Released: November 10, 2014
Genre: Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock
Number of Tracks: 11
This is certainly one of the more interesting releases of 2014 and one you should check out if you're into old-school progressive rock, already a fan of Pain of Salvation, or just like well-crafted acoustic music.
travislausch, on november 24, 2014 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Pain of Salvation has had a very strange few years. After releasing their 1970s-influenced "Linoleum" EP and companion albums "Road Salt One" and "Road Salt Two," there had been a huge shake-up in terms of membership. Drummer Leo Margarit remained in the band, but guitarist Johan Hallgren and keyboardist Fredrik Hermansson both left the fold around the same time, to be replaced by Icelandic guitarist Ragnar Zolberg and touring bass player Daniel Karlsson, respectively. Filling Daniel Karlsson's bass playing spot was Gustaf Hielm, a bassist who might be best known among members of this site as the guy who played in Meshuggah on Chaosphere, but was also a member of Pain of Salvation prior to their debut album's release. Remaining original member and undoubtedly the band's creative head, Daniel Gildenlow, had a close call with death when he contracted flesh-eating bacteria only a year or so ago, prompting many of the band's plans, including the release of "Falling Home," to be cancelled.
Now that the dust has cleared for the band, and things are starting to settle, they've finally released "Falling Home", a collection of acoustic remakes of older songs and cover tunes, not unlike the band's previous live acoustic effort, "12:05," which was quite warmly received by the band's fanbase. But times have changed, and since "12:05," the band has released some very polarizing material, so some fans may be a bit skeptical of how they're taking on newer material in an acoustic context.
They begin the record with "Stress," a song originally released on their debut album "Entropia," and the acoustic rendition of this has some serious swing to it, even when you account for the odd time signature changes. The arrangement is relatively faithful to the original, but replacing the electric guitars for acoustics and adding some blues and jazz influences has almost transformed this song into a completely different beast. It really grooves, and it almost seems completely unrelated to the source material.
We move along to "Linoleum," a track released on its own EP and on "Road Salt One," one of PoS's more recent releases. Lush vocal harmonies are underpinned with some groovy bass playing, and Daniel Karlsson rocks the Hammond organ and Fender Rhodes. Ragnar Zolberg's backing vocals are quite prominent, and his singing seems to have a completely different quality to Daniel Gildenlow's, and I'm not too sure I'm a big fan of them yet, being used to Johan Hallgren's vocals.
"To the Shoreline" is next, and the song receives very few changes from the original on their most recent album "Road Salt Two." As on "RS2," the song has an amazing melody and some incredibly powerful harmonies. In a perfect world, this song could be an incredible hit for them. The production of this record is pristine, and I can say I actually like the mix on this version of the song better than the original.
The next track might stir a bit of controversy, but their jazz-inflected cover of Dio's "Holy Diver" is truly a fun piece to listen to. Replacing the massive riff with acoustic guitars and Hammond organ, and adding some gorgeous vocal harmonies, it bears little resemblance to the original, but it's still wonderful. The reggae-tinged bridge is followed up with a beautiful guitar solo that makes you remember for the first time since perhaps "Scarsick" that Daniel Gildenlow is a wonderful guitar player as well as singer and songwriter.
"1979" is next up, and remains a beautiful homage to the year leading up to the '80s. Though this track from "Road Salt Two" may not contain the technical wizardry of past PoS works, it's still one of the album's most poignant works, and is relatively unchanged in its acoustic iteration.
"Chain Sling" also receives little change on "Falling Home," sounding much like the studio version from "Remedy Lane." The biggest difference on this version is the absence of Hallgren's lead vocal during the chorus, replaced with Zolberg's decidedly more high-pitched, nasal voice. Fans of the original might find this change annoying, but it's one of those cases of "changing one thing changes everything."
The band covers Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" next, and it's definitely a gorgeous rendition. Leo Margarit starts to let loose on the drums near the end to create one of the album's more powerful moments. The song comes across as a little darker than the original, but it's still got potential for big sing-along moments.
"Mrs. Modern Mother Mary" follows, and this cut from "Scarsick" receives a big update, the guitar part changing from the one riff to something that sounds very organic and gorgeous. It changes the mood of the song from the very angry-sounding original (a common theme on "Scarsick") to something a little stranger.
They continue with the "Scarsick" tracks by playing "Flame to the Moth," one of the heavier and faster cuts from that record. The flamenco-inspired guitars keep this track very dynamic and powerful. Daniel really lets loose with the vocals near the end of the track.
