A long review made short, The Perfect Element Pt.1 is a landmark in the history of prog metal music. It is original, ground-breaking, fresh, and the definitive prog release of the new millennium.
That's basically all you need to know. The rest is details.
There is a clear line between Pain of Salvation's first two albums and their last two. TPE1 marks the beginning of a completely new era; not only in POS, but in the entire prog metal genre. There is something simply differing TPE1 and the two albums that were released before it. POS proved to have stunning technical and aesthetic ability on One Hour and Entropia, but with TPE1, as Daniel Gildenlow puts it, they have found their true self. This album is audibly more varied in texture; more tightly organised and more progressive in context. This is one of the very rare albums that exhibits immense originality and diversity by great musicianship.
According to Daniel Gildenlow, Pain of Salvation is a name that represents the balance in life and the need for sacrifice when one wishes to accomplish something. Taking his life motto and artistic manifesto into account, it is a very fitting name. On TPE1 there is a great parallel between the storyline in the concept and the band's meaningful name. POS is one of those bands whose lyrical statements are equally important and progressive as their musical compositions. They have released four albums, all of which are conceptual. TPE1 is no exception; it aims to make a unified statement foremost. It's not just about the music, but also the statements Daniel Gildenlow has to make. This simply enforces my respect for POS and makes them my current favourite prog metal band. Yes, they're THAT good.
Those of you who have listened to POS should know that their music is one of a kind and acquiesces no definitions. The word "unique" describes them best. Since you have to hear the music to believe its beauty, I'll try to analyse the other side of the band: their lyrical content and the concept behind TPE1. This album catalogs a wide range of themes: drugs, incest, violence, children, and the human mind and soul. This isn't merely the story of two small children who meet and love each other. Unlike the first two storylines on POS' albums, Gildenlow, this time, documents the more personal side of human beings, as opposed to dealing with external issues. Both the young boy and girl are in search of something they lack; they are seeking different ways of trying to regain what they've been missing all through the years. While the boy is into violence, the girl has been sexually abused and it's quite self-destructive. Like I said, this isn't just a sad story about two broken individuals. On the contrary, it depicts the relation between the individual and society. The way society forms the individual is the main theme here. Gildenlow has been writing about people in the backside of society since the debut album and the song "People Passing By". He is trying to document that society which sees people as a threat. However, what's funny is, it's the same society that forms these so-called 'sick' individuals and then tries to straighten them out or ignore them like they don't even exist. Throwing people into jail, or in the worst case terminating them completely because they don't fit the society's masterplan is boldly explored and criticised on this album (but I assume we'll get a larger scope on this in part 2).
Another bold move on Daniel Gildenlow's part is that he goes out of his way to speak for those who have problems and can't speak for themselves. I read in an interview where he pointed out that he knows several people who have been through the sexual abuse thing and none of them reported it to the police or have even spoken about it that much. Basically TPE1 is one of those rare albums to screams at the senselessness of life. In Entropia, POS was using the global world on a social level as the context, and within the context, they looked at some individuals (father, son, mother). On TPE1 it's the other way around. Now they have the human mind as the context, and through that context, they look at social patterns and things that happen on a social level. What makes this album's concept so unique is that they have chosen to go from two small children to the large picture on a very human nature level. The young boy and girl serve Gildenlow's purpose excellently. Not only do we feel for them, but we are also offered a glimpse into the core of real life on a more social level.
Musically the album is flawless too. It upsets me to see some people complaining about Gildenlow's approach to songwriting. I for one think he is a joy to listen to; his range of vocal styles covering every inch of categorisable music genres is stunning. The band behind him are equally phenomenal. The songwriting is incredible. Take the opening song "Used" for example; the moment when it switches from the harsh verse to the acappela chorus is simply out of this world. You don't see it coming, which makes it even more of a shocker. "Idioglossia" makes nice lyrical references to "Ashes" which reminds me of early-90's Savatage, and I just love it. The long instrumental passage in "Her Voices" and the pastoral closing of the title track are just two of the many gorgeous moments on this monumental release.
I've read some reviews where people are angry at the slight change of musical direction from the heavier to the more prog-driven approach. I personally love all four albums and realise I wouldn't love TPE1 and RL as much had it not been for One Hour and Entropia, but you have to note that artists makes music to express themselves, not to fit the fans' preconceived notions of what music should sound like to them. It's cool if you dislike their current style, but you have no right to demand from them to play the type of music you want to hear. Just my humble opinion.
- In the Flesh
- Morning on Earth
- Her Voices
- King of Loss
- Song of the Innocent
- Falling Listen Listen
- The Perfect Element