Pain of Salvation - In the Passing Light of Day
E1 Music
Progressive Rock/Metal
10 songs (1:11:46)
Release year: 2017
Pain of Salvation, E1 Music
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

After the two Road Salt albums showed that Pain of Salvation are as good - or better - at weaving classic rock elements into their sound as they are more modern influences, vocalist and mastermind Daniel Gildenlöw caught a serious streptococcal infection and was hospitalised for three months, close to death. In the Passing Light of Day is thus charged with a human frailty and very aware sense of mortality, taking a step back towards Pain of Salvation’s post-millennial prog sound that moves away from the organic sound of the Road Salts. I loved them at the time, but a third Road Salt may have been overdoing things, so the band moving backwards like this isn’t really a disappointment, particularly due to how well-written an album this is. Indeed, if you discovered the band with a Road Salt then tracks like Reasons will seem like the work of a different group altogether, opening with downtuned Meshuggah-like chugs and only really recognisable due to the focus on Gildenlöw’s ever-fantastic voice. He’s as varied as he has been in the past here, his downright sensual croon joined by relatively harsh barks, even sounding Mike Patton-y at moments.

It’s oddly reminiscent of Norwegian progsters Leprous, if you want the closest comparison, although Pain of Salvation are still very much themselves. Opening ten-minuter On A Tuesday is one of the closest to the Norwegians, very modern and riff-focused, with Gildenlöw musing on how many Tuesdays he has lived and whether he’ll live to see another. I’m torn between finding the lyrics corny and profound; lines like “I close my hands/not in prayer/into fists” and “The things that we will trade/Just give away for one more day” can be taken either way depending on the listener. Personally, I know just how corny I’d be if faced with a life-threatening illness, so I’m not quick to judge! And by the time the second half of the song takes an even heavier turn with galloping grooves before fading into piano, electronic-slathered keyboards and vocals charged with heavy emotion, it’s very hard to nitpick the lyrics; this is excellent.

As is much of the album, although some tracks take a couple of listens to grow on you. Tongue of God, for example, sounds like a cross between Faith No More and Alice In Chains, quite grunge-styled with lots of groovy riffs and mixed sung vocals and Patton-esque creepy whispers. Some will definitely dismiss it with a wanking gesture and a nu-metal reference but it’s more complex than nu-metal ever was to me, structurally and in the way it mixes melodies. Gildenlöw’s voice is also as compelling as ever, the closest thing metal has got to a Jeff Buckley, and his performance is enough to sweep away any doubts for me. I mentioned the sensual aspect to his voice and songs explicitly about sex like Meaningless have all the more impact for it, the central hook already brilliant but even extra power in his performance and that of backing vocalist Ragnar Zolberg, sounding nearly feminine in a downright eerie contrast. Ditto for soulful ballad Silent Gold, something that I could very easily imagine coming from a pop star like Adele, restrained yet still powerful and almost too short at just over three minutes. It forms something of an intro to the nine-minute epic Full Throttle Tribe, which is the only track I’d really criticise here as a couple of minutes could have been shaved off, feeling like a five minute song that’s been extended too long - really unnecessary when the album comes in at over seventy minutes as it is!

That so many of the songs here feel so vital to the album is remarkable, really, each bringing something of its own to the table. Angels of Broken Things shows off the band’s lead guitar skills well but is restrained vocally, the more upbeat The Taming of a Beast is catchier, and If This Is the End is downright sombre initially, perhaps the most inviting of death and accepting of the day’s passing light, before launching midway into jagged alt-metal riffing and ultimately returning to the theme of the opening On a Tuesday. The album ending there would already make it remarkable; that we get the fifteen-minute title track is icing on the cake. From the calm opening, reminiscing on past days, Gildenlöw is spellbinding, like a more emotionally-laden Steven Wilson, and the way his voice builds along with the song is fascinating to listen to as a music reviewer and wonderful simply as a fan of music. The fifteen minutes passes incredibly quickly and smoothly, ending at a natural peak and ending the album perfectly. It’s good enough to sell the album on its own merits, in fact.

I thought long and hard about the score for this review; Pain of Salvation have made a remarkably good album, but something of a flawed masterpiece thanks to some of the more “modern” moments (which ironically make the album feel dated!). Sure, it’s not what I always want to hear, but as a representation of futile raging against oncoming mortality it’s surprisingly fitting, and they are far outweighed by the band making simply beautiful rock music. And it’s a damn sight more interesting than peers Dream Theater have been for years! So yes, In the Passing Light of Day is the first album of 2017 to really impress me, despite its flaws, and I know I’ll keep coming back to it all year. The score reflects the imperfections, that it’s my Album of the Month reflects the quality that drowns them out.

Killing Songs :
On A Tuesday, Meaningless, Silent Gold, The Taming of a Beast, The Passing Light of Day
Goat quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Pain of Salvation that we have reviewed:
Pain of Salvation - Panther reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Pain of Salvation - Road Salt Two reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Pain of Salvation - Road Salt One reviewed by Goat and quoted 82 / 100
Pain of Salvation - One Hour by the Concrete Lake reviewed by Thomas and quoted 95 / 100
Pain of Salvation - Entropia reviewed by Thomas and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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