CD REVIEW – Pain of Salvation – The Perfect Element Pt 1 (Anniversary Mix 2020)

Following the release of their well-received new studio album “Panther”, these Swedish prog metal innovators announced a special re-issue edition for their “The Perfect Element, Pt. I” album from 2000. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band’s third album, it follows the widely praised remix of the classic album “Remedy Lane” back in 2016. This one comes completely remixed by Pontus Lindmark as well as mastered by Thor Legvold / Sonovo. Slightly revised artwork and new liner-notes, it comes as limited 2CD Digipak and Digital Album (8 bonus tracks) as well as in a Gatefold 2 vinyl LP format with the entire remixed album as bonus CD. Just in time for Christmas, eh?!

This landed on my metaphorical desk and immediately set off a whole host of memories for me. Back in the day, at some point in the Classic Rock Society’s distant history, I ended up taking on the responsibility for CD sales at gigs and by mail order for a period of time. I took it upon myself to see if I could expand it even more from a limited number of direct sourced band albums to a more rounded selection of artists and progressive styles that I thought might appeal to the audience. And so it was I took a punt on other sources and came across a couple of albums from a band as yet unknown to me, Pain of Salvation. The albums? “Remedy Lane” and “The Perfect Element Pt 1”. Along with a number of others, they sat there in the wooden crates at gigs, and I watched eager fingers rifling through the rows of CDs. For a seeming eternity. But, pleasingly, they did sell. And, taking the opportunity to sample the wares, I realised what an absolute belter of a band I had introduced myself and some other CRS devotees to. However, I digress…..

I don’t really want to use that well worn and probably overused and misused phrase prog metal. But I probably have to in an attempt to explain the bipolar juxtaposition of bare atmospherics and metallic grind, or the textured emotional melodic blend with hard, heavy sounds that all epitomise Pain of Salvation.

“Perfect Element Part 1” was, and still is, an intense experience. “Used” opens with spluttering aggression, mixing a dark shredding undertone with rap-like vocals and electronica before launching into a delightfully poppy chorus. How to announce yourself on the stage. A ridiculous blend that works. And on it goes – diversity personified.

This album is a gorgeous single event that manages something only really good albums do – you miss the quality of the individual performances because of the quality of the whole. Whether Johan Langell’s complex, driven drumming, the intensity of Daniel Gildenlöw’s wide ranging vocal performance, the drive and beauty of Johan Hallgren’s guitars, the clever support provided by Fredrik Hermansson’s subtle keys or brother Kristoffer Gildenlöw’s deep, solid bass. Check out the subtlety and cleverness of “In the Flesh” as it spirals you towards it’s awesome climax. Want speed? You can have it, but not to the detriment of melody. Want dark metal? You can have it, but not without depth and atmosphere. Want complexity? It’s there, but with retained hooks and lines that keep the casual listener enticed. Check out the post-rock darkness of songs like”Ashes” and “Song for the Innocent”, and revel in the silkiness of parts of “Her Voices” or “Innocent”. Dynamically clever but constantly appealing, this is a band that knows where it is at and where it is going.

If I were to have a gripe, and to be honest I don’t really, it is this….. intensity can be best served in small doses. A full listen to this is physically and emotionally draining. But there again, in a single listen you get the full rollercoaster of transition, recurring theme, darkness and light, and an ultimately overwhelming but satisfying experience. Either way – win win.

Tracklisting:

Main CD (76:23):
1. Used (Anniversary Mix 2020) (05:23)
2. In the Flesh (Anniversary Mix 2020) (08:39)
3. Ashes (Anniversary Mix 2020) (04:27)
4. Morning on Earth (Anniversary Mix 2020) (04:35)
5. Idioglossia (Anniversary Mix 2020) (08:30)
6. Her Voices (Anniversary Mix 2020) (07:56)
7. Dedication (Anniversary Mix 2020) (04:02)
8. King of Loss (Anniversary Mix 2020) (09:51)
9. Reconciliation (Anniversary Mix 2020) (04:30)
10. Song for the Innocent (Anniversary Mix 2020) (03:03)
11. Falling (Anniversary Mix 2020) (01:53)
12. The Perfect Element (Anniversary Mix 2020) (10:13)
13. Epilogue (Anniversary Mix 2020) (03:14) * Bonus Track

Bonus CD (31:00):
1. Used (Live 2018) (05:54)
2. Ashes (Live 2017) (05:48)
3. Falling (Live 2018) (02:30)
4. The Perfect Element (Live 2018) (10:10)
5. Her Voices (and only that) (01:21)
6. Absolute Kromata (00:31)
7. Ashes [your language here] (04:42)

Here’s the first digital single “Ashes (Anniversary Mix 2020)”:
https://youtu.be/4iZInmQc0c0
https://open.spotify.com/track/1KsDYvXlD1Kwv8h4WQUmOv

Line-up / Musicians

– Daniel Gildenlöw / lead vocals, guitar, string arrangements, co-producer
– Johan Hallgren / guitars, backing vocals
– Fredrik Hermansson / keyboards, grand piano, samplers, string arrangements
– Kristoffer Gildenlöw / bass, backing vocals
– Johan Langell / drums, backing vocals

With String Ensemble (1,4,5,8,12):
– Mihai Cucu
– Petter Axelsson
– Camilla Andersson
– Gretel Gradén
– Johnny Björk

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