, which reminds me of a certain Doors song. Even the way the vocals are have Jim Morrison written all over them. True you need the right sound in the instrumentation to recreate the overall atmospheres in all songs.
Progressive in the case of Pain of Salvation is entangled in their way of approaching music throughout their career as a band. Never have they produced an album that sounded the same or was even close to. The band have always tried to give us something new with each new album and I can only conclude that success is complete again here with a new approach. This time however they decided to do a 2nd CD... What can we expect next? For now though we have a terrific album with superbly created songs, brought to our homes by an outstanding ensemble of musicians with an appropriate name.
So far top 5 ranking in my favourite albums of the year and my favourite songs Sisters and Sleeping Under The Stars. Granted Road Salt One takes some time to get used to, but then you’ll love it... or OK hate it. I do not believe there is an in between.