Pain of Salvation is a Swedish progressive metal/rock band created by frontman, songwriter and guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw, who also plays lute, bass, keyboards and mandolin. Some fans would tell you that the band was born when Gildenlöw started his first band in 1984, but the band was called Reality at the time and Gildenlöw was a mere 11 years old. Accordingly, most fans would agree that the band was started when he renamed it Pain Of Salvation in 1991. The band’s first album, Entropia, wasn’t released until 1997, however. Falling Home is their ninth full-length album. It’s also their first album that isn’t a concept album, unless you would consider it such based on the fact that it’s an acoustic record. The album consists of acoustic re-workings of fan favorites, two covers (Dio’s “Holy Diver” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”) and the brand new song “Falling Home.” The CD release features two songs that aren’t available via digital download, “She Likes to Hide” and “King of Loss.”
Just yesterday I reviewed Kaipa’s Stattyg and admitted that prog rock isn’t my cup of tea, but then I listened to this album and now I find myself thinking that prog rock doesn’t have to be entirely inaccessible to me. The big difference between Falling Home and most prog albums I’ve heard over the years is that the songs aren’t long, drawn out pieces like most bands release. The longest song here is 7:13, but most are shorter, a couple even clocking in at just under 3 minutes. What makes Pain Of Salvation a prog band, then, is how wildly imaginative their songs are, constantly veering left when you expect them to go right. But not so far left as to be abrasive in any way. To that end, many of these tracks follow the verse chorus verse formula. It’s just that said verses and choruses are ultra-creative.
Falling Home is actually the first Pain Of Salvation album I’ve ever heard, so I can’t compare these versions to the original versions, but I can tell you what I like about these. One of the biggest things this record has going for it is that the songs have lush instrumentation, far from being one of those acoustic albums where you just get the singer and guitarist doing very stripped down versions of songs. Instead of going that route, Pain Of Salvation have merely unplugged their instruments. Along with layers of vibrant acoustic guitars and smooth vocals, you also have solid bass guitar and lively drums. There are other instruments, too, helping to make these versions sound like fully fleshed out songs. One of the standouts is “Mrs. Modern Mother Mary,” an especially beautiful track with gorgeous guitars and emotive vocals. “I found God / Truth will never be the same,” sings Gildenlöw passionately. It’s a plenty infectious track and it tells an interesting story. Two other highlights are the covers. Dio’s “Holy Diver” is given a complete make over, turned into something laid back, something you’d expect to hear at a trendy cafe. As a big Dio fan, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first but now that I’ve heard it several times I rather enjoy it. If anything, it shows you what a remarkable songwriter the late Ronnie James Dio was, that one of his songs can be morphed into something this sweet if not subtle. As for the Lou Reed cover, “Perfect Day,” they’ve left that one in tact for the most part, letting it sound like the sweet morphine drip that it’s always been. I’m a big Lou Reed fan, but I dare say they’ve managed to make their version as beautiful as the original. Don’t get me wrong — I generally feel that nobody can imitate Lou Reed. He’s the man. But this cover is gorgeous.
They finally do get bare bones and do a song consisting of just vocals and guitars on the brand new song, “Falling Home,” an exquisite gem that doesn’t sound proggy at all. It’s the perfect closing track for the album, letting you down easy, leaving things on such a tender note. The only downside is that it makes you wonder what the other songs on the album would’ve sounded like if they’d just done those with vocals and guitars, too. Don’t get me wrong, I think they made the right move using all of the instruments at their disposal on those songs. But you can’t listen to “Falling Home” and not wonder what the others might have sounded like done that way.
Falling Home is in stores now, and can also be ordered direct from the InsideOut Music Shop here: http://smarturl.it/POSFHIO
Pain of Salvation online: