The Perfect Element

Pain Of Salvation

Inside Out Music America, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In preparing for my day at ProgPower USA this Saturday, I've discovered something about each progressive rock disc I listen to: I have to give an individual disc at least one day before I'm accustomed to it. I don't mean I need a day to like it; rather, I have to spend a significant amount of time with each one in order to discover all the nuances and subplots hidden within.

In the case of Pain Of Salvation and their third album The Perfect Element, I've spent the better part of three days on this disc - and I still don't feel I've captured everything that Daniel Gildenlöw and crew have captured in the span of 70-odd minutes.

The first thing that strikes you about this Swedish quintet is the different musical styles they draw on. Of course, you can hear comparisons to Dream Theater in their music (I swear, I'm not intentionally looking to compare every prog-rock act I hear to Dream Theater), but there's also the occasional nod to... Limp Bizkit?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Believe it. In songs like "Used" and "Ashes," you can hear the influence of Limp Bizkit in Daniel Gildenlöw's rap-like delivery or enhanced vocal lines, or in the guitar licks. Die-hard prog-rock fans, relax; these moments don't come that often, and sometimes you can even see how they're used. (I didn't necessarily say I liked their inclusion, just that I could see where they fit.)

If Pain Of Salvation remind me of anyone, it would be Queensryche, both in the delivery of their musical payload and the personally intense stories that are told in these 12 songs. Meant to be the first part of a look at childhood and adolescence, the band - vocalist/guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw, guitarist/vocalist Johan Hallgren, keyboardist Fredrik Hermansson, bassist/vocalist Kristoffer Gildenlöw and drummer/vocalist Johan Langell - paint some bleak, disturbing portraits.

I don't know if The Perfect Element is meant to be the story of one person or each song is a reflection of a different person going through experiences of childhood and adolescence (I tend to believe the latter, since I lost any semblance of a story line after "In The Flesh"), but this is most definitely a disc you'll want to listen to while reading the liner notes. I don't claim to have a perfect understanding of each story (though the loss of a beloved grandparent in "Dedication" is one which hit home with me), but don't be surprised if at least one song's story hits you square in the heart.

Musically, Pain Of Salvation is more than competent, and The Perfect Element, while proving to be an incredibly challenging album to both get through and to comprehend, proves to be well worth the time and effort. Listen to this disc the first time for the music; listen to it every other time for the stories. Listen to how the band ties themes together throughout the album (portions of concepts in "Ashes" resurface in "Idioglossia" and "The Perfect Element" - which suggests I could be wrong about these being individual stories).

The Perfect Element sometimes proves to be difficult to get through in one sitting - but that is nothing compared to some of the pictures its songs portray. You might not want to look at the musical images - but you know you have to. In the end, you'll be a better person for it - and Pain Of Salvation probably knows this first-hand. A powerful, challenging album that's well worth your time, The Perfect Element suggests that Pain Of Salvation will become the moral conscience of progressive rock.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Inside Out Music America, and is used for informational purposes only.