CD Review – Pain of Salvation – Panther

What’s likeable about Pain of Salvation is that, although they are considered a progressive metal band, they don’t go in for the cliches that that usually entails. It cannot be denied that there are aspects of both progressive rock and heavy metal music in the band’s sound and approach but they seem to be more concerned with creating sounds that fit, and they may be atmospheric and cinematic. On this release it seems to be about achieving the right sounds that matters rather than the dense heaviness of other albums. Not that there aren’t moments of that, particularly in the closing Icon.

It is equally true that Pain of Salvation has never been a band to stand still, and has made drastic shifts in the past that seem more striking than here. But over an artistic career spanning close to three decades Daniel Gildenlöw has led the band through such changes with intent. The music is, then, not immediate and as with much of Pain of Salvation’s output it takes several listens to grasp what is going on. Such sustained creativity has brought us to Panther, the eleventh album from the band. Panther is a concept album that delves into the conflicts and contradictions between so-called normal people and those who are wired entirely differently. It deals with otherness. Gildenlöw explains; “Because we live in a time where we’re more aware of people not fitting the norm and we’re doing everything we can as a society to acknowledge all of these individuals, but at the same time, they’re more disowned than ever, more medicated than ever. The album is painting pictures of a world, I guess. If this was a movie it would be scenes from a city. It’s set in one city, and it’s populated by dogs and the panthers, the so-called normal people and the spectrum people. That’s the setting for the entire album.”

The resulting music is very intelligent, excellently played, and evokes varying moods. The rhythms shift around and produce odd time signatures that could become more than a little confusing without great concentration or repeated listenings. The album is excellently produced and throws in a few surprises. There’s a touch of folk now and again, a touch of trip-hop and a bit of rap too. But not too much so, the album maintains a dark brooding form of post-rock. But the band also enjoy melody although soloing is a little in short supply. It is a beautiful, deep, elegant recording.

Gildenlöw’s final thoughts on the album; “Hopefully people will look around at life as it surrounds us and they’ll realise that this is something we choose. We don’t have to have things as we have them right now. Then I hope, as always when it comes to our albums, people will take time to absorb it all. Our albums work best when they have a little time to sink under the skin. Hopefully with our track record, people now what’s coming!”

1. Accelerator (5:31)

2. Unfuture (6:46)

3. Restless Boy (3:34)

4. Wait (7:05)

5. Keen to a Fault (6:01)

6. Fur (1:34)

7. Panther (4:12)

8. Species (5:18)

9. Icon (13:31)

Daniel Gildenlöw – lead vocals and lots of stuff

Johan Hallgren – guitar and vocals

Léo Margarit – drums and vocals

Daniel Karlsson – keyboards, guitars and vocals

Gustaf Hielm – bass and vocals

Release date: 28th August 2020

Label: InsideOut Music

2CD Mediabook, CD, 2LP+CD, Digital Album

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