A lot has happened to prog legends Pain of Salvation since the release of their last studio album, Road Salt Two, in 2012. Frontman Daniel Gildenlow encountered a near death experience with a flesh-eating bacteria, and the band released the cover album Falling Home in 2015 while touring extensively. After a five year wait for a new album, Pain of Salvation is gearing up to release their 9th studio album, In the Passing Light of Day, on Friday, January 13th via InsideOutMusic.
From the first note of “On a Tuesday,” you can tell the band is returning to their metal roots of the 90’s and early 2000’s when heavy guitars and drums kickstart the album’s ten-minute opening track. The Swedes waste no time engraving their trademark sound into the opener, as the band displays technical prowess, the ability to incorporate catchy moments into the music, and Gildenlow’s usual high-level vocal performance. His voice has truly given Pain of Salvation a unique identity throughout their career. Time and time again, the man shows spectacular range while adding other dynamics, like scatting, whispering, and monologue-like passages.
When the band first released this album’s trailer this past fall, I was immediately hooked by the 30 brief seconds of whatever new song I had just heard. That song coincidentally happens to be my favorite on the entire album, “Full Throttle Tribe,” a nine-minute track backboned by a polyrhythm that does a superb job of connecting the listener with the overall mood and message of the album. The chorus is somehow catchy and aggressive at the same time, and the epic collapse of the composition towards the end of the song clears the road for the closing stretch of the album.
Lyrically and musically, I would contemplate that In the Passing Light of Day is the logical successor to Remedy Lane the same way Scarsick was the part two of The Perfect Element. The lyrically themes of this album, like Remedy Lane, deal with self wounds, and focus on past ailments of one’s life through reminiscing. Even on the title track, you can hear voices softly chanting the words “ending theme” in the background (a callback to the second track on Remedy Lane).
Speaking of the final song, “In the Passing Light of Day” isn’t as intimidating of a track as its 16-minute length may hint at. The first half or so is very ballad-like, with Gildenlow’s soothing vocals carrying the song until it picks up in intensity at the halfway mark. This closer nearly reaches metal territory, and climaxes up until the finale where atmospheric vocals and soundscapes fade out with the album. It’s not the type of song that’s meant to be an in-your-face way to end a record, but rather one that slowly pulls the listener away as the music exits.
While Pain of Salvation is clearly back to their heavy roots, In the Passing Light of Day sits a step below the band’s first slew of albums for one reason. The longer songs on the album are nothing short of genius, but some of the shorter songs really seem like fill-ins, and therefore make them skip worthy. When I heard the singles, “Meaningless” and “Reasons” for the first time, my high hopes for this album were temporarily crushed. Fans who weren’t particularly fond of the Road Salt series, in which each song seems to hover around the five-minute mark, should be able to relate to this nuance.
Pain of Salvation hasn’t released an album of this dynamic since Scarsick ten years ago, so fans must be willing to accept that this is a matured version of the prog-metal band that everyone fell in love with during the 2000’s. Nonetheless, In the Passing Light of Day is a successful album from a big name band- a feat that is becoming seemingly more rare these days.
Notable Tracks: “On a Tuesday,” “Tongue of God,” “Full Throttle Tribe,” “In the Passing Light of Day”
FFO: Opeth, Riverside, Anathema