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Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick

Three observations:

1). Pain Of Salvation is a complex group of artists. Really complex.

2). Daniel Gildenlow is a very angry man.

3). Love this or hate it (and many will hate it), you can't ignore Scarsick.

Let's explain:

First, that complexity: Pain Of Salvation has always written dense music with a deep message. Those ideas have become more complicated with time, and the band has found more and more experimental and expressive ways to deliver the memo. From Entropia and the excellent One Hour By The Concrete Lake through the exceptional Remedy Lane, their sound was relatively conventional, the performances were outstanding, and the light-progressive-metal meets various other forms of prog won them a legion of followers. Then along came Be, a heavily philosophical piece and a wild swing away from convention and into a variety of sounds so diverse that huge numbers of listeners - including many disillusioned fans - had difficulty wrapping their arms around the album. But with its new complexity Be also won Pain Of Salvation many new fans. Well Scarsick extends that trend. It isn't quite as diverse as Be, but it's just as far removed from anything else in the band's back catalog. And although the band is generally lumped into the prog-metal pigeonhole - Scarsick is a bit metallic, and with its damn-the-conventions, its diversity and its experimental nature, it's very progressive.

Next - Daniel's anger. Music is 'expression' - and make no mistake, Gildenlow expresses himself with powerful if unconventional effect here. There's an overwhelming impression of bitter cynicism and a deep emotional investment. Many lyrics are the diatribe of intelligent opposition political commentary, and the instrumentation supports that attitude. Listen to the first song, the title track, with its rap-like vocal tones - half-spoken prose, spat out with anger and a captivating rhythm and serious attitude. Then listen to the lyrics of "Cribcaged" - with its chortling baby in the intro and the outro, the simple chord sequence and elegant guitar work, and the pleasing rhythmic lilt that is so catchy and reminiscent of Remedy Lane. But as the soft ballad builds into a shopping list of people that anger Daniel, it develops into a list of 'fuck yous' - and the first impression is that Daniel is just anti-everything. The real point seems to be that to protect that laughing baby, the successful and influential people of the world need to understand that they're really just people. But that isn't immediately apparent, and on the first several spins it just sounds enraged and bitter.

Finally - whether this music appeals to you or not, whether you agree with Daniel's somewhat extreme politics or not, you will be affected by Scarsick. You'll love it, or you'll hate it. You might nod at the social commentary, or you might want to break the CD in half when you hear the lyrics to the anthemic "America" which expresses his anger at the USA with lyrics like Sick Of America ... and You could have been good America / Could have been great, America... It's the most controversial song on the record and has already caused many to swear they'll never buy another record from Pain Of Salvation. So here's a marketing hint: If you want to sell your music to an audience, don't insult them!

"Disco Queen" is probably the most quirky song you'll hear all year. On the surface it's a pure disco number, a send-up or a caricature of everything that was terrible about disco music. But spin it again, and there's a second, more powerful thread of pure, classic Pain Of Salvation-styled prog-metal that weaves its way through the piece, and helps convey the song's message. Very clever.

The second half of the record seems to settle into something closer to the band's earlier sounds. "Kingdom Of Loss" has always been the band's catch-name for themselves - their web site, for example, has always invited surfers to 'Enter the kingdom of loss'. And the song with that title sounds as if it could have been lifted from many of their earlier records. "Flame To the Moth" features some of the album's heavier moments, and closing track "Enter Rain" is a complex, well layered 10-minute piece that wraps the record up admirably.

Kristoffer Gildenlow left the band before Scarsick, and seems to have taken something with him. While Daniel does an admirable job on the bass guitar, his brother's popularity and his interesting bass lines have not been fully replaced. Scarsick will win Pain Of Salvation some new fans, but there's no question that it will also cost them some fans who have been fiercely loyal for many years.

What a complex, insanely talented, angry group of artists!

Important Postscript:

After the first reviews of Be were published, Daniel had to correct many of us. We thought we'd interpreted the music correctly, but it turned out we were way off-beam - and we were further impressed by the incredible attention he had paid to every tiny detail. Just watch the DVD of Be, and you'll be amazed to discover that even the smallest gestures were designed to convey a part of the overall message.

So we tried to contact him before publishing this review, but logistics prevented that interview from taking place as planned. And without the lyrics at hand, we're at a disadvantage.

So expect an interview in the near future that will hopefully cast a lot more light on the intent behind the lyrics, the cause of some of the anger, and exactly how he's using this music to express his concerns about social issues and world politics. And if there are corrections to - or deeper explanations of - the items described in this review, we'll be quick to publish them.

Meantime - get Scarsick if you think you're equal to the challenge.

Track Listing:
1. Scarsick
2. Spitfall
3. Cribcaged
4. America
5. Disco Queen
6. Kingdom Of Loss
7. Mrs Modern Mother Mary
8. Idiocracy
9. Flame To The Moth
10.Enter Rain

Added: February 4th 2007
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Score:
Related Link: The Band's Website
Hits: 7425
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-02-04 11:29:39
My Score:

In the CD packaging where most people will likely not look lies the answer to their question. Is Scarsick the conceptual follow-up to the band's The Perfect Element I released in 2000? The answer is yes. The faint title in the inlay, right inside the CD tray reads: The Perfect Element, Part II - "He". Divided into two main parts, simply called Side A and B, Scarsick presents both the newly found musical style of Pain of Salvation, and picks up exactly where the previous album left off.

For those who may have been put off by the two controversial songs "America" and "Disco Queen", it has to be pointed out that these tracks work a lot better in the context of the album. There is a reason why "America", a song which in no way is targeting the American people but rather their government's foreign policy, and "Disco Queen", whose curious style has previously been experimented by the likes of Mr Bungle, follow the deeply moving "Cribcaged", featuring in many ways Daniel Gildenlow's most touching vocal performance on this disc. Right from the beginning where you can hear a baby (Daniel's son?) laughing and some beautiful blues-tinged guitar tones ringing atop the guiding piano melody, Daniel sings in a tone that will make you melt. It's one of those Pain of Salvation songs that grows on and on until its terrific main chorus kicks, albeit slightly differently this time around given its repeated F-word lines, and Daniel just pours pure, sheer emotion into the piece, climaxing at around the 4:01 mark and cementing the opinion that he is still the best singer in this style, period. (Speaking of the F-word, if people are really that offended by it, maybe they should listen to Bon Jovi's "It's My Life". Now that's a great song, no?)

As with Be, there will no doubt be fans who will not like this album, but I seriously cannot think anyone won't shudder when they hear the said vocals of "Cribcaged" or the superb vocal melody achieved at around 5:57 on "Spitfall", another cut that will divide the band's fanbase because of its rap-like vocals. Mind you, the vocals are very intentional as the purpose of this song is to criticise the rap/hiphop culture in the States along with parts of modern society at large. That said, the way Daniel delivers the lines "There's nothing like a broken childhood / There's nothing like a broken home" is so painful and honest any long-time fan is bound to feel the message.

"Disco Queen", which I now consider one of the best songs on the album, also holds an important place in the album in that it actually emphasizes the conceptual lyrical imagery presented in the first part. Unlike "In the Flesh", however, which was a song about physical abuse, "Disco Queen" is about sexual abuse with clever lyrical imageries portraying the prostitution of the soul. The ever-present dichotomies, shifting from light verses to the comical, hysterial disco beats in a split second are simply hilarious.

Side B seems less experimental, but it's actually equally bizarre. The looped, static key patch buried underneath the guitar riffs of "Mrs Modern Mother Mary" evoke Kevin Moore during his Chroma Key and film soundtrack phase, with futuristic soundscapes and acrobatic, unique vocals. "Kingdom of Loss" is the touching sequel to "King of Loss", and it seems they even assigned part of the lead work to the amazing solo heard at the end. Unfortunately, it is not credited in the booklet, but I feel this one is played by Daniel and the impact, given it enters the song after nice, soothing flute sounds, is phenomenal.