"Spitfall" rounds out the selections from "Scarsick," and this admonishment of the mainstream hip-hop scene seems a lot more sinister, being played (and rapped) in more of a whisper than a shout. While Daniel Gildenlow's "rapping" had always been very different from other metal singers who liked to drop a rhyme now and then, it seems he's really gone for something different even from his own mold on this track. That being said, I find this to be one of the weaker renditions on the album. It doesn't break the pace or anything like that, but it just doesn't seem like the right song for this set, they have a large number of older songs I'm sure I would have rather heard as acoustic renditions.
Finally, we reach the title track, a truly beautiful folk song about being being beat and tired and worn out. Even if this track is very far removed from the style PoS had on previous records, this is still one of the most gorgeous tracks they've put out in a long time, and a wonderful way to close out the album.
Overall, this record contains some very gorgeous versions of past tracks, and represents where Pain of Salvation are today. The production is clear, as well, with all of the nuances sounding clear and clean. // 8
Lyrics: Pain of Salvation have always been on top when it comes to their lyric writing skills, not just in progressive rock and metal, but in rock music in general. And while this may be one of their only releases not to feature some kind of over-arching lyrical narrative, or some kind of witty attempt to create a concept with liner notes, or simply choosing a lot of songs with similar lyrical themes, the songs they chose do include some of my favourites from a lyrical standpoint. Pain of Salvation have consistently been one of the few progressive metal bands whose lyrics reflect some kind of poignancy, and my favourite example of that is in the song "1979:" "Two children of six/still playing with sticks./And whatever we found in the forest./Our grandpas were strong/and our parents still young./And the world seemed a little more honest./And I remember me and you."
Relationships have long been a staple for their lyrics as well, especially sexuality, but they write more about sensuality than mainstream pop sexuality, like on the song "To the Shoreline:" "I'm far from sober/And she's far from sane/As she takes my hand and she pulls me away/She leads me down to the shoreline/She leads me down to the sea/She pulls me into the water/And then she whispers to me/'Love, you know that I can make you stronger/Love, you know that I can make you brave/But there's one thing that you must remember/That I am too far gone for you to save.'"
The selections from "Scarsick" explore some darker, angrier topics, like the excesses of hip-hop artists in the song "Spitfall," or following the grain of organized religion in "Mrs. Modern Mother Mary:" "There is a woman burning at the center square/Raven black eyes and long let out hair/Screaming, while cloaked vultures holier-than-thou circle and glare/At sweat drops on pale skin like satin/And as the raging flames work her into cinder/Said in their defence:/'Stupidity and ignorance,/Prejudice and intolerance/All sound so much wiser when dressed up in Latin.'"
The title track, "Falling Home", has some very poignant lyrics as well, reflecting the sort of worn-down feeling that's been lingering with this band lately, perhaps reflecting the changes and struggles of the past few years: "I used to fly/I was fire/Mine was the sky and the sun/Maybe I'm too far gone and my wings too bitten and torn/(now when I'm lost and I'm tired)/'Cause I spin and I stall/And I hope if I fall/I'm falling home/Falling home"
Daniel sings every line on this record with the same amount of conviction he has for decades, and the other members are no slouches in the vocal department, with Leo's and Daniel Karlsson's backing vocals providing a good counterpoint for Gildenlow. // 10
Overall Impression: When they first announced doing another acoustic record, I was certainly expecting a live record not unlike their previous acoustic album, "12:05," and in many ways, this record lives up to those expectations. But while "12:05"'s renditions were a lot more faithful to the original songs, "Falling Home" takes a few more liberties and sends you on a wilder ride.
There are certainly going to be some disappointed fans who will undoubtedly long for the band to release something more in the vein of traditional progressive metal again, but taken not as a full-fledged studio album or EP, but as a sort of novel career retrospective, it stands as a wonderful, if odd, addition to Pain of Salvation's discography. Probably my only real issue with the album is the addition of "Spitfall," which wouldn't have been my first choice for an acoustic rendition, but apparently the limited addition also adds the bluesy "She Likes to Hide" and an epic from "The Perfect Element Part 1," "King of Loss." This is certainly one of the more interesting releases of 2014 and one you should check out if you're into old-school progressive rock, already a fan of Pain of Salvation, or just like well-crafted acoustic music. // 8