Pain of Salvation is so much more than just a band name of three words. First
of all, the Swedish prog metal band is original. They may be the first prog
metal band since the early-90's that truly managed to impress not only prog
listeners but fans of other genres as well. In the 80's we had Queensryche and
Fates Warning dominating, in the 90's we had Dream Theater plus a few others
paving the way for hundreds of other bands. And today we have Pain of Salvation.
If they continue releasing diverse, emotional, chaotic and cerebral albums in
this vein, they are going to put their mark on this decade as far as prog metal
One Hour By The Concrete Lake is their second album, however it was
the first to come out in Europe. Their debut Entropia was released in
Japan but didn't really get too much critical acclaim in Europe or Stateside -
until their second CD One Hour came out. You may be wondering what the
title of album stands for. The ideas behind it are some of the most interesting
things about this release, especially regarding the radioactivity in Lake
Karachay in the former USSR. Most of us might have heard of Chernobyl, for
example, because it was very apparent. But learning that a lake covered in
concrete had such a high level of radioactivity that it could still kill someone
after only an hour standing near it is very appalling to say the least.
Daniel Gildenlow, guitarist / vocalist / main songwriter of Pain Of
Salvation, has always been very interested in politics, social injustice, and
every other kind of wrong-doing going on in the world. He wrote the concept of
One Hour during some International Relations and Nuclear Physics studies
he did at school, and at the same time he was also writing a paper on music
lyrics' influence on listeners on a social level. Thus, writing and releasing
One Hour was also the first album that gave him the courage to believe he
could actually spread good messages with music. This is the album where Pain Of
Salvation realized the potential possibility of changing things through their
records. And isn't that one of the core parts of heavy metal after all?
The album opens with the short intro "Spirit of the Land" setting the mood
and moves on to "Inside" with an excellent keyboard mix that immediately catches
your interest and prevents you from concentrating on something else. It is a
very well crafted intro accompanied by the rhythm guitars, bass, drums and
finally Gildenlow's wonderful vocal delivery. The first few lines give subtle
messages and we gradually begin to understand that One Hour is a very
angry album, especially in certain parts:
I was told the pain and hunger
was not my fault...
Lyrically the album deals with issues like war, war industry, environment and
pollution. The subtopics derive from the search of a man for the right
way of living. At the time, all Pain Of Salvation albums are conceptual.
While One Hour is also a concept album, it contains several independent
subtopics, and instead of directly telling a story, it combines the above
mentioned lyrical themes in a very unusual and successful way. Gildenlow
believes that it is still possible to have individual lyrics within a concept
and focus on various issues lyrically. According to Gildenlow, they decided
to record this album after Gildenlow wrote a 600 page essay.
Compared to the band's debut Entropia, One Hour is more focused and
mature. Entropia was fresh and raw. It
had more groove and soul, while One Hour is a bit more stiff. But their
debut had borrowed lots of elements from various genres and therefore it didn't
sound as focused as this record. Perhaps trying to cover new ground every second
was branching out too far.
The fifth track "Handful of Nothing" showcases one of the greatest screams to
have been recorded. The advanced
rhythm section sounds incredible, though to Daniel it is much harder to tap into
the right emotions at the right time. This is another main aspect that makes
Pain Of Salvation different to most other prog bands. They aren't about technical wizardy trying
to impress their fans with any sort of prowess. While it is obvious they are
extremely talented musicians, they seem to focus more on the emotional side of
prog metal, which nowadays is not very common, especially considering
all the Dream Theater clones out there.
Gildenlow's vocals are hard to describe. He is one of the most
versatile, multi-dimensional singers out there (others would be
Keith Sudano from Eternity X and Dan Swano from Nightingale & Edge of Sanity).
He uses his voice in very different ways through the entire album, and on every
other Pain Of Salvation release as well. He has said many a time that
the prog metal genre has a fixed position with its high pitched
vocals, doing the same stuff all the time - it's like a guitarist who only plays one
style, just one
range of the guitar. So we always hear him experimenting with his vocal
delivery, shifting from the smoothest singing to the harshest, growling
One Hour By The Concrete Lake is possibly the band's most interactive
record, since all the band members had a certain amount of input in it. It is
also their closest to a traditional metal album, but still has the trademark
Pain Of Salvation flavor all over it. It may require some patience and thought till it grows on
you, so don't give up on it if it doesn't click with you right away. It will
be worth the wait.