If you think digesting a typical Pain of Salvation album is an emotional and gut-wrenching experience, wait until you immerse yourself in the evocative 12:5. This lush acoustic album, recorded live in 2003 in the Swedish band's hometown of Eskilstuna in front of about 80 people, reveals the organic roots of Pain of Salvation's dramatic progressive-metal music. By stripping familiar and not-so-familiar songs down to their bare essence and vividly delivering them though a holy trinity of piano, guitar and voice, the quintet has created a haunting musical document that's both contemporary and timeless.
Clearly, singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Gildenlow's gigging with fellow Swedes The Flower Kings has paid off; witness his ability here to effectively use vocal volume to convey musical messages and hold an audience enthralled. And the intimate environment of 12:5 leaves little room for error on behalf of the rest of Pain of Salvation's musicians who color these songs with harpsichords and cellos in addition to traditional unplugged instruments.
Far from a traditional unplugged performance, though, 12:5 is conceptually divided into three "books" ("Genesis, " "Genesister, " "Genesinister"). Band members rearranged (and even retitled) 16 songs culled from Pain of Salvation's four CDs by changing their instrumentation, structure, keys and entire vibe. At one point in "Genesis," the band revisits "Leaving Entropia," and its lush and earthy presentation here is the way Gildenlow says he originally envisioned the piece. Other songs aren't as easy to recognize; in fact, that's part of the point. From its confounding title (Gildenlow won't discuss its meaning) to the very brief song chapters that comprise elements of the equally mysterious 10-part "Brickwork, Part 1" and "Brickwork, Part 2" (half of which appears in "Genesis" and the other half in "Genesinister"), its just as easy to get frustrated listening to 12:5 as it is to revel in its beauty. While that side effect is actually true when listening to any Pain of Salvation album, none of those CDs is likely to move you quite they way this one might. It may not be heavy, but 12:5 is nonetheless a staggering recording.
Book I: Genesis
Book II: Genesister
Book III Genesinister
Total Running Time (60:47)