Round Table Review
Tracklist: Road Salt Theme (0:45), Softly She Cries (4:15), Conditioned (4:15), Healing Now (4:29), To The Shoreline (3:03), Eleven (6:55), 1979 (2:53), The Deeper Cut (6:10), Mortar Grind (5:46), Through The Distance (2:56), The Physics Of Gridlock (8:43), End Credits (3:25)
John O'Boyle's Review
So finally Pain of Salvation release Road Salt Two, a release I was starting to doubt as to whether would see the light of the day. Messer’s Daniel Gildenlöw (vocals, guitar), Johan Hallgren (guitar, vocals), Leo Magarit (drums, vocals), Fredrik Hermansson (keyboards, vocals) have delivered yet again, making it a fitting follow up to Road Salt One.
The album retains that unique but retro approach that was presented on Road Salt One an album that again is full of those trade mark PoS sounds, although I would have to say that on initial listening Road Salt Two was for me slightly more raw in its sound. Taking the stance of their past albums where at times you have to nurture and grow with them, a process that is worth participating in a process that fans will attest too, being the most fitting way with Daniel Gildenlöw creations. In doing so you will find that they will open up to you revealing their vulnerability. I am not going to lie to you, the first time I heard this album I wasn’t fully enamoured at all, but on further reflection what was I thinking.
I commented the following about RS1, “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”. Absolutely nothing has changed in that statement. The other statement I made was, “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”. This statement still stands too.
So without further adieu Ladies and Gentlemen here is what the guys have presented to their long awaiting fans.
Road Salt Theme is a short opener that is full of Eastern promise, a stage builder for the emotional tales ahead, a sound stage that just pulls you in. Softly She Cries is a stark reminder of the power of the band the trademark sound of PoS, make no mistake of that, which at times sonically sounds like it could have been lifted from the Scarsick sessions, but there again it is their signature sound. If Softly She Cries is the embodiment of what the band are then Conditioned encapsulates the sound and emotion of the bands offerings. Conditioned takes a more basic approach that has an undercurrent of majestic beauty, powerful and sustained meanderings that are memorable, bouncy hooks that offer comfort, concise expression in their expressive style.
Abound with a Zeppelin–esque styled tones Healing Now calmly builds the scene neatly, a statement that is underpinned by some fantastic finger and percussive work. The power may not be as electric as the previous pieces but that doesn’t make it any less of a fitting song in the grand scheme of things. To The Shoreline’s melodic phrasings pull you in straight away, again taking a differing approach, vocally Daniel really hits the mark as he swoops and sways his way through the song, statements presented that are supported by a musical urgency that is effective and not over powering.
Eleven’s atmospheric and moody soundstage heightens the snarling inflections that are presented to you, that at times sound ethereal, light and airy, but the real power here is in the musical offerings, meticulous and intriguing statements that punctuate, adding effective brevity, allowing full expression.
1979 offers an innocence that is beguiling drawing you into the time and theme,
“It was 79 and the world seemed more kind and it was still OK to be modest, the 60’s were gone but their soul lingered on and the 80’s were still just a promise and I remembered me and you”.
Cleverly the stark piano lines, impassioned bass tones that almost plead, emotional flute passages and orchestral inclusions that really add depth, hauntingly weaving its way through the piece creating nothing less than perfection, a song that I kept returning to, a song that pricked so many images awarding me with a beaming smile, which for me is job done. It is songs like this that really show how clever and excellent the band really are and Gildenlöw’s vocals don’t come much more emotionally charged than they do here; Daniel has a vision that he has no fear trying to attain and as ever he succeeds in delivering.
The functionality and design is always important in song writing, something that the band recognises and The Deeper Cut is a prime example of that statement. Profound in its presentation Hermansson really delves into his psyche delivering some sublime keyboard interactions underpinning the soundstage as Margarit stamps his percussive authority throughout. Gildenlöw and Hallgren interact together plying their stringed approach, varying approaches working together in harmonic perfection.
Mortar Grind again skirts that Scarsick sonic approach, a wall of sonics
“Emily been had, she might never be glad, oh, but there is something deep inside her, oh, if we could only see inside her now, now she’s mine, all broken inside, a product of your fire”.
A song that offers loss, anger and pain a song that works on several levels and is probably more fitting in this arena than on the Linoleum EP as on balance the content is more fitting for the setting.
Through The Distance returns to the more emotional approach of 1979 that on initial listening is another stark passage of innocence, but in all honesty as you grow more familiar with it, the theme is much darker. RS2 is just a gamut of emotional mêlée a battle that no one song ever wins; in fact there are only two winners here, the band but more importantly the listener.
The Physics Of Gridlock is initially tied into a vague Arabian and Eastern soundstage, its animated interplay stimulates a polarisation of musical chicanery that creates a rather electric piece that has a sense of urgency and style, multi lingual and musical approaches that are perfectly fitting, offering maturity and romanticism.
“Invincible young and strong, but we lost it all when we turn our life into a road, a direction towards a goal, ending where no one really wants to go”.
End Credits orchestral and cinematic approach brings the Road Salt journey to a fitting conclusion, no last words with all the offerance having already been laid bare over the two albums; finality that nothing could be added too.
Scarsick may been seen as the follow up to Perfect Element Pt 1, and in all honesty elements of those albums can be found here, but there is nothing surer than the fact that Road Salt Two is a fitting follow up of Road Salt One. Pain of Salvation is a band that does at times fearlessly transcend musical boundaries successfully and here is another fitting example of that.
When you play RS1 and RS2 back to back, that is when you really understand the total power of these two fine albums and what they are all about, their achievement in creating an interesting showpiece more than impresses. I am not too sure as to why these two creations weren’t released as a double album in the first place? I am sure that there is a good reason for it, but all I can say is that thankfully the wait for the second album has been more than worth it.
Jez Rowden's Review
Pain of Salvation have been putting out thought provoking and exciting albums for well over a decade now but during that time they have transformed themselves from their prog metal roots into a quite different band. While Daniel Gildenlöw is the public face as a result of his stints with The Flower Kings and Transatlantic where his stunning vocals and multi-talented musicianship won many over, this is no one-man show and the rest of the band more than pull their weight here in what is clearly a team effort. Long-time members Fredrik Hermansson (keys) and Johan Hallgren (guitar) are joined by relatively new drummer Léo Margarit (drums) with Gildenlöw handling bass, guitar and vocals as well as providing the songs.
After a wonderful run of albums from 2002’s Perfect Element Pt 1 through Remedy Lane, 12:5 and BE which brought plaudits from fans and critics alike with the originality, diversity and vitality of Gildenlöw’s material 2007's Scarsick really divided the fanbase. I found Scarsick patchy and after hearing that the first part of the Road Salt double bill also suffered from this issue I decided to give it a miss. As a result I come to this review without having heard Road Salt One or indeed any new PoS material since 2007.
Road Salt Two certainly misses a great deal of what drew me to PoS in the first place and while Gildenlöw’s current interest in more psychedelic rock flavours is nothing new the songs lack some of the bands previous vitality whilst remaining generally good. The sound is fairly mainstream but like the brave decision to attempt to reach a wider audience via an entry in last year’s Eurovision Song Contest ultimately looks misguided and something of an error of judgement.
After a Beatles influenced psychedelic strings intro Softly She Cries bursts open with a heavy blues, Daniel’s voice in the verses strangely inflected but still evidencing his extraordinary talents. The string intro is recapitulated with thumping rhythm and the track finishes on a high. Conditioned has a swampy blues feel with a late ‘60s psychedelic edge reminiscent of Lenny Kravitz. Elements of Deep Purple Mk III appear with additional Beatles hints before the track screeches to a halt. The predominantly acoustic Healing Now suggests Led Zeppelin’s Battle Of Evermore, Gildenlöw’s emotional vocals sometimes soaring and sometimes fragile. To The Shoreline is quite different and takes off at a bright pace reminding me musically of the theme to an old Western. Gildenlöw again covers a lot of ground in his vocal and this is a great number but a long way away from what the band would have produced earlier in their career.
Eleven is classic hard rock, the vocals again dripping emotion, but by now the album is turning into a re-interpretation of a number of well worn genres where you would be hard pressed to find anything new. The mid section of the track shows a different facet with jazz influences before a return to the main theme. The songs are all well put together and, as noted, the emotional depth is well presented but they seem to provide little in the way of a new direction for the band. The production seems a little flat and the sound of the drums in particular is disappointing despite the dexterity of Margarit’s playing.
