Sound — 10
This is Swedish prog quintet Pain Of Salvation's third album, released in 2000. Their previous two efforts, 1997's Entropia and 1999's One Hour by the Concrete Lake established Pain Of Salvation as one of the most unique and talented bands in Progressive Music. Entropia explored many musical styles such as metal, progressive rock, funk, and some songs were almost impossible to categorize. One Hour by the Concrete Lake pushed their sound even further, exploring some darker and more industrial sounds, yet keeping all the nuances and complexity that Pain of Salvations fans had come to expect. The Perfect Element, pt. 1 has a sound all its own, yet can be connected musically to Pain of Salvation albums previous and their subsequent releases. It is comsidered by many fans and critics to be, along with 2002's Remedy Lane, Pain of Salvation's Magnum Opus. The sonic characteristics of this band are like nothing you have heard before. Technically, they are as accomplished as musicians as Dream Theater, yet they do an amazing job of hiding it beneath their brilliantly crafted compositions, and you really have to pay attention to the music to notice their true instrumental skill. Keyboardist Fredrik Hermansson creates lush tones and ambiance with his synth, but the music never feels saturated or synthetic. In fact, Pain of Salvation has one of the most "organic" sounds of any band I have ever heard (think of Opeth). Drummer Johan Langell plays understated, but incredibly complex rhythms that, again, must be listened to closely to truly appreciate. Bassist Kristoffer Gildenlow's bass is difficult to pick up ion the mix, but anyone who has seen the band live (or in a video) will know that he plays some complex lines. Next we come to the guitarist/vocalists, Johan Hallgren and Daniel Gildenlow. Hallgren and Gildenlow's guitarwork can only truly be appreciate by listening closely, or by attempting to play the music one's self. The intricacies of their playing can be lost on even the most accomplished guitarists. Rarely do the two play the lead lines or rhtyhms, yet they intertwine and work so well and comes together perfectly that you do not even notice that there are two seperate guitars playing 2 seperate things. Their lead work is far from overbearing, but when solos do creep in they are both technical and melodic, emotional. The two also handle vocal duties, which I will get to in the next section.
Lyrics — 10
Both of PoS's previous albums were concept albums, the former described a man whose family is torn apart and destroyed by War. The latter had a similar theme, a man who manufactured weapons for a living and becomes tormented when he realizes the effects of his creations. The Perfect Element, pt. 1 follows suit in their most heartwrenching and emotional story yet. The album follows two protagonists, "Him" and "her", children who are trying to navigate through a cruel and unforgiving modern world. The album has a good sized serving of music, with 12 tracks, each a new chapter in Him and Her 's story. I will break each one down: 01.Used: a great album opener, opens very heavy with some harsh pummeling riffs and a forboding melody. The verse begins with a cool electronic sounding beat, although the beep beep beep is actually played on the guitar. Daniel then begins in a quasi-rap, a low breathy speech that builds up tension as he gets louder, sounding angry and bitter. The prechorus has multiple members of the band shouting synchopated lyrics with eachother whihc abruptly ends to reveal a chorus whose melody is in a world, beautiful and soft, yet tinged with sadness. The lyrics here really are enhanced by the music, and you can feel the pain in the voices. After another verse and chorus there is a break and a very tasteful solo comes in. After the solo, the song builds up again, and climaxes with Daniel's voice climbing higher and higher and just when you think his voice has peaked, he forces out an even higher note! The song fades out and you are in for a lot more.. By the way, I can't believe I went this long without mentioning this: Daniel Gildenlow may be the single most talented vocalist in rock and metal. His voice is silky smooth, his inflection is the best I have ever heard in a singer; he can convey every single human emotion with his voice from pain, to sadness, to anger, to joy, to longing. To top it off, he has one of the biggest vocal ranges I have ever heard, nailing the high F# with ease. And it's no fluke- live, his voice is actually BETTER than on the album! Must be heard to be believed, he can make a grown man cry with his singing. Johan Hallgren is a great singer in his own right too, and is more than capable of being lead vocalist for any band. Anway, moving on 02.In th Flesh: one of my personal favorites. Tells the story of Her after she runs away from home. She is living on the streets and is scared, but refuses to return to her home. A great guitar melody to open the song, starts off quiet with soft vocals from Daniel. The chorus has such a great melody and harmony from the band, you will not soon forget it. After another quieter verse and beatiful chorus, the song ascends to the next level of incredible..ness(? ). From about 4:00 on, this song can bring a tear to your eye, with a painful and desperate back and forth bewteen him and her, with him pledging himself to her, but her won't believe that someone could always be there. Heart wrenching stuff! 