Review Summary: Pain of Salvation doing what it does best, throwing the progressive metal rule book out the window.
Pain of Salvation (POS) has been a very strong presence in the progressive metal world for over a decade thanks to its willingness to push the boundaries of the genre and continuously progress its sound. The band has been led by musical prodigy and primary songwriter Daniel Gildenlow since its inception in 1991 (under the name Pain of Salvation).
POS has a reputation for writing quirky songs which have very unpredictable progressions. These trademark attributes have always been a part of POS’ music, however they have been slightly tamed from the band’s successful third album The Perfect Element 1
, with the songwriting maturing quite drastically. This trend has continued on subsequent albums since, however the band has not held back when it comes to experimentation and complexity within the music. BE
is yet another step forward for the band in terms of musical exploration and is definitely the band’s most ambitious effort. It largely abandons the metal features that have been a mainstay on previous albums.
The band treads into classical and folk territories on the album with the assistance of the 9 piece Orchestra of Eternity. The band does not limit the orchestra’s presence to a peripheral element of the music used to make the songs feel grandiose. On the contrary the orchestra is very much an integral part of the music, being used for intricate melodies as well as lead sections. This is where the band succeeds so well. Orchestras have become a sort of cliché on progressive albums and are very one dimensional in their usage in most cases, however POS have used the orchestra in a very intelligent and dynamic manner where it forms the foundation for a handful of songs. The orchestra contributes to the dark atmosphere of the album in superb fashion. No song represents this vibe better than Deus Nova, with the numerous layers of orchestra instruments increasing in intensity until the climax is achieved. The general ambiance is appropriate for the concept of human existence that is explored on the album.
The instrumentation is very interesting and there is always something new to discover with every listen. The instruments present, apart from the traditional progressive metal ones, include the mandola, harpsichord, djembe, double bass, and numerous others that add to the atmosphere of the album. The acoustic guitar features heavily, adding to the overall mellow feel of the album. While most of the album resides in the progressive/folk territory, there are a host of other genres that are incorporated throughout the album including blues/soul, classical, and even a very odd adaptation of country music. All of these elements lead to the music feeling very refreshing, and make it difficult to envisage which direction the music will take. The musicianship is stellar as expected and while at times the presence of some band members may seem lacking, it all makes sense in the bigger picture where quality music is the ultimate objective. Daniel’s vocals and vocal lines are typically brilliant and his wide range is on display here in its full glory as it has been on every POS album.
Most of the tracks are devoid of any metal characteristics and while they are very good, there were times where I was yearning for some aggression. Unfortunately the more metal oriented tracks on the album are actually the tracks that lack depth in comparison with the others, which is surprising considering the band’s portfolio of metal tracks. On this album they don’t really possess as much character as the remaining tracks and let the album down to a certain extent. The structures are predictable and ironically don’t progress much which leaves a bit of a sour taste especially considering the strength of the remaining tracks. Another gripe I have is with the spoken parts on some of the tracks. A few of these are very cringe worthy such as the dialogue at the end of Nauticus where the main character is repeatedly using cheesy double entendres, these could have been avoided.
Despite these minor weaknesses, which can be easily forgiven, the band has managed to produce yet another brilliant album it can add to its rich catalogue. Daniel shows how he embodies the term progressive in the truest sense of the word by never repeating himself, and writing challenging music that takes multiple listens to truly appreciate. Be
is a brave album that has left its mark on the progressive metal canvas, and has treaded a path that most bands in the genre wouldn’t dare. Then again you would expect nothing less from POS.