The third album from the Swedish prog metal outfit, Pain of Salvation, balances delicately between the hard and delicate, the grungy and the powerful. Formed from the 80s band, Reality in 1991, Pain of Salvation has fought its way through the prog metal scene hoping to find an identity that lifts them out of a sea of mediocrity. The 72 minute epic, "The Perfect Element", may be the CD that achieves this.
Their debut album "Entropia" in 1997, was favourably received by both the media and fans of the genre.
The material for the next album "One Hour By The Concrete Lake", was composed during the Autumn of '97 amidst a difficult period that resulted in the amicable separation of guitarist Daniel Magdic and the band. Just prior to entering the studio, guitarist Johan Hallgren was drafted and tackled the impossible task of learning all his guitar parts in record time. Completed in May of 1998, "One Hour..." was again a concept piece but this time a more focussed affair from the band. Described as being heavier and darker than its predecessor, the album reaped outstanding reviews once again and began to cement the band's reputation as being an important, powerful new force on the scene.
The bands line up includes Daniel Gildenlöw (guitars, vocals), Johan Hallgren (guitars), Kristoffer Gildenlöw (bass), Fredrik Hermansson (keyboards), and Johan Langell (drums). The sound is an edgy, grungy prog metal with a lot of density in places, and lighter spacier passages that give the music a real diversity.
Their new release is another concept album revolving around the meeting and history of two broken individuals in a story of loss and adolescence, which delves into the dark subject matter of violence and abuse. "The Perfect Element" is divided into 3 parts with four songs each. Each song segues into the next, often making songs indistinguishable from the next. In general, it can be said that once the disk gets going (after a poor start), it never looks back.
The first two songs on this disk are more in the post grunge genre and the CD never really gets interesting until "Ashes", track 3. The dirty dense sound is soon lifted in velvet veils of lighter sonic landscapes. "Morning on Earth" follows with soft ambient textures and never really erupts in the way youd expect Pain of Salvation to. But this is a good thing because its a very pretty song.
The chaos starts again with "Idioglossia", track 5 and the second part of the CD. Theres the usual Dream Theatre riffing going on here, but the song has substance and nuance as well. Another long song follows, "Her Voice". The keys are prominent here and the range and beauty of Daniel Gildenlöws raspy voice are featured well. By now, the CD has completely taken hold of its listener.
Only track 7, "Dedication" is a bit like Uriah Heep in both vocal chorus and misdirected commercialism. However, the charm of the track is evident. Part two ends on a healthy note with "King of Loss", a wonderfully powerful prog metal piece in the vein of Shadow Gallery.
Part three of the disk is simply the best. Each of the four tracks is beautiful in their own way. A density and complexity drives the band and their song writing to new heights. I love the mid tempo sprite melody of "Reconsiliation", track 9, which adds a fresh departure to the overall ponderous sound of the CD. It all ends with the brilliant 10 minute title track which drives a melodic spike into the bands powerhouse sound.
Personally Im not a fan of the grungy prog metal sounds that Pain of Salvation emulates at times, yet I have to admit the quality of song writing on this disk is top notch. Add to that some multi layered vocals and youre left with an interesting, if transitional CD in the constantly progressing prog metal scene.