"Idiocracy" was one of those songs that just escaped me upon the first couple of times, but now after having spent over two weeks with Scarsick, it's become one of my favourites. The intro here is unbelievably huge and epic sounding, thanks to Fredrik Hermansson's keyboards, and Daniel's vocals are impossibly emotional. Littered with both electric and acoustic guitar sections, it is the finale of this song that is so uniquely haunting.

Drummer Johan Langell is arguably the most standout member behind Daniel Gildenlow on this album. His tone and widely eclectic playing style could be his best in his career yet. The Tool-like tribal drumming on the aggressive title track, resolving with weird harmonies, and the bone-crushing slam of "Flame to the Moth", the album's heaviest and meanest piece, are spectacular. The drum run is eerily evocative of Entropia, but when juxtaposed with the weird, metrical guitar riffery, the syncopation becomes simply monstrous, much like the material we hear on Lamb of God and Meshuggah songs. Add to this the maniacal screaming from Daniel and you have a winner. We never heard Daniel scream like this before.

Much like the previous albums, Scarsick ends with another epic: "Enter Rain", a song that is both challenging in its ten-plus-minute running time and compositional style. Lyrically, it hints at the main character's suicide where he stays on top of a building and says, "In two seconds I will hit the ground". But also worth reading into is the shared lyrical theme from Remedy Lane's "A Trace of Blood", which appears during the second part of the song, simply titled "Standing" (the others being "Running" and "Falling" - note the reference to TPE1). This is the part where his scars, wounds, pain and filth are washed away. It all ends on a dreary, cold note with deafening police and ambulance sirens.

There are numerous references made to the previous albums on Scarsick, both musically and lyrically. This certainly helps unify the messages Daniel Gildenlow tries to convey. While the first part of the album depicted the relation between the individual and society, and how it is actually the society itself that forms and shapes the individuals it is so quick to condemn as 'sick', we had insight into the minds and souls, or psychologies if you will, of those individuals on part one. Scarsick now takes the matter and explores it on a more sociological level, still referencing the characters' past, but mostly focusing on the evolution of He. As the booklet implies, the story is to be continued, and perhaps it will be the story of She that will be the more symphonically arranged and painstakingly composed album, as Daniel has revealed before.

Of course, many will write off Scarsick, claiming it fails to touch the brilliance of the band's prior efforts like The Perfect Element I and Remedy Lane, whilst it will also bring in new fans to the band. It is unfortunate that some will write it off as boring without really giving it its deserved time and spins, but that's the fate of many other prog albums.

Scarsick is best enjoyed if taken as a new album that stands on its own merits. Sure it goes all the way back touching upon everything Daniel has released, but in the end, it's still its own work. Keep that in mind.

Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-01-26 15:54:29
My Score:

I never followed PoS before this release so I admit in advance that their new CD would be as much a mystery to me in both band and overall sound. I had only come to the release with the understanding that the mastermind behind it all, Daniel Gildenlow, was a very politically minded and controversial individual. He does not have any fear when it comes to lining out just how sick he is with society around him. As a musical release the new album Scarsick is definitely complex and intriguing, it is technical and melodic, yet at the same time unpredictable on many of its tracks as it adventures into a numerous styles. I had read that he falls into the Progressive side but there are so many Metal and Power riffs presented here that this particular album might be the cause of this labeling being debated going forward. He begins with an almost Rap like track that brought to mind Rage Against The Machine with a little Faith No More by the lyrical mannerisms, and when "Spitfall" began I thought I was listening to a new track by Linkin Park. It is quite an interesting start and the commentary on the release cites that this album is the culmination of work he had done in the past. Perhaps it will be easier to grab and be understood by those who followed the group from the beginning because believe me the surprises do not end here. "Cribcaged" starts off with a babies cry and comes off as a gentle ballad until he begins ranting and raving with "F-U's" for just about everyone and everything he can get out of his system during the length of the song. Are you shocked yet? Well don't be, because Gildenlow isn't finished and he certainly saved up enough rancor for the song "America" which follows next and is the number that most people will remember from the CD. He is clearly not a fan of these great United States and in this song; he explains why as repeatedly he comments snidely with remarks like "you could have been great America", and "I'm sick of America". Surely, this will be one of the most controversial songs on the recording and in the bands overall catalog. "Disco Queen" is a strange one that at times will have you bopping about as he sings about the prostitution of oneself. Diverse enough for you, well there are still another five tracks to hear. The members of Pain Of Salvation outside of Gildenlow are Fredrik Hermansson (keyboards), Johan Langell (drums/vocals) and Johan Hallgren (guitar/vocals). Top notch and quality musicians to say the least no matter what end of the political spectrum they fall into. Songs that made me forget about the earlier Anti-American sentiment were "Mrs. Modern Mother Mary" since I loved the guitar groove and way the time signature flowed. This is the shortest number on the release and reminded me of Saigon Kick, boy these dudes are reminding me of so many bands on this one. Progressively speaking, there is not much to be disappointed in.

Overall, this is a killer piece of music that was well thought out even if some of his reasoning is called into question. Some of the songs are epic in length running between eight and ten minutes but there is so much going on in them that it's hardly boring. I found it to be a deep release that needed more than a couple of listens for me to actually catch him. I think he might have some issue with "America" though because the tune is so flaming and while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, these opinions can also come with levels of reprisal. Hey Gildenlow, America is the land of the free you know, and freedom of choice is part of that. Many might choose not to support your music for such a number going forward and it's hard to expect a loving audience waiting in a region that you seem to have a lot of contempt for. Good luck in winning them over with this on your shoulder.


Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-01-25 15:14:17
My Score:

Reviewing a Pain of Salvation album is never easy. While earlier albums like Entropia and One Hour By the Concrete Lake had a fairly straightforward het highly intelligent approach, subsequent releases like Remedy Lane, The Perfect Element Part 1, and especially 2004's Be were a different story altogether. These featured sprawling, progressive metal arrangements and dense, thought provoking lyrical content that took many listens to fully comprehend the social commentary from Daniel Gildenlow. In fact, for many, the story behind Be did not fully reveal itself until the live DVD was released, as the band played the full album live on stage with a crew of dancers and actors portraying the story.

Well, Scarsick is no less complex and dense, and Gildenlow seems set on directing his angst on many issues of modern day society once again. Tunes like "Spitfall" and "America" are especially angry pieces, and songs that are sure to strike a nerve with some listeners. If you can handle Gildenlow's venomous songwriting here, and you have to give him credit for speaking his mind on these topics regardless of whether you agree with him or not, the musical aspect of Scarsick is once again top notch as always from Pain of Salvation. From the rootsy, expletive laced "Crib Caged", to the progressive metal/rap infested frenzy of the above mentioned "Spitfall", the bizarre disco/prog of "Disco Queen", to the funky progressive metal of "Mrs. Modern Mother Mary", this is Pain of Salvation constantly keeping the listener guessing what style they will hit next. The Middle Eastern tinged "Flame to the Moth" is one of the most intriguing pieces on the CD musically speaking, littered with plenty of metal riffs and prog rock embellishments, while the closing 'Enter Rain" is sure to be a future classic for the band, this one a ten-minute gem with dramatic peaks and valleys that shows the true adventurous nature of this band.

In the end, Scarsick is another triumph for Pain of Salvation, and sure to be one of 2007's most talked about releases. You may not agree with what the band has to say here, but you won't be able to ignore it.


» Reader Comments:

Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2007-06-28 12:16:03
My Score:

Not the masterpiece i thought it would be, but excellent anyway.The whole concept is terrific and it's well done.I feel it's very short though.All the rest had been said.

Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick
Posted by Anonymous on 2007-01-27 11:52:49
My Score:

Hi everyone

I agree with you that this is just a great album, I'm really in love with it, but I'd like to comment on "America" and the interpretation I have on it.

Well, in Europe America is not a very beloved country. You only would have to spend some months in Europe, hear opinions, watch media, and you would find information which you couldn't find in your own country about your own country. It's always like this, your own country make up lies which you believe until you are out of their reach, I also went away from Spain for a time and when I was back I just saw my country in a different way.

However, you maybe understand why America is not a very well considered country around the world, well, your politicians are not precisely angels. Our politicians either, but maybe they don't have so much power and that's the difference. As one of my teachers said, when Bush farts we hear it here.

However I don't think "America" it's just a song made out of rage or hate or too bad intentions. There are some lines after so much strong criticism which made me think about it. It is really easy to criticise America, because it has just too many things to criticise, and I don't believe Gindenlow is just one of these punkies who criticise and don't give any solution to the problems they talk about. Throughout the album I can see his understading about the love americans feel for their country. In "Kingdom of Loss" he talks about capitalism "all for sale" and America (although Europe is becoming more and more the same everyday) is the most obvious example of consumism. There are some lines there, sung by little voices which say "If you're tearing down my world, please just try to do it gently, there is love inside, for the dream that has to die". To me these voices are the voices of so many americans which love their country. You feel love about your American Dream which is not a dream anymore. And in "America" there are other lines after so much joke, which I consider the counterpart of the song:

"Oh America
Don't you walk out on me
Just wait a second now
Please hear me out
Oh
I'll do my best to love you
Oh yes I will
I know you're out there
C'mon
Raise your voices
Don't let them ruin your reputation
Don't let them wreck your constitution
Not out of fear
Not out of greed

But you had a good run America
Your day in the sun America

Rise to your former glory
Be brave and warm
Oh America

If I say I love you
If I say I love you
If I say I love you
Dare you love me too?

Don't you think these are positive words? And they are sung with a lot of passion, I really believe Daniel is saying this with all the best intentions.

THe best patriotism one can make is the critical one. If you only talk about the good things of your country and neglect the others you will never solve the things which are wrong. I love my country because of a few things, I don't consider myself nationalistic, but if I criticise my country it is not out just hatred or something like that, but because I want the others to see that there are things which are wrong and that should be solved. What Daniel says about America is, at least from this part of the Atlantic, quite true. It is said with really a lot of sarcasm, but it is still true. Maybe you can't see so clearly this because you're part of that reality and it is more difficult to see things from the inside.

Anyway I don't think Gindenlow is insulting americans. As indiviudals you are great I like you very much because of your friendliness and simplicity. However, your politicians and your foreign policy is fucking your image around the world, and I still find many people who think you (americans) are idiots for voting and letting your politicians to fuck your ass and the rest of the world.

Anyway, I think it is a shame that so many followers don't listen to this band out of this song. If you don't like listening to something you should try to find out why and maybe change your mind. Gindenlow himself said that Artists don't only create art but they have a bigger social responsibility because they can bring their message to many people, and that's why they have to make this kind of choices and risk themselves. I'm sure many bands believe the same about America, but they are not brave enough to try to change people's minds.

So that's all. Sorry about the political message, but here is deeply related to the song and to my favourite band, so...

Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick
Posted by lusephur on 2007-01-24 11:17:47
My Score:

this is an incredible piece of work, his targets are precise and he hits them square between the eyes. it's almost as if bill hicks, george carlin and al franken decided to form a serious prog rock band and set forth all their vitrolic anger and distaste at contemperary society. it's a must, a definite cd for any fan of truely intelligent music

Pain Of Salvation: Scarsick
Posted by Karlo Jelincic on 2007-01-20 07:11:57
My Score:

Excellent review. Totally agree, this is another brilliant album from Pain of Salvation.




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