Sound — 10
Standing as one of progressive metal's most revered classics, Pain Of Salvation's 2002 record "Remedy Lane" has been one of the band's most enduring works. Since releasing this album, the band's sound has diverged quite often and quite drastically, making this the last sort of "traditional" progressive metal album the band has released.
Perhaps a mix of the response to the band's changes in style and, to put it simply, how important this release was to early-'00s progressive metal fans, Daniel Gildenlow and company have decided to take this album on the road and perform it in its entirety through 2014. This meant performing some incredibly personal and emotional tracks that have rarely, or in some cases never, been played before. The second disc of this collection (titled "Re:lived") comprises a recording of the band's live performance of the album at ProgPower USA, one of the few times in the band's recent history that they've performed in North America. With the only remaining original member of the band being Daniel Gildenlow, one would expect the band to have a completely different take on the record, but the new batch of musicians (Ragnar Zolberg on vocals and guitar, Gustaf Hielm on bass, Daniel Karlsson on keyboards, and Leo Margarit on drums) stay faithful to the original album, though there are a few unexpected moments from the band, like Ragnar Zolberg's handling of the lead vocals on the incredibly emotional "Undertow" and the extraordinary jam that closes the otherwise subdued instrumental "Dryad of the Woods." Daniel's voice on this recording is incredible, and while long-time fans might worry that the backing vocals are going to be a little off because of the new members (former guitarist Johan Hallgren had many very prominent backing vocal parts when playing many of the songs live), Ragnar and Leo handle them quite proficiently, especially on the song "Chain Sling."
While it seems odd that I'd mention the first disc last, the live performance does offer up a lot more of what fans will be wanting from this record, but that doesn't mean that the second disc (titled "Re:mixed") doesn't offer anything new. The production of the original did suffer from a bit of thinness, presumably a result of Daniel and Johan using primordial guitar multi-effect processors in place of amplifiers, something which was far less commonplace in 2002 than it is today. The original guitar parts have been re-amped, and significantly beefed up. The dynamics seem a little louder, but there actually seems to be a bit more headroom between instruments on this remix. The bass sound is especially reaping the benefits of this new production, with lots of parts being more prominent, to the point where I'm hearing bass lines I have never heard in this album before. The vocals also seem a little clearer, with some of the harmonies coming through even better than the original.
Between the excellent live rendition and the well-done remixes of the original album, I would not be surprised if this version of the album becomes the standard that this album is measured by, and if nothing else, hearing the production style is getting me very excited for the band's upcoming studio record, "In the Passing Light of Day."
Lyrics — 10
Pain Of Salvation has always been known for releasing deep, often emotional concept albums, and while the idea of a "concept album" might conjure up images of geeky Dungeons & Dragons pandering or science-fiction scenes, many of the concepts Daniel Gildenlow chooses to write about are intensely personal, and sometimes political. In the case of "Remedy Lane," Daniel wrote a semi-autobiographical album whose lyrics focus on events in his life that have shaped his perspectives on love, lust, freedom, loss, and self-understanding. The songs actually have a chronological order that differs from the track listing (which is something noted in the original album's liner notes). There are many songs on the album dealing with very dark subject matter. "Rope Ends" deals with a suicide attempt. "A Trace of Blood" was written about a miscarriage Daniel and his wife faced early on in their relationship, and was, for a time, such an emotional song that Daniel would not perform it live. "Of Two Beginnings" deals with discovery of sexuality and perhaps loss of innocence. But among these dark clouds, there are lyrics and themes that are more positive. "Second Love" was a love song written by Daniel at 16 years old, and "Dryad of the Woods" is an instrumental dedicated to his wife. It seems that through this album, even if the events are a bit exaggerated or dramatized, one can find a lot of relatable lyrics, and perhaps live a little vicariously through Daniel Gildenlow.
Daniel's voice, as always, is exquisite, even on the live version of the album. On the studio version, the harmonies are mostly Daniel himself, but when the band performs songs from this album live, the other members often get quite prominent harmony vocals, and even some lead vocal parts. Take for instance the song "Chain Sling," which has traditionally been sung fairly equally between Daniel and former guitarist Johan Hallgren. On this live version, new addition Ragnar Zolberg does an amazing job with the chorus vocals. Ragnar also sings lead on "Undertow" on the live version, and while some fans may be a little put off by the fact that it's not Daniel singing it, I felt it was good to give Ragnar a chance to shine, and perhaps ease fans into the possible changes in vocal style that may be apparent on future studio and live material.
Overall Impression — 10
With this being the first of two releases planned by Pain Of Salvation this year ("In the Passing Light of Day" will be released later in the year), this is shaping up to be a fairly busy year for them. This is especially welcome after all of the setbacks the band has suffered in the past few years, such as a near-complete lineup change, Daniel Gildenlow's illness (being struck with flesh-eating bacteria a couple of years ago) and family obligations, and many other issues which are being brought to light in a documentary series by Mapenzi Film. If nothing else, this release serves as a good reminder that this band is still out there, and will hopefully touch off a bit of a second renaissance for the band, and a good opportunity to hear the current lineup tackle something a bit more in Pain Of Salvation's traditional vein (this lineup was also present on 2014's "Falling Home," an acoustic release). And hearing this prog-metal classic sounding so refreshed, really shows how well this music has stood the test of time, still sounding very modern 14 years after its original release.