Album Review: Pain of Salvation, In The Passing Light of Day

This post was written by Rylee McDonald, guest blogger and frontman of the excellent prog band Advent Horizon. 

For long-time fans of Swedish prog metal band, Pain of Salvation, word of a new release has been welcome news indeed. Their last proper album hit record store shelves in 2011. The past 5 years has seen little action from the band, aside from a couple of minor tours and an under-hyped acoustic release. During this time fans have no doubt spent many a sleepless night trying to imagine what a future without Pain of Salvation might look like. Well, I am writing today to bring good news. Fans can now rest peacefully with the knowledge that not only are our Swedish friends once again prepared to release new music, but that this new release was EASILY worth the 5 year wait. Please welcome into the world of In the Passing Light of Day (hereafter referred to as ITPLOD).

This is truly an album that stands out and demands to be played over and over. And over. .  And over. Fans who have been asking Pain of Salvation to return to their roots will be very pleased. Interestingly though, fans of the Road Salt albums will also be very pleased. ITPLOD has accomplished the difficult task of bringing the best of both worlds.

Though their music has spanned countless genres – each new album presenting a unique tone, and production style- there are several signature traits that seem to exist in every Pain of Salvation release. ITPLOD is no exception to this rule: Daniel Gildenlows fabled speech-singing. Intensely emotional passages that leave you on the verge of tears, followed immediately by angry onslaughts of headbang-able metal shredding over polyrhythmic drums that seem to bend time to their own will. Lyrical themes focused on the struggles of love and loss. All of these will be familiar to anyone who’s listened to any previous Pain of Salvation release. The band, however, has done a very good job of pushing themselves into new territory on this album.

The addition of Icelandic singer Ragnar Zolberg after the release of Road Salt 2 brought a new signature voice to the band. Ragnar’s vocals have become a crowd favorite at recent Pain of Salvation shows. The band answered their fans enthusiasm by featuring Ragnar at several points in the album. The two voices blend very well together, and add a welcome new flavor to the music.

The production on ITPLOD blends the vintage grit of the Road Salt albums with the darker, heavier tones of Scarsick and The Perfect Element. The lyrics seem to hint at this being a continuation of the Remedy Lane story (Gildenlow hasn’t said anything official though, so you’ll have to decide for yourself).

There are far too many positive aspects of this album to point them all out, but I’d like to mention a few specifics:

The opening track “On a Tuesday” is nothing short of a Prog Rock masterpiece. This is a song that will take you several listens to really wrap your head around. Rhythmically, it’s one of their most impressive feats to date. Over the top of what can only be described as polyrhythmic insanity, they somehow manage to fit a chorus melody so catchy you’ll be waking up for weeks singing it (trust me). The song takes many twists and turns, making heavy use of the band’s dynamic talent before finally ending on a heavy 4/4 jam that builds in intensity till you can’t help but headbang along.

The song “Meaningless”, while one of the more tame tracks on the record (technically speaking), is one of my personal favorites. The atmosphere feels reminiscent of parts of The Perfect Element. Also Ragnar’s vocals on the chorus are simply stunning.

“Full Throttle Tribe” is another personal favorite. I highly recommend listening to this song several times in a row, and focusing on a different instrument each time.

“Reasons”  feels the most like a throwback to their early albums. Bouncing back and forth between a riff that would give the heaviest parts of Remedy Lane a run for their money, a groovy syncopated chorus, and an intense almost djent breakdown section, this song is going to feel like Christmas morning to many old time Pain Of Salvation fans.

The final track – also the title track of the album – creates a quiet, pensive atmosphere with very personal lyrics that’ll make you stop what you’re doing and reflect on earlier and better days. Daniel’s voice will carry you through several verses, telling a story of a lifetime passed by, and love long lost. Just when you begin to wonder why they chose to end the album with a ballad – the tempo picks up (note the “Ending Theme” chant in the background here). I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice it to say that this ending track plays alongside the most well written tracks Pain Of Salvation has released.

Over the years, I have come to expect nothing short of excellence from this band. With each new record, I worry that they won’t be able to clear the bar they set for themselves with the last album. But inevitably, after hearing their new material, I kick myself for ever doubting the mighty Pain of Salvation. This album has taken the band to a whole new level in my mind. I sincerely hope you’ll give it the attention that it deserves.

Pain of Salvation’s new album, In the Passing Light of Day, will be released on January 13, 2017. Pre-order it here (for an audio CD), here (for a digital download), and here (for a vinyl copy). 

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