1979 starts with a very evocative piano line and another superb vocal from Gildenlöw. This is a low-key number that benefits from electronic beats that give it a new spin. The Deeper Cut veers nearer to prog territory with spooky keys and plenty going on in all departments with some great ensemble playing. Electric piano makes an appearance as the piece moves through a number of different phases until a repeated refrain of ‘into the wild’ continues in the background for most of the second half of the track building to a finale. This gets a bit much in the end but The Deeper Cut is still amongst my favourite tracks here. Mortar Grind is another fine track that builds from a sinister intro through heavy slabs of guitar, the vocal again winding through a wide range of styles. Through The Distance again starts small before an injection of volume that makes this “lesser” track quite impressive. The Physics Of Gridlock is the longest track here and thunders out of the traps before moving through a number of phases featuring blues, jazz and psychedelic. There is a treated vocal section similar to The Flower Kings’ Bavarian Skies (though not in content) and the end section is, perhaps surprisingly, sung in French. End Credits continues themes from The Physics Of Gridlock in a string setting which merges into a replay of the psychedelic Road Salt Theme.
Gildenlöw is amongst the most evocative and capable vocalists around and his performance here is simply superb. I’m sure that some may be put off by some of the techniques he uses to interpret his words but his range is just extraordinary. The other performances are equally effective but the production is a little disappointing overall. PoS seem open to try any number of new things and whilst the writing is strong with some great moments the concept is not obvious and the album suffers as a result, never quite gelling. As a whole it doesn’t seem to hang together as well as it might and feels a bit scattershot in its approach. It may well grow on me over time but at the moment whenever I decide to play a PoS album I’m afraid that it won’t be this one. That said, anyone who didn’t like the previous PoS albums may want to try them again as this is now a very different band.
Gert Hulshof's Review
After the release of Road Salt One last year, opinions about the album have varied from outstanding / world class to the worst album of Pain Of Salvation by miles. In my review last year I wrote of an highly anticipated album which had met my expectations. I also stated I was looking forward to Road Salt Two, if only to find out what was coming next. So with high anticipation I have been following the making from a distance, sucking up news about the progress. Now the time has come and the album has recently been released.
Has it become entirely different from Road Salt One or is it more of the same type of song? The only one way to find the answer is for me to listen to the promotional copy.
- The album takes off with Road Salt Theme, which is a nice little tune of just 0:45 seconds before the action really begins. Softly She Cries instantly reminding me of Jim Morrison and the Doors. The psychedelic atmosphere, the guitar play everything in it reminded me of L.A. Woman.
- Conditioned, the second track, took this a step further, the bluesy characteristics of this song brought to mind a combination of The Doors, Red Hot Chili Peppers and some other bands. The emotion and passion in which Daniel Gildenlöw et al bring this song to life and it really blows me away.
- The guitar or is it mandolin playing In Healing Now brings the song into the slightly psychedelic, country atmosphere of Buffalo Springfield fame. I could see myself running through the Texan or Mexican desert plains.
- Going To The Shoreline where we get a song worthy of old sailor man’s songs, mind you it’s not played as the shanties sung by the sailors themselves but more as an homage song to the sailors, with some very nice piano play and a stunning melody line.
- In Eleven we meet up with Pain of Salvation's real psychedelic inclination - a song full of melodramatic sounds, some great guitar work and a brilliantly found vocal line. The emotion and passion is dripping from the speakers. Scorched and heartfelt vocals, you can almost feel the pain and anger yourself.
- The ballad 1979 takes us back to the year 1979 when everything was changing all over again, as in the late ‘60s. In the ‘60s it was flower power at the end of the ‘70s well yeah the punk era. How did we all feel back then.
- Next up is The Deeper Cut, a psychedelic stoner rock song similar to Eleven, although slightly less melodic. But still scorched and torn heavy guitar work, some choirs, heartfelt vocals and pounding rhythm.
- Mortar Grind is next in line, stoner rock in full bloom or in high fashion if you will. Some psychedelic sounds again - pure and emotional stuff. Likewise we have the sound of Through The Distance where it gets lighter all together, but yet there is not much happiness in these songs, most of the songs have heartfelt lyrics which makes the songs very emotional and sometimes hard to get into.
- The Physics Of Gridlock is the longest track on the album, which again takes us back to the first part of the ‘70s and at the high time of psychedelic stoner rock. An era where a lot of German Krautrock bands made this genre very popular in the underground scene, as far as one can speak of popular. In my opinion this song reflects the complete album in one song of nearly nine minutes.
- As last track on the album comes a track called End Credits. Well its end credits all together, each of the songs passes the revue and makes up this song. I have seen this before on the album Jazz by Queen, where in the last song each track comes by. On Jazz it was vocals, here it is instrumental. In the song there are some orchestrated bits that remind me strongly of The Reading Room a project by I believe Brasse. Where various artists in the symphonic rock scene participated in creating an album based on a painting.
Well, all in all, Pain of Salvation have created a second path with Road Salt Two. I have played this album quit often now and will do in the future, although perhaps I had expected a little more though...