Review Summary: A masterpiece in terms of live recordings.
I'm in no way a fan of live albums. Why listen to lousily produced material, off-key vocals, distracting audience noises, and worst of all- fan singing, when I can listen to an album the way it was meant to be heard? Live performances are meant to be just that-live. That's it!
I walked into my local Chinese music store and browsed their selection, and to my surprise, came across this-12:5-the only Pain of Salvation (here on refered to as POS)album on display at the store.
Knowing full well it was a live release, I was hesitant about purchasing it, but being the fan that I am, I went ahead and bought it.
"Why not?," I thought. "It's super-rare and it's only gunna cost me a 1.50$ (10 RMB)."
The next day, I gently placed the disc into my discman (I'm stubborn about throwing away my discman) and hit play. The familiar sounds of applause began the disc.
"Here we go again," I thought. "Another crappy live album, but at least I can hear how they sound live."
I was blown away by the time I finished the disc.
This is a great live album, and not only is it my favourite live album, (admittedly, I haven't heard that many,) it places in my top 20 favourite recordings.
12:5 is, as mentioned several times before, a live recording, but with a slight twist. The album features songs from various albums throughout the POS discography (Entropia up to Remedy Lane) but performed totally in accoustics.
Don't let that put you off, dear hardcore Metalhead, the results are phenomenal. Some songs are actually more enjoyable than the originals. Though the band opts to leave out the electrics and such, this is easily one of the most powerful records I've ever heard.
Power in an acoustic album? You'd better believe it.
You can tell the band carefully chose the songs for their set. Each track chosen is one that never featured large complexities. The accoustics only serve to enhance the appeal to the general public, which results in POS's most accessible album to date. Of course, most people will never hear it.
We begin with the Brickwork trilogy. Three, once seperate tracks from Remedy Lane, Entropia, and The Perfect Element, are now merged together to become one epic. Despite that they were once seperate, the flow of the song is seemless and coherent. If you listen to this epic from start to finish, and have no prior knowledge that these songs were originally divided tarcks, you would not be able to tell. The lyrics and new vocal delivery must be heard to be believed. Your spine will tingle when Daniel sings "Will your eyes be mine?"
The musicianship, melodies, and vocals are flawless, effectively sending the listener into a euphoric state.
The rest of the tracks don't disappoint either. Everything is perfectly played. Daniel is a superb singer, and this live album proves that. He doesn't miss a note, nor goes off key a single time.
Even if you have heard POS's discography to death, the songs are re-worked enough to sound fresh and new. Yoy can consider this as a new album, if you'd like. For example, the version of Ashes found on this recording (which I enjoy more than the original one) is played and sung in a higher note. The once dark and disturbed sounding song is transformed into a timid and gentle sounding ballad. It also features something that the original lacked--energy. The transformation simply must be heard to be believed.
"Winning a War," sounds much more playful and colourful. It now encorporates a tasteful middle-eastern sound, (kind of groovy) and the boys even manage to throw in a Star Wars wink in the middle of the track. Again, the song sounds completely different.
"Chain Sling" sounds most similar to its' original; however, the boys do add some extra background vocals to the track and again, improve upon the original.
The rest of the tracks sound equally impressive. "Oblivion Ocean," in particular, bears mentioning, as I never liked the original version; however, on 12:5, I enjoy it throughly.
The album closes on a high note. An amazing jam session is done superbly. There is so much energy and it is clearly meant to be happy sounding. A stark contrast to POS' typical, cynical sounding material. The album ends with a smile and a bang, rather than a statement and a frown. Toe-tapping is inevitable.
The production is excellent. If they'd edited the audience applause out, you'd swear you were listening to a studio recording. A testament to the flawless performance delivered by each band member.
Speaking of the audience noises, this is the only live album I've ever heard where I can honestly say that their participation only serves to enhance the listening exprience. Of course, thankfully, it is kept to a minimum. You can only hear the audience before and after tracks. There is no audience singing your favourite chorus. No loud "WHOOOO" in the middle of your favourite song, and no soft coughing.
The only shortcomings I can think of is that damn Star Wars bass moment during "Winning at War." While charming at first listen, it becomes obnoxious during later listens.
This is a tasetful record and a masterpiece in terms of live recordings. If you are a POS fan, but you've been hesitant about giving it a chance due to it being a live album (as I was,) put your doubts aside and get it. If you are a mature Metalhead that doesn't need everything to be hardcore, get it. It's a joy listening to your favorite POS songs in such an altered state.
If you are a music fan in general, get this album. Though the band is considered Progressive Metal, there is nothing Metal about this release. It is just simply tasteful, intelligent, and emotional music played flawlessly.
This is a wonderful record. I am simply blown away by the band's creativity.
Easily 5 stars.