Review Summary: Pain of Salvation's debut album eclectic influences combines Faith No More's impulsive songwritting with Dream Theater's instrumental powerhouses to create a refreshing sound in the genre.
This is my first review for this site so bear with me:
In my opinion, this is definitely a great debut album. Daniel and co. really did try to represent everything that is trully progressive and forward thinking, not just sticking to the "basics" of the genre (pointless time changes, obnoxiously long instrumental passages and mundane power metal vocals...which ironically where there in the first place to provide a change of pace for the tried and true formula) in their songwritting while still remaining organic throughout the whole ordeal.
The album starts of with the powerful opening riff from !(foreword). I've always thought that this song is quite over the top, even by Gildenlow's standards. This is definitely not a bad thing, as im sure that they wrote this song as an introduction to their sound. Here you can already hear most of the bands many virtues: heavy, crunchy riffing, soaring vocals (acompanied with clever harmonies that have now become one of the band's trademark), chaotic song structure and some of the most tasteful guitar solos you will ever hear. The following song, Winning a War, is a pretty big change of pace. The riffs here are pretty contained and steady, providing magical chord progressions for Daniel to sing over. The vocals are definitely the strong point of the song. These songs sound like a cross between "Angel Dust" era Faith no More and the early albums of prog rock legends Yes.
Songs like "Revival", "To the End" and "Nightmist" have a much more "metal" vibe than the others. The riffing in these songs has more in common with say, Fates Warning than, say, rush. Although it blurred down in their career, in this album they clearly demonstrate a dream theater influence, specially in the instrumental segments. But, contrary to most clone bands, they mixed it with their own brand of prog which set them aside from the countless worship groups.
The only negative thing I could say about this album is that it's somewhat unfocused at times, with songs that don't really have much to do with each other (although its supposed to be a concept album, don't ask me what its about as a whole, because I don't really "get it"). It's not to say that it doesn't have good lyrics (the lyrics in "stress" are completely legit- definitely one of my favorites from the album and a good example of music that binds with the lyrics), but most of the time you're not gonna be paying too much attention to them.
All in all, this is definitely an excellent way for a band to start of their career. They definitely achieved a unique sound that most bands with decades under their belts can't achieve. This only signaled what was to come: Masterpieces.