03.Ashes: one of PoS's most popular songs, it has a very simple structure and sounds like nothing else the band has ever recorded. Daniel uses a deep, dark voice here, and the piano/guiatar melody is absoultely haunting. The chorus is memorable, and the outro solo frantic. A concert staple. 04.Morning On Earth: an almost impossible song to categorize, but is utterly beatiful. Sweeling synths and clean guiatars, coupled with soft but agonizing vocals make this song heartbreaking and brilliant, on of my favorite songs. 05.Idioglossia: a heavier song to change things up, feature more semi-rapped and synchopated vocals in the beginning, and the chorus from Ashes with modified lyrics makes an appearance. A very good song, and the lyrics are genious. 06.Her Voices: another long song, has a great sound, alternating betwen quiet and heavy, with excellent vocals(no suprise there) and incredibly sad but brilliant lyrics. There is a moderatley long instrumental break, nothing mind boggling but fit's the song well. After this, an epic outro that will make your heart swell, tear-inducing vocals and lyrics with perfect background vocals by the entire band. Another favorite. Lyrics describe Him's sorrow at the fact that Her is so scarred from her childhood that they cannot grow together 07.Dedication: a soft song using only clean guitars, tells the story of Him losing the man he always looked up to, his grandfather. Again, sad but beatiful lyrics, and perfect vocals by both Daniel and the backup vocals. 08.King Of Loss: a long song at almost 10 minutes, probably my least favorite song on the album. It is by no means a poor song, but does not hold up as well as all the other masterpieces. Daniels singing is really unique in the beginning and is definitely some of his coolest stuff, but it's the chorus that turns me off a bit from this one. You'll know what I mean when you listen to it. 09.Reconciliation: one of my favorites, pretty straight-forward by PoS standards. A heavier more rocking rendition of Morning on Earth's main theme, the lyrics tell of Him's disgust with himself. A pounding chorus followed a soft and beautiful bridge that is also drawn from Morning on Earth. A really unique and memorable solo follows, and after that you are all in for a real treat. The Vocals are terrific throught, but Daniel digs down for a little something extra at the end that will leave your mouth agape. Effin' brilliant. 10.Song For The Innocent: another standout song, hard to tell what the lyrics are about, but af course they are expertly written, Daniel is a freakin poet I tell you. After two great verses, a solo finishes out the track and leads to the climax of the album 11.Falling: a short instrumental prelude to the final track, a nice tastefull solo by Daniel 12.The Perfect Element: here it is, the final and title track of this masterpiece, and they definitely saved the best for last. An excellent chorus with amazing lyrics (Falling far beyond/the point of no return/Nothing to become/and nothing left to burn) that find Him at his lowest point, alone and forsaken. After another verse and chorus, the song slows down, only to build up with an excellent and memorable melody. The middle part of this song is in my eyes (and ears) the most epic, emotional, brilliant masterpiece of music in all of rock and metal. Over a bed of harmony vocals, Daniel puts his heart and soul into telling how He used to be free and happy, but that he is now in the darkest depths of pain and anguish, and that this is all we can learn. I don't know about you, but whenever I hear this part, a wave of emotions washes over me, and I am probably the least emotional person you could ever meet. Anway, after this section is over and I wipe my tears away, the song is not over! A short instrumental and harmonized vocal buildup lead to another chrous and a great, powerful outro. The song and album ends with a great tribal drum beat that ends in one big smash. I always feel a need to collect myself once this is over, it's like you didn't know what hit you!
Overall Impression — 10
Okay, if you've made it through my above long-winded descriptions, you should know wether or not you want to give this gem a listen. All the songs are incredible, and even though this is a concept album, you can listen to any song you want and still get the same effect, without having to listen to it in order. As with all PoS music, I recommend reading the lyrics while listening, it makes the experience that much deeper. I love everyhting about this album, from the musicianship, the songwriting, to the lyrics and vocals, to the pacing of it, it really is the Perfect Album. If you enjoy this (which you will), check PoS's other inredible albums, starting with 2002's Remedy Lane, which rivals The Perfect Elementpt 1 in greatness. If this album were lost or stolen, I wouldn't be too angry because now someone else gets to share in the experience! And of course I would move heaven and earth to replace it!