Review Summary: Gildenlow on recycling.
Humans, when analyzed as animals, are a quite ironic creature. In one hand, they seem to be the only creatured that have the intelligence to create new things and push themselves to the limit, but at the same time said creations alter or destroy the enviroment in which humans developed themselves. At the same time, and this is where the irony comes in : he’s aware of it. He calls it evolution. Funny isn’t it? He had the need to organize a new specific structure to live with rules only applying to his own species. The human, with time, became by far, on a purely objective point of view, nature’s worst failure. It deviated completly from the basic form on which an animal could evolve, becoming something else entirely : a Human. A thinking individual capable of creating, communicating and critisizing one another’s so called « work ». Because let’s face it, We seem to be missing the point, still.
Now dear reader, what you just read was an introduction paragraph containing two things : a message about enviroment, human behavior and psychology and another thing called a tone, in that case a somewhat pretentious tone. That would be a good start to describe Pain Of Salvation’s sophomore effort One Hour By The Concrete Lake, an often overlooked record when compared to the rest of the band’s discography. It’s easy to see why. It doesn’t have the lyrical depth of Remedy Lane. It doesn’t have the genre defining feel of The Perfect Element. It doesn’t have the 70s aspect of the Road Salt twins. It doesn’t have the quirks and jam mood (the drum solo at the end of « Nightmist » or the random jazz part in « To the End » being good examples) of the debut. It doesn’t have the mother of all (pretentious) concept or orchestration of Be. Hell, it doesn’t even have the « middle-finger-pointed-at-every-one » attitude that Scarsick had. So, what does One Hour as except the trademark pretentiousness of Pain Of Salvation and their crazy technical arrangements?
The record feels like it was written by a band. Get it right though, most of the song credits go to Gildenlow, but the approach feels more like the rest of the band didn’t have their hands tied, blindly following Gildenlow. The result is quite rewarding. On here, the music is similar from the one found on Entropia (possibly because Magdic, the other guitarist that left the band after the debut, still had some writing credits here) but flows better at the cost of letting down the quirks and often misplaced jazzy parts of the first record. Throughout the album, the guitars and bass provide a some sort of melody reminiscent to the one of a machine. While it by no means sound like a crossover between progressive and industrial, the sound provided by the Gildenlow brothers and Hallgren seem mechanic and rawer then other Pain Of Salvation records, but without getting heavy and suffocating, suiting the concept nicely. On top of that, Hermansson provides dark and eerie soundscapes flowing like an aura above the guitars. The rhythms and tempo changes are at their most schizophrenic here. While Pain Of Salvation were never known to stick to only one course per song, here it’s even more unreal and ridiculous. There’s only one element preventing the album from being a complete mess.
Johan Langell. Living in the shadow of other more well known drummers or even in the shadow of his own bandmembers, on this record, he shines and shows how good he really was. Langell flows seamlessly through the different changes and most importantly, keeps the band on track while at the same time generating enough odd beats to satisfy any prog fan. Just an exercise here : Count how many times « New Year’s Eve» evolves into another section over the course of it’s almost six minutes. Suprisingly a lot. Even for it’s runtime. And yet, it flows into one organic sound and doesn’t seem forced. A lesser capable drummer wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the music without interfering with it, becoming a distraction, and at the same time breaking the mood created by the complex, clockwork arrangements provided by the other members. While he always had, throughout Pain Of Salvation’s life, this subtle function of keeping the transitions between the atmospheric parts and the more technical parts coherent, here his playing feels suprisingly fresh by having more life and unraveling quickly the complexity of his parts, creating a more immediate feel that will be lacking on the albums that will follow this one. He never sounded has vivid has on One Hour.
As with any Pain Of Salvation album, there is a clear concept here, a story divided into three chapters. A refreshing one in the sense that it doesn’t translate itself into a pretentious amalgam of words portraying human behaviors from a distance and feels a lot more as if written by the man who tells the story then by Gildenlow. The lyrics are well written as usual and are standard Pain Of Salvation dialect. As with any of their albums, it’s still a bit pretentious, but since there’s some distinctions between the character and Gildenlow it becomes quite tolarable. It follows the story of a scientist working in the weapon industry and becoming doubtful about his work and realises that he’s just a part of a « big machine » which he wants to change « from the Inside » and on new year’s eve he decides to go on a journey to see what his actions have done. The second chapter is based mostly around what he founds in third world countries. The chapter includes « Handful of Nothing », « Water » and « Home » and describes mostly themes such as poverty, exploitation of natural ressources, war and violation of territory amongst others. The final chapter leaves our main character starring at an old decontamination lake in the old USSR and coming to the realization that…
There’s one big issue on One Hour By The Concrete Lake. The songs depend too much on one another, creating a fundamental lack of standouts songs. Except the insane piano barrage in « Inside Out », courtesy of Hermansson, no songs, or even sections, makes you really connect and feel and understand the music and message behind the album. While « Inside » sets a special mood at the beginning of the album, nothing comes later to create a change that will keep the listener engaged. At the same time, if listened to individualy, each song here will feel either unconmplete or simply useless. In the context of the album « Pilgrim » and « Shore Serenity » do their job pretty well, but as stand alone songs, loose all their impact and purpose. While the definition of a perfect album is one that will have no filler, with fantastic songs from start to finish, which is what you will find on One Hour. This also comes out as it’s only downfall. It really could’ve get the benefits of a weaker song or two to expose all the might of this record. Pretty weird for an album with so many tempo changes to sound bland even after countless listens. Good, but bland.
At the end of the day though, One Hour is still a nice niche in the progressive metal world. It showcases a more obscur, harsh sound then most other records in the genre, not by the way it is played but by the way in which it is presented and felt as a whole. If its sound is a bit coerced, it only adds to the fact that it is Pain Of Salvation’s hardest to get into, even harder then Be. While one will enjoy it more then the 2005 effort, it will take some time before the listener gets this piece of music. Music enthusiasts will probably procure this album, listen to it, enjoy and move on. While they will be no means dislike the album, they won’t come back searching for more details, leaving this beast at the bottom of their vast musical collection. They might even be aware of the depth found in here on first listens, but since the record doesn’t really strikes you in the face, they will most likely, over time, even forget about what they listened too. And yet, for those ready to sit for a few hours by the concrete lake will be rewarded, coming to the realization that…hell, discover it for yourself.