Sound — 10
Pain Of Salvation are not a band to be taken lightly. Every release is at the least attention-grabbing and intriguing. On few albums is this more evident than their live acoustic set "12:5". Performed on the 12th of May, 2003 (the fifth month, hence the title 12:5), they didn't just swap out their electric guitars and synthesizers for acoustic instruments and play some tunes. They carefully chose a setlist which forms it's own concept known as "Brickwork" (though I am unfamiliar with what that concept actually is), and dramatically rearrange some of the songs for a refreshingly new effect. Taking songs from every previous album except One Hour By The Concrete Lake, the result is almost it's own album entirely. The sound in this album is nothing short of fantastic. Every band member handles their instrument very well, especially Daniel Gildenlw and Johan Hallgren, who show an exceptional amount of prowess on the acoustic guitar. The mix itself is fantastic, never before have I heard a live album that sounds as clear and balanced as this one. Every song in the list is done well, and this album is ripe with standout tracks. First there's "Winning A War" from their first album, Entropia, which contains fairly altered instrumentals but retains it's overall structure and is just as moving as the original. Then there's "Undertow" from the Remedy Lane CD, where the main melody of the song is moved almost entirely to the piano and a new harmonized guitar line is played over it. While some people think it lost something in translation, I think this song is even heavier and more intense here than the studio version. My two personal favorites are "Oblivion Ocean", again from Entropia, and "Ashes" from The Perfect Element Part 1. Oblivion Ocean is normally one of my least favorite tracks from this band because the sound is almost too dark and brooding for my tastes and it's a fairly slow moving song. However, here they sing the song's original lyrics over entirely new music, and until Daniel begins with "Sleep is too quiet, dreams are too painful... ", you can't even tell what song you're listening to. I honestly wish they would have recorded it this way originally. Ashes, on the other hand, starts with the lilting intro in A minor, but when the verse begins they change to a major key and Daniel alters the vocal melody to match, it turns into a very happy sounding song. Some people complain that the subject matter of the lyrics doesn't work when paired to the uplifting music backing it, but that doesn't bother me. The result is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, I always find myself skipping forward to this song and the resulting jam session that ends the disc.
Lyrics — 9
As with just about every song this band has recorded, the vocals are awe-inspiring. While the lyrics are largely unchanged from the studio songs, they're sung here with more precision and care to adapt them to the intimate acoustic atmosphere. Daniel has been highly regarded as one of the most talented vocalists in the world of progressive metal, and here he shines. He uses a more free-flowing R&B singing style in the beginning medley, and switches styles occasionally, but he's always on top of his game, using his vocal range to it's fullest. Johan also lends his singing talents more prominently, particularly on Chainsling where he shares lead vocal duties with Daniel. Aside from a few odd murmurs here and there, the vocals are great, every band member does their part, adding to backup vocals and harmonies that can be rivaled by very few.
Overall Impression — 10
Being an acoustic set, this could easily be called Pain Of Salvation's most accessible record, but it's a good thing. They chose a very tight setlist with a lot of variety, and as such I would recommend this album to anyone who wants to get into this band because it offers samples of just about every stage of their ever-changing sound. For anyone who is already a fan but doesn't own this disc, you're doing yourself an injustice by not having it in your library. It isn't a mellow acoustic CD to listen to when you want to calm yourself down, it's a heavy, moving, emotional journey through, in my opinion, one of the best musical catalogs around. I may be a bit biased because Pain Of Salvation is one of my favorite bands, if not my personal number one, but honestly I can't say anything bad about this album. Were I to lose it or find it's been stolen, I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one. I couldn't do without it.