At times it is hard to remember that this is just a 3-man outfit. But the fact that Salva is the musical collaboration of 3 childhood friends, under the guidance of Per Malmberg, doubtlessly contributes to the musical cohesion and to the way each contribution complements the other. A Handful Of Earth is Salva's debut album.
The band's strength lies in its instrumentation and – particularly – in the variation from song to song. There are ballads, pure jazz, hard rock bordering on metal, and even some folksy moments; and above all it is wrapped in a cloak of pure modern progressive rock. Malmberg's sense of melody is excellent, and Salva manages at once to build simple melodies into big sounds, and to break big concepts into simple verse.
The songs are richly structured with bold shifts and bolder mood swings, the walls of sound on some tracks are huge, and the instrumental and sonic variety would suggest a far bigger ensemble. Listen for the elegant xylophone that closes out the CD at the end of "Gone", or the uplifting, lilting riff that starts the same track. Listen to the guitar and keyboard solos in "A Thousand Deaths". The accordion, the mandolin, the cello patch on "Rain" – all contribute to a well textured body of modern progressive rock.
Per's vocals may or may not have universal appeal. His singing is in a rich, mid-tone delivery with limited range, that lends itself to clearly enunciated lyrics. Which is lucky, since the self-manufactured CD does not include the words – you'll have to listen carefully for them, or go to their web site which lists them in a very readable format. Salva's music addresses some big themes but the prose itself could stand refinement and a few passages may leave you with the impression that the words were an afterthought, and were forced into an established instrumental layer.
"Faith Versus Reason" is an exploration of the concepts behind religion that recalls Jethro Tull's Aqualung. (Per makes no secret that 'Tull is his favorite band.) "Never Again" is a somewhat self-righteous, but understandably earnest examination of a child killed in a racial war. Other themes examine loss, loneliness and self-examination, and the standout track is the 9-minute "A Thousand Deaths". This track looks at the inner struggle to overcome one's cowardice. It is very strong musically, starting with powerful metallic riffs, a pondering, heavy beat and layers of hard-edged Hammond-driven keyboards. It shifts into an elegantly progressive, classically tinged instrumental section driven by piano and orchestral-sounds, and it ends in a surprising soft-jazz section that extends the piece's themes and takes them as far from metal as you could possibly get. And as diverse as that all sounds, the piece remains cohesive throughout. You could easily justify the purchase of A Handful Of Earth on this song alone.
Salva is clearly a talented outfit with a good future. And judging by their debut album, we certainly hope there will be a sophomore release.
- Never Again (7:08)
- A Thousand Deaths (8:47)
- Trick of the Century (6:12)
- Land of Obscurity (5:15)
- Faith versus Reason (9:20)
- Rain (6:45)
- Gone (9:15)