ISSUE 2014-465

Round Table Review
Pain of Salvation - Falling Home
Pain Of Salvation - Falling Home
Country of Origin: Sweden
Format: CD
Record Label: Inside Out
Catalogue #: 0IO01353
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 48:42
Info: Pain Of Salvation
Samples: Falling Home on Amazon
Track List:
Stress (5:32), Linoleum (4:57), To the Shoreline (3:05), Holy Diver (4:34), 1979 (2:50), Chain Sling (4:07) Perfect Day (4:51) Mrs. Modern Mother Mary (4:23) Flame to the Moth (4:30), Spitfall (6:42), Falling Home (3:05)
Eric Perry's Review
Re-imagining your own music or classics from others does take some balls, especially if you are determined to remake a well-known tune or a fan favourite and turn it into something else. Just ask Peter Gabriel on how that one can work out. His take of Radiohead's Street Spirit on Scratch My Back was considered so bad it has been widely seen as one of his worst ever efforts, and Radiohead appeared to agree with that viewpoint, especially when they openly snubbed a return option to cover one of his songs on the follow up. So it is very likely that the rock fan of old who has some very protective fondness for one of the greatest rock singers of all time, Ronnie James Dio, would be viewing with some scepticism Pain of Salvation's radical interpretation of Holy Diver on their new release, Falling Home. Abandoning the straight-ahead classic rock tone of the original, PoS has chosen to take some risks with a sharp, jazz/reggae-infused cover which surprises in its loose, clean, soft patter. It's all cleverly blended half way through with a shift into an obvious nod towards Stevie Wonder's Master Blaster, who in turn was making his own re-imagined dedication to Bob Marley's Jammin'. Daniel Gildenlöw gives a stand out ('Wonder') vocal on this track, twisting the delivery behind the lyrics into something more diverse and alternative than Dio's original fantasy bombast. It's certain to have its detractors and die-hard fans may struggle to like it, but in truth a cover version ought to say something new, and that has been the case on this record with this track. In contrast though, the second of the two covers on Falling Home does plod along rather limply compared to Holy Diver. A rather plainly delivered version of Lou Reed's Perfect Day has very little to say in truth and offers nothing new over the countless times it has been presented in the past. Not helped by the over-familiarity the song brings with it, there seems little intention from PoS to give us anything more than a faithful, but flat rendition, which is beautifully sung and performed but actually is nothing more than a bit of polished filler. Fortunately there are enough re-worked gems on this release to ensure it is well worth a look past this one.

The rest of the new album is comprised of acoustic repeats of the PoS catalogue with the exception of the title track which is a new addition. Starting frantically with the opener, Stress, there is a clear intention to strip back some of the harder edged intensity from the earlier offering. Whilst keeping true to the original Entropia design, it offers a more soulful, somewhat playfully jazzy slice of smoothness. More of the same soul is present in Linoleum noticeably in the less aggressive, "Suddenly she is down on all fours," line which conveys an even deeper sadness from the 2009 release.

The beautifully delicate 1979, is one of a couple of numbers on this release that features a much lesser makeover than others and its original structure easily translates to the streamline song collection here. Subtle as its changes seem from Be, the transformation towards a more fitting 70s vibe, via a vintage key sound, lifts this track above its earlier incarnation with a powerful, warming melancholy. Chain Sling from the 2002 Remedy Lane album on the other hand barely seems to deviate in the 2014 conversion, and even less so from the live 12:5 release, but the vocal delivery on this song is worth experiencing by fans old and new nonetheless.

To the Shoreline seems even less of a transformed step from the Road Salt 2 original and with the context of this being their only new output since the 2011 release, fans may start to come away from this material feeling a little short-changed. Fortunately a low down Spitfall works well in capturing the essence of what makes the album work well at its core. Still bearing the drama and intense rap delivery from the Scarsick original, it works in this format more so than the heavier version, building to a breath-taking conclusion around the six minute mark.

