I am an intellectual consumer of music. By this I don’t mean that I’m a “smart person who listens to music.” I mean that generally speaking I do not listen to music because of “the feel.” As with all blanket statements, I’ve now found four exceptions to that statement, but what I mean is this: I want music I hear to be stimulating. I dislike minimalism, drone, and funeral doom because they do not excite my mind. I enjoy, instead, riffy, epic, ‘progressive,’ and melodic music—things which keep me interested and which surprise me. I rarely engage with music based on how it “feels” or, for example, bands whose lyrics hit me right in “the feels.” But Pain of Salvation, particularly Road Salt pt. 1, did just that to me in 2010. It sucker punched me right in the feels. In the Passing Light of Day strikes that same chord for me, but in a way that I think will keep me coming back for a long time.

I don’t know the details—and I don’t need to know them for the purposes of this review—but I do know that singer and songwriter (also co-producer) Daniel Gildenlöw was on death’s door in 2014. He was hospitalized in Uppsala, Sweden, where this album was also recorded. Those two bits of information set the stage for what is an emotionally poignant and heavy album that deals honestly with facing down death. Much of In the Passing Light of Day is a profound reflection on grief. The album starts with the line: “I was born in this building / it was the first Tuesday I’d ever seen / And if I live to see tomorrow / It’ll be my Tuesday number 2,119” (“On a Tuesday”). The track is angry and desperate, but honest about the fear of death (“the things we humans say to survive / the promises we make / the lies we tell, the vows we take”). Similarly, follow-up “Tongue of God” grooves through the refrain “Cry in the shower / Smile in the bed…” and echoes Barbara Ehrenreich’s critique of the cult of positivity in cancer treatment (“Don’t be afraid I hear people say / As though it will let me live if I’m just brave”).1

The whole album is loaded from start to finish with big, chunky, emotional songs. But what I appreciate about Pain of Salvation‘s later stuff is Gildenlöw and company’s excellent compositions and arrangements. These dudes write beautiful, evocative melodies and subtle arrangements. “Silent Gold,” for example, is a simple, piano-driven song with sloping bass and a chorus that will make anyone who has ever had feelings for another person ache a little. Especially for me, the closer—also title track and bookend—strikes a brilliant, if difficult, note. This is the kind of “love song” that you can only understand if you’ve been in a long relationship—and the longer the better. The lyrics likely deserve their own paragraph, but the way that Gildenlöw uses poetry is genuinely unique in metal and prog. He invokes gut-level reactions with honest, authentic descriptions of pain, love, loss and death. The heaviest moment on the whole album is when he recapitulates the first two lines of this passage and drops the hammer on line 4: “My love, don’t be afraid I hear you say / I am here for you all the way / I just wish that I could smile and say / “Baby, hey, I’m in too much pain to feel afraid” / My lover, my best friend…”

The other theme which runs through this album seems to be the use of sex and, the guilt it generates, as an outlet in the face of grief. This is a thing that has shown up in earlier Pain of Salvation stuff, but it’s very pronounced. In listening, I can’t tell if these are sort of “parallel tracks” of a single story, or if there’s no story at all. But in my head it forms an arc, where someone is trying desperately to feel alive in the face of the annihilation of their life and physical body. These songs, like “Meaningless” and “The Taming of the Beast,” are paired with tracks like “Reasons” and “Full Throttle Tribe,” which seem to tell the story of someone pushing away from his “lover and best friend” while grieving. It creates an arc that is immense, gripping, beautiful and difficult to hear at times, but it is giving and engaging. It’s artful in a way that most music I review is not.

It’s unclear if it’s good or bad that it’s taken me 900 words to make it to the part about the instruments and production. I think I like the bassy, compressed tone now after literally dozens of listens. The band uses a lot more polyrhythms and chunky, progressive riffs than they did on the Road Salt records, but this is most certainly not The Perfect Element Pt. I or Remedy Lane Part Deux. The heavier material sounds almost chaotic, at times, with “Full Throttle Tribe” stumbling to its finish over the sound of children yelling, or the peak of “The Passing Light of Day” halting along simplistically—with feel and tone reminiscent of System of a Down. What I like about this approach is the amount of ‘white space’ in songs like “Meaningless,” but at the same time, the excessively crushed master doesn’t give that space much room to breathe. There are moments here that should be “punchy,” but that don’t really feel like it. Still, I’ve grown used to the sound and I like a lot of the tones that they’re using. The guitars and drums don’t sound like anything else I’ve listened to recently, and the bass is round and produced in such a way that it runs very close to the same register as the kick drum, which leads to a very bassy mix.

While I like all the songs more with each subsequent listen—and the whole album, which runs 71 minutes—it didn’t click until I really listened to the story and formed a coherent narrative in my head. Once this happened, and I became emotionally invested in the story I was being told, In the Passing Light of Day took on a new dimensions and I’ve listened to it non-stop since. This is not the kind of album a person can write twice and that’s why such albums are so rare. But this is one of those rare pieces of music that will engage you emotionally, reflecting meaningfully upon how fragile life is, how fragile love is, and how the world is random and in constant flux. At the same time, Pain of Salvation continues to produce idiosyncratic, unpredictable, and beautiful material. I’m glad we didn’t lose them in 2014.


 Rating: Great
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kb/s mp3
Label: InsideOut Music
Websites: painofsalvation.comfacebook.com/painofsalvation
Release Date: January 13th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Ehrenreich, Barbara. 2009. Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. New York: Metropolitan Books.
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  • Rens P

    Great review AMG, this album HAS to be listened with the lyrics for sure. For me it’s it deserves at least a 4.5. Still very impress by the fact that when you see an album has a 15 minutes song closing it, you don’t expect to have the signer alone on guitar for the first half and be so invested in it. Amazing song writing and performance on this one from M Gildenlow.

    • André Snyde Lopes

      It’s AMG. There’s no overrating when he’s around. Thank fuck.

      • GardensTale

        Also not when he’s not around or we get guillotined in the dick.

  • gus rodrigues

    very nice review! for me this is one of “those” bands that I always think about giving a chance but always end up forgetting about them. when I get home I will try the embedded track and see if it picks my interest, as the review certainly has.

    • gus rodrigues

      now that I listened to the embeded song, this turned out into a purchase (really good video as well). this is a lazy question, but are there any “shouldn`t miss” album in their back catalog?

      • AgonMcDuck

        Remedy Lane is my personal favorite. So good.

      • BaboonKing

        The thing is, all of their albums are unique. Throughout the years, they have reinvented their sound over and over, but still managed to stay coherent and retain a certain feel and identity. Each entry in their back catalog would show you a different face of the band, and they are all interesting and worthwhile.

        That said, if you are looking for their best works, Remedy Lane and The Perfect Element are their most lauded releases.

        • gus rodrigues

          I’ll try seeking out their previous releases to see if they click with them as I have with this one.

  • Fazy

    Definitely great, I expect it will only get greater with time … like a bottle of good unicorn… something. Anyway.

  • Chigo

    Wow, I did not expect to be into this, even though I am someone who listens almost exclusively for “the feel.” But that embedded track really is evocative and makes me want to check out the rest of the album. Thanks for cluing me into something I never would have found on my own. Of course, now I really want to know — what are your 4 exceptions to not listening for “the feel”?

    • Prostidude

      The 4 exceptions are white wizard, limp bizkit, amaranthe and jorn

  • mtlman1990

    The female vocals he used in place of his high pitched vocals fit well I think.

    • Christian P

      I think that’s the other guitarist, Ragnar Zolberg

    • Barry Neilson

      Not a female dude, it’s Ragnar, the new guitarist. What an album though

      • a glas o’ milk

        this is actually a running gag in the band, because people keep confusing his vocals with female vocals

        • BaboonKing

          Not just the vocals, though… I’ve seen someone on YouTube say something like “wow! who is that hot female guitarist?”. Awkward…

          • a glas o’ milk

            indeed

          • Yeah, my first impression when I saw them live shortly after line-up change was like “mmm, if she only had more curves…”
            For excuse – I have slight myopia…

    • PLB

      Haha, I told myself the same thing “well that is good use of female vocals”

  • Kronos

    Having listened to this about twice now I’m very impressed. Like you said, it’s first and foremost the lyrics and their poignancy that sell it, but the prodigious polyrhythms and meshuggah-esque riffing are great as well. The most impressive stuff does tend to be the simpler chord based sections that back up the most emotive singing. Looks like we finally agree on something again.

    • Bas

      Now i am getting interested in the album (instead of only the review). Not that i like the music that kronos usually likes, but when two people with such different tastes both like it then i should give it a listen ;-)

  • a glas o’ milk

    This record had me by the feels as well… pretty powerful stuff, even though it gets just a little bit corny at times.

  • Flake

    Sounds to me like AMG already has a contender for 2017’s Album of the Year.

  • AgonMcDuck

    Oh man, finally! Been listening to this the past few days myself. I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised by it, considering that unlike you I actually loathed Road Salt, both parts. (That having been said, I’m willing to revisit it now. There are albums I loathed upon release that now sit happily among my favorites, e.g. The Black Parade.) My relationship with Pain of Salvation is quite complex and sometimes even I don’t understand it. I adore half their stuff and hate the rest.

    As for this one? This is not a record I loved immediately, for sure. My first listen was that, wow, they’re trying to recapture the glory of their early days, but they just sound totally exhausted doing it. Part of it might have been the aforementioned compressed master which just sucks the life out of everything. But man, are they disarmingly frank, both lyrically and musically, and I think the record is all the better for it. “Taming of the Beast” is probably my favorite song, and I hear a pretty clear 80s power ballad influence. The last track would be pretty damn cornball in a lesser songwriter’s hands but instead I saw someone dying before me, and it was truly unsettling.

    I dunno. Knowing that Daniel was nearly killed by flesh-eating bacteria probably helps their case here. But with or without that, I’ve always been gripped by the candidness of his songwriting.

    Now: I still don’t know if I like the master. Actually, I really don’t. I feel that some of the songs would have had so much more gravitas had they been given room to breathe. It hurts my enjoyment of the album somewhat, but… the material is too good for it to be a dealbreaker.

    As of now, I’m not as head over heels in love with it as I am with Remedy Lane (which probably isn’t a record any band can write twice) but man, I will say this record is pretty damn good. Idk if this will make my year-end list, hell, this probably loses out to Hegaiamas as far as January releases go, but it is pretty damn good and I’m willing to give it a chance.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, as always. m/

    Out of curiosity: have you heard the remixed Remedy Lane, and if so, what did you think of it?

    • I consider it now as an improvement (objectively), although initially I was pretty surprised that someone wanted to “fix what was already perfect”.

      The remix sounds more “modern”, but it’s a good thing in this case. It allows to hear some nuances that were lost in the original.
      But… after hundreds of hours spend with the original (as one of my very, very favourite records), I love it’s every flaw and I think the “soul” is there, not in new, more polished version.

      At the end of the day, it’s good to have both options. When I’m in the mood for analysing details, I listen to remix. When I want *feels*, I grab the old CD.

  • spheric666

    For some reason, I can’t seem to fully respect the opinion on music of anybody who liked Road Salt. ? To me, that album is one of the most annoying agglomerates of music ever recorded. It’s just about all the things I hate about the 70’s condensed in one album. And Gildenlow whining the whole time on top of everything else makes it unbearable. And don’t get me started on Gildenlow’s Eurovision performance of road salt.
    This said, if the new album sound anything like the amazing prog metal artists that PoS used to be and that I had a veneration for, I’m in!

  • AjmsaenZ

    The review is spot on, individual tracks, while enjoyable aren’t as powerful without the context one gives it, it’s incredibly relatable if you are or happened to be in a long relationship. This record, to me, feels like the logical step after BE. It’s a grower that’s for sure but a worthwhile record to get into

  • Fuzzy Dunlop

    For me, this the best Pain of Salvation album since Be. Great lyrics and songwriting – some kind of middle ground between their early albums and the road salt years.

    Ps: I almost cried when i heard the “ending theme” melody on “if this the end” and “the passing light of day”.

    Ok, fuck that: I cried.

  • Bas

    I do listen to music for the feel, but for an album to truly ‘punch me in the feels’ it needs something more, which is the interesting, stimulating, etc. Those are the exceptional albums. So like you wrote, but from the opposite starting point!

  • Treble Yell

    Remedy Lane is an album I tried so hard to enjoy as everyone kept on telling me how amazing it was and yet I just couldn’t get into it. Pain of Salvation always seemed too mawkish for me and those lyrics only seem to reinforce the fact.

  • pafg

    This is AOTY material. Simple as that.

  • ashcindersmoke

    You know, I’ve never heard this band and had every intention of skipping this cd. But I listened to it based on this review and now I can’t stop. Thanks AMG

  • spheric666

    Wow. Just listened to the album. This was unexpected. Road Salt is like it never existed (thank god). This is old school PoS and my two cents is that this is going to be Album of the Year. It already is the best prog metal album i’ve listened to in the last several years.
    Thanks Daniel and welcome back.

  • The Unicorn
    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      You glorious bastard.

  • Absolomb

    Thanks for this AMG. This album really got to me with it’s (as you said) once in a lifetime lyrics and perfect instrumental execution.
    Favourite January release so far.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Man, “Remedy Lane” was one of my absolute favorite albums for like 2 years when it came out, but I liked it so much, I ended up listening to the point where I got tired of it. Very encouraging to see something new from them good a good score. This song was a bit hazy, so I wasn’t all that intrigued, but it also sounds like something that would probably grow on me alot. I’ll probably buy this just because it’s Pain of Salvation.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    I had heard Pain of Salvation’s name thrown around before, but I never really bothered to listen to them until now. This album is pretty rad. I’m definitely gonna check out some of their other stuff later.

  • herrschobel

    oh but that cover artwork !!!…’300′ meets ‘The Lake House’ featuring Keanu Grief and Sandra Bollocks…

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Yