Review Summary: Hailing from what could be considered our planet's metal haven in Sweden, Pain of Salvation deliver a solid debut album that appeals to both metal lovers and prog fans alike.
"Imagine yourself exhausted in the middle of a desert... Sitting down will take away your pain, but it will kill you. The walk for water will hurt, but it may save your life." This is how Daniel Gildenlow, frontman, composer, vocalist, and guitarist of the Swedish prog phenoms Pain of Salvation describes his band. He claims that there is a sense of duality in everything. "The idea with the name is that everything has two sides, everything is in balance." For Pain of Salvation, finding a balance between the eclectic influences to create something new for music fans seems to be the mountain the band has climbed ever since their debut. When you claim to carry on the sounds of Pink Floyd and Faith No More, you're bound to end up unearthing a new musical gem, thus we have Pain of Salvation.
With their first release Entropia [a juxtaposition of the terms entropy (scientifically meaning the measure of chaos in a system), and utopia, (a perfect world) thus yielding what one can guess was intended to be 'land of chaos'] Pain of Salvation successfully plastered their name and album all over the world. Beginning in 1997, the album was released in Japan. In 1998, the album was then release across Europe, and in the following year, the band's current label InsideOut reissued the album. Not until 2000 was the record released in America by InsideOut. The slow spread of popularity pays ode to what I personally found to be true with this album and Pain of Salvation in general. It is an incredibly tough album to get into. Gildenlow's vocal tone is abrasive, the structure of the songs are complex and hard to keep track of, and it's also a very emotionally draining album.
One thing that Pain of Salvation fans acclaim over and over again is how charged with emotion all PoS tends to be. With an album concept dealing with war, a man's seperation from his family, death, and God, the instrumentation and lyrics better damn well be filled to the brim with emotion. My favorite example of PoS's ability to convey such strong feelings is in the fourth track People Passing By. The three part nine minute song takes the listener down a path beginning with a slap 'n' pop bassline and a light-hearted angsty mood accented by constantly changing time signatures and brash guitar tones. The second movement then gives the listener more slap bass, but the lyricless vocal ensemble lends itself to a atmospheric almost Pink Floyd feel. Then, we enter into a 3 part polyrythm between the lead guitar, keyboard, and rythm guitar which naturally builds tension. Movement three of People Passing By shifts feeling once more to a very sad and foreboding feeling which is only continued with an amazing guitar solo. Another balance that Pain of Salvation often teeters on tenuously is their guitarist's tightrope act between technicality and emotion. This song is an example of perfect execution of both.
The variety within the other songs isn't as widespread as People Passing By, but across the board, there is a great range of genres and emotions that are tapped into on Entropia. Welcome to Entropia, the actual opener of the concept features samples of a soft ocean tide breathing in and out, what sounds to be a crowd of people, all driven by a nice breakbeat. Then the outro track features only Gildenlow and an acoustic guitar, a very depressing yet uplifting track. It is a well written track featuring a verse in the minor key and a contrasting chorus in the major key, another simple ode to Pain of Salvation's brilliant injection of emotions into their music. The accompanying songs tend to remain safely within the realms of progressive metal but with enough variation to keep it interesting for the listener. Things to listener for include lots of time changes, a grandiose number of vocal harmonies, even a xylophone. Also, in typical concept album fashion, there is also a bit of musical reincorporation, a technique originally made popular by Pink Floyd's The Wall.
Overall, I consider this album to be a great debut album for a band who has grown greatly since the original release a decade ago. Not quite the perfect blend and variation as I would like, but a fairly riveting concept nonetheless. Great vocal work, great guitar work, and as always with Pain of Salvation, brilliant execution of emotion transference.
Reccomended tracks: People Passing By, Leaving Entropia, Nightmist, ! (Forward)