The close of the album sees Falling Home slip neatly alongside the older songs and hints at the style of what a complete album of new acoustic material would be like. Even more minimal than the rest of tracks before it, the solitary guitar and vocal layering is perhaps the most moving segment of the album and disappoints only in that it is the first and last new original material for a while from the band.

Regardless of this, the negatives far outweighed the positives and Gildenlöw and Co have produced a highly sophisticated, essential release of old and new. This packs a punch and is loaded with surprises. If they had pushed the boundaries just a little more in places it would have been something even more spectacular throughout. Despite this fact however, Falling Home is a superb addition to the PoS catalogue that is highly recommended, not least for bringing reggae to Dio!
Karel Witte's Review
Ah, a new Pain of Salvation release! When I first heard they were releasing a new one, I thought it was going to be an all-new studio album. Instead, what we're getting with Falling Home are acoustic re-interpretations of old material, although the disc closes with a newly written song that bears the title of the album.

Having long been on Inside Out's roster, this band was always unique in a really strange way. In progressive metal circles they were referred to as a very difficult band to get into. But once you could get into them, you would be sold. And it did happen to me eventually with 2002's epic Remedy Lane.

But indeed, Daniel Gildenlöw's virtuosic, extremely emotional delivery can get too over the top for some listeners. Adding to that, almost every album the band has released is a concept album that deals with heavy topics like childhood abuse or the origin of mankind. Still, because of their musical finesse and the narrative depth, the band pulled off these ambitious projects better than most.

However, all of their albums up and until 2007's Scarsick were firmly rooted in their interpretation of progressive metal, no matter how weird or convoluted things got. Fans were mostly able to grasp what the band was trying to say with its music, because everything always felt like it took place in the same 'world' that the band had created.

That kind of changed with the band's albums Road Salt parts one and two. Here, the band's line up had changed radically and the music and production had shifted into 70s realms, partly abandoning the 80s/90s flavoured progressive metal they were so beloved for. But even with such a bold move, there were some gems on those albums that at least reminded the listener that this was still the same band.

Seeing that bandleader Daniel Gildenlöw has been battling serious illness the last couple of years, it's been pretty quiet around the band for a while. But now they return with Falling Home.

This being an acoustic album, the obvious point of reference would be 2004's 12:5, an acoustic live album. Falling Home differs from that one mainly because of the fact that this time around, it's recorded entirely in the studio.

Let me start by saying that the production is glorious. There's warmth and richness in the acoustic guitars, the drums sound very detailed and 'real', and the bass guitar has a sweet low end to it. Daniel's voice is mostly very upfront, while the harmony vocals are mixed carefully around them.

This all makes for a very intimate sounding album. Sonically, regardless of musical style, this album just has to be their best sounding yet. That's one little problem almost all of their albums had: the production always suffered a bit from tinny drum sounds and thin guitars, even on classics like The Perfect Element.

On Falling Home, the band has created a production that the music deserves. It is warm, it's open, and it has a very gentle mastering job. I hope their next album - even if it's heavy - takes cues from this production.

Just looking at the track list, it's quite a weird batch of songs. Apart from Road Salt material, there are deep cuts from their progressive metal era, two cover songs and a surprising amount of songs from Scarsick, their most nu-metal flavoured record. Results vary throughout.

Opener Stress starts with an organ quoting Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song. We hear vaudeville, 50s rock 'n roll, prog, blues and funk; all in one song. It does get silly here and there, but the competence of every band member eventually makes it work.

Road Salt songs Linoleum, To The Shoreline and 1979 stay a bit closer to the originals and are a bit easier to listen to because of it. Linoleum particularly stands out because of its differing vocal arrangement and deep bass groove.

Dio's Holy Diver gets played with a jazzy croon. It's funny, but is it a tasteful thing to do with a Dio song? In the middle, the band suddenly launches into Stevie Wonder's Master Blaster, followed by a joyful jazz guitar solo. The grooves and pure jazz-isms the band plays with here are very far removed from a progressive metal band, but they do an outstanding job. But aside from this exciting passage, this take on Holy Diver sounds too silly for its own good.

Perfect Day (originally by Lou Reed) is very different in tone, and the band give a very 'serious' rendition of it. With nobody over-playing, it's actually quite beautiful. Pain of Salvation's version doesn't add all that much to the song, although they treat the song with respect.

The Scarsick songs in the latter half of the album are perhaps a bit more interesting. Mrs. Modern Mother Mary's new version discards the many embellishments of the original, causing the song that was buried underneath to shine. Excellent choice.

Flame to the Moth always had a bit of a Spanish feel to the melodies, but here the band goes all-out flamenco on the song. It still sounds as powerful as the original, even without the nu-metal attack of low-tuned distortion and screaming. Spitfall is the most remarkable in terms of song choice and execution. Originally a very angry rap metal-like track, here Daniel almost reads the lyrics like a poem. Still, even in the new version, lyrics like 'When you're rapping your shit, y'all' remain a bit silly.

The new song Falling Home features some passionate vocals by Daniel, but as a whole it's a slightly uninteresting country song. New recruit Ragnar Zolberg takes the high melody quite a lot, making it sound like an entirely different band. He's excellent on backing vocals throughout the album, but here is where I feel the band has to be careful not to get into The Kelly Family territory.

Falling Home sees the band looking back at their career, while keeping an eye on the future. For older fans of the band, it is to be hoped that the future won't sound like the title track of this album.

However, the rearrangements of older tracks are mostly very tasteful. The drums groove, the bass is steady but adventurous, there's loads of great organ and Rhodes throughout, and vocally the band sounds as good as ever. Musically, all the chops are there. Is this acoustic album something fans were waiting for? Not really probably. Is it good? Quite so.

Whatever comes next, I don't know. But it's good to see Pain of Salvation alive again. Hopefully this will be the foreshadowing of a new album filled with good new compositions.
Peter Funke's Review
Pleasure and Pain - one of the perfect headlines for our review working for this wonderful site. Sometimes it really is a pleasure listening intensive multiple times to another record, to catch up the mood and ideas and and everything behind the first impression. And sometimes it is pain.

Pain of Salvation was completely out of my sight, for reasons I actually don't know. As most of the songs on this new album are reworked material, we thought that having PoS newbie on board would be a good idea. So, is this album just a pleasure for the fan base or something attractive for new listeners?

The initial idea behind this record was to record classic tracks in the setting of an acoustic live show. They did it, but it did not work. For technical reasons and maybe musical reasons as well, the surprise offer to play an acoustic show in Germany back in 2012 was probably too unexpected.

So PoS decided to transfer this idea into the studio. They rearranged the tracks for the acoustic setting and recorded it "live".

As everybody can imagine, the work turned out to be as intensive as recording new material and so the plan of bringing a quick release between the next "real" album soon disappeared.

Mastermind Daniel Gildenlöw explained: "We thought this album would be a walk in the park, but it turns out that nothing about PoS will ever be that way. Uphill is sort of our default way of traveling."

My first hint is that nobody has to be anxious about the word "acoustic". This excessively-used word might be good for selling reasons, but of course we don't have here just a campfire singalong.

Real drums and bass, upright bass as well, piano and organ and of course the two acoustic guitars are the instrumental setting for this record, accompanied by lots of vocals. Although not mentioned, here and there we have some e-guitar. In the end we could better call this an album of "revisited" or "reworked" material.

As written above, I will have to judge the output not by comparing the old/new versions. I have looked at how the music stands by itself, as this is new music for me and I am sure, I am not alone.

A little bit funny by the way was the coding of the files we've got: music style = metal. Revisited acoustic metal? A new sub-sub-subgenre? That's why I like music. There are always so many funny things to discover.

The main mood of the 11 track and nearly 50-minute portion of music is positive and quite relaxed. Definitely not heavy metal. More heavy nylon.

We are served with beautiful harmonies, nice hook lines and charming vocals, often in a polyphonic way. Of course it is a big help for any band doing such an album, if you can search through a 17-year history for the tracks that would work out best.

But as if PoS wanted to prove the opposite, they include three new songs - two covers and one of their own.

So let's have a quick run through the tracks.

Track one: Stress shows us an up tempo intro with dominating bass and a little scatty vocal section, which reminds you quickly of the one and only Gentle Giant. A few quick changes underline the song title, changes in the instrumentation, singing and musical breaks. A very interesting track which includes a lot of ideas.

Track two: Linoleum starts quiet and very relaxed. Vocals from the background arise and are leading in a beautiful refrain with a killer harmony. Right in the middle we hear a short explosion, which instantly calms down to pick up the main theme again. On the first approach you may think it is an "easy" song, but it's not. So the first ten minutes are already very entertaining.

Track three: To The Shoreline speeds up a bit and has more the attitude of a normal rock song. Repeating the refrain in the end, a third up is not my favorite style - this is used too often when bands don't know how to finish a song. Schlager-Style.

Track four: Holy Diver from Dio comes in a surprising reggae-like version out of the speakers. The Marley allusion is well prepared and leads into some very fine guitar work accompanied by an organ. The song calms down towards the end with the refrain fading out. Great stuff.

Track five: 1979 sounds like a musical clock in the beginning. This 2:50 short piece offers a fine hook line which is developed out nicely without overworking it. A simple and lovely tune.

Track six: Chain Sling with its acoustic guitar intro takes you a little bit in the wrong direction, as it turns speed and noise on. The difficult rhythm and tricky melody makes it a challenging piece of music. Surely one of the highlights.

Track seven: Perfect Day from Lou Reed is the second cover which proves that the musical idea for this CD works just as well with non-PoS tracks. Slow and groovy; you can imagine this one as an encore in a big stadium with waving lighters. Quite trashy, but it is a very charming song that fits perfectly in here.

Track eight: Mrs. Modern Mother Mary is a mid-tempo song that develops very slowly. The vocals dominate the song which doesn't have any big surprises. All in all it is not convincing me. It is far from annoying but tends to be skipped.

Track nine: Flame to the Moth has quality again. Starting even more Spanish than track number six, you are quickly in the lovely main theme. A polyphone chorus used in the refrain and the up-tempo aggressive part in the middle, are highlighting this track before it ends with a real ending.

Track ten: Spitfall is the longest track with nearly seven minutes on this disc. Acoustic guitar, organ and talking vocals start, and slowly you will recognise this seems to be a rap? Just thinking about that, another beautiful refrain breaks through out of nothing, just to be followed again by the rapping vocals. This is getting louder and more aggressive, just as it has to be. This game is repeated a few times, a very fine combination - that is progressive, is that progrock?

Track eleven: Falling Home is the new track of PoS. A slow, acoustic tune with harmonic polyphone singing. This is indeed a campfire song and a wonderful closing.

Summary.

This Pain is pleasure. Though it is not a progressive rock album in the narrower sense, it has a lot of ideas and surprising elements. The songs are worked out very well, the production is state of the art and the sound is clear. The vocals are enjoyable, and the polyphone sequences are brought to us nearly in perfection. The musical skills are highly developed, and you listen to experienced musicians who know how to play. Of course, due to the conceptional idea, it does not really rock.

There are no lengthy guitar solos or keyboard excursions. All in all it is more a "normal" rock album than anything else. But it is a good one and even progheads will like to listen to it.

The whole album is fun and you can listen to it both ways; with a deep look inside or with a glass of wine to close the day. The way this music is presented, I can recommend it without hesitation to everybody who likes rock music.
Marcel Hartenberg's Review
Pain of Salvation (PoS) has always been a band to follow its own path, venture into pastures unknown and put passion to the fore when writing and performing music. Having already released an acoustic album with 12:5, they are back with another acoustic album, only months since Daniel Gildenlöw's serious bout with a life-threatening bacteria.

It was originally decided to release a recording of the German acoustic tour that took place in 2012. Unfortunately, the recordings of that tour didn't work out, so Daniel and his band decided to take the acoustic tag into the studio and have fun re-recording some of their favourite tracks. Amongst their own tracks, they chose to record two covers of none other than Ronnie James Dio and Lou Reed.

As for the arrangements of the songs, PoS has succeeded in adopting a whole different tone and style with these acoustic renditions of their songs. Far more easy-going and mellow than ever before, Entropia's opener Stress also opens the album here. Where you might figure the original track was once a model for PoS's approach to writing their vein of music, here only the backbone of the song remains. Gone are the strange twists and turns that we have come to know and are loved by lovers of prog, PoS style. What has arrived is a fluid, jazzy, free-flowing, sometimes loungy adaptation of the song that gives plenty of room for Léo Margarit's jazz fills on the drums and a groove in the bass that suits the arrangement just fine. Bear in mind that the general demeanor of the songs is transformed to this free-flowing vibe.

Linoleum gets the same treatment and the dynamics of the song are augmented by the way it builds up to the end. It says a lot that PoS succeeds in delivering the same message and feel in a song without having to resort to distorted guitars to put emphasis on certain parts. PoS manages to do just that in the way the choirs are used, to great effect.

To The Shoreline is another PoS classic to get a make-over here. Remarkably alike in feel to the original, the song doesn't really need too many plugged-in extras for comfort. Whereas the original took a lot from the textures provided by the keyboards, here the vocals really shine. Not just Daniel's, again it is the way the combined vocals work here.

In a stroke of despair or of sheer genius, who knows, Daniel decided to include a Tony Bennett style-meets-reggae cover of Ronnie James Dio's Holy Diver. There will be those who will absolutely hate this version and there will be those who will honour PoS for taking on this daring version. Love it or hate it, it still pays homage to one of the greatest voices rock has ever known. The reggae middle does add greatly to the track, as does the very relaxed guitar solo.

1979 might have had an acoustic version coming, by the way it builds up. Still again, PoS delivers. The band knows its way round the instruments, they strip this song to its essence and use the strengths of their combined voices to great effect.

Whereas Chain Sling might be another song that would call for an acoustic version, (it's another of those great PoS songs that immediately draws attention to the emotion Daniel yields in his vocals), Spitfall isn't that obvious a candidate for an acoustic make over, with its gloomy, doomy, cynic and heavy meets hiphop sound. It follows a cover version of Perfect Day by Lou Reed. It might be Reed's ghost that invited Daniel to use something like an almost Reed-like 'speak singing'. Yes, it does work.

There are three more songs on this album and PoS did not only include new versions of old songs and covers. They did write the title track Falling Home for this album and, as it matches the feel and flow of the other songs neatly even though it is a bit more singer songwriter like, it is a fine closing song for an album that again shows the acoustic side of Pain of Salvation. We witness the way their songs can hold their own when stripped-down and the great way the voices of the PoS-posse really shine.

True, those who love PoS for their quirkiness and their ever-going quest in changing thoughts on modern prog, rock, metal and meeting other musical styles, might have hoped for Perfect Element part II. However it is the authentic need to do what feels right, that led to PoS to release Falling Home. This is acoustic rock, Pain Of Salvation-style and I love every minute of it. Mind you, there is also a limited edition of the album available that features She Likes To Hide and King Of Loss as well.
Eric Perry: 8 out of 10
Karel Witte: 7 out of 10
Peter Funke: 8 out of 10
Marcel Hartenberg: 8 out of 10

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Published Thursday 20 November 2014

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