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Pain of Salvation: Road Salt One

Pain of Salvation have never been ones to toe the line, or play it safe; not for them the easy routine of releasing the same album over and over again with slightly different lyrics. It is no great shock then - for a band that defies easy genre pigeonholing - that Road Salt One sounds like nothing that has come before it. What is slightly surprising, however, is the way in which it does it. The band's last two offerings, for better or worse, were exercises in grabbing the listener by the unmentionables with their visceral intensity (BE with its egomaniacal ambition, and Scarsick with its raw immediacy). Road Salt One, by contrast, initially sounds modest, perhaps even underwhelming. Rather than pummel the listener into overawed submission, it insinuates itself under the skin before gradually revealing unforeseen depths.

On first impressions, for example, the opener - "No Way" - initially sounds excessively basic, and appears to lack any development throughout the song; the oom-pah of "Under the Stars" seems a little trite; and "Linoleum" appears one-dimensional. But, given time, the repressed aggression of "Linoleum" shines with a sense of clear intensity, the musical hall bawdiness of "Under the Stars" is quickly revealed as a cover for the darkly comic undertones of the song, and the tempestuous and grating guitars chiming in the background of "No way" perfectly compliment its mood of barely contained possessive angst. In short, the album is a grower.

Overall the album is a majestic melting pot of styles. The band are gleefully determined to stretch to the very limits of what they can get away with; moving freely and unpretentiously from deft emotive harmonies, razor-harsh riffs, beautifully melancholic piano lines, punchy pop-rock and a whole breadth of shades between. Road Salt One also features a liberal dose of seedy humour, with Daniel Gildenlöw even recalling Frank Zappa in his needling heyday.

All of this results in a profoundly satisfying experience. Listeners wanting more of the same may well be disappointed again, but Pain of Salvation have managed to deliver an album that gradually unfurls itself as a moving and enthralling piece of work. If truth be told, it suffers slightly for being the first of a pair (Road Salt Two is expected later this year), with the material towards the end feeling a little less distinctive than at the beginning as if it represents a slight sag in the middle of the duo. But this difference is only by slight degrees and does little to tarnish the overall effect.

In fact, even if the rest of the tracks were complete failures, the album would be worth it alone on the strength of "Sisters" – a meditation on temptation built around a simple piano line that grows into a massively beautiful tour de force and an exceptional vocal performance.

Note – The limited edition of the album has one track added and two tracks extended. However, it makes the unusual move of replacing the original edits with the extended versions, and opening the album with the bonus track. This makes the album overall a stronger proposition, with both extended tracks being more satisfying than the original cuts and the bonus track serving as a fitting introduction to the rest of the piece.

Track Listing
1. What She Means To Me (Limited Edition Bonus Track)
2. No Way (Limited Edition Extended Version)
3. She Likes to Hide
4. Sisters
5. Of Dust
6. Tell Me You Don't Know
7. Sleeping Under the Stars
8. Darkness of Mine
9. Linoleum
10. Curiosity
11. Where It Hurts
12. Road Salt (Limited Edition Extended Version)
13. Innocence

Added: June 27th 2010
Reviewer: Richard Wheelhouse
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4048
Language: english

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Pain of Salvation: Road Salt One
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-06-27 09:18:51
My Score:

With 2007's Scarsick, Sweden's progressive metal wonders seemed intent on bashing everything American, and at the same time throw a curveball at longtime fans by employing some different sounds and styles into their musical mix. Well, with Road Salt One, the funny thing is just how 'American' they now sound. There's a bluesy, alternative/radio friendly vibe going on here that is perfectly suited to American tastes. You can hear this most glaringly in the first two tracks, "No Way" and "She Likes to Hide", each one with their mix of jangly blues, poppy jam band flavors, and an almost Southern Rock tone. The prog side of the band doesn't start to surface until the melancholy "Sisters", a tender track complete with emotional vocals from Daniel Gildenlow and some lovely keyboards.

"Of Dust" has an almost gospel feel, and "Tell Me You Don't Know" is like a collision between Delta Blues and Dave Matthews Band. The quirky "Sleeping Under the Stars" reminds of Gentle Giant in spots, mixed with perhaps some Queen, and is one of the more charming pieces on the CD. There's practically no bombast to be found on Road Salt One till you get to "Linoleum", this one a combination of heavy prog and radio friendly pop, complete with thick bass and guitar grooves, plus the always strong vocals of Gildenlow. Daniel's most passionate vocal on the album comes during "Road Salt", a tender little ballad featuring just his voice and electric piano, and one of the most compelling songs here despite its short length. Album closer "Innocence" is the longest at just over 7 minutes, but it recalls vintage classic rock acts such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, or even Soundgarden, more than anything resembling prog or metal.

As with Scarsick, fans are either going to love Road Salt One or hate it. The progressive metal bombast and epicness of the band's earlier material is seemingly gone now, as Pain of Salvation seem to be embracing more modern & classic 'rock' elements to their sound and leaving the prog behind. How you feel about this will determind your judgement of this latest release, but if you've never heard any PoS before and you happen to stumble upon Road Salt One, chances are you'll really dig it for what it is, which is a solid rock & pop album. It doesn't rock out too hard, and it's certainly not too wimpy, but falls somewhere in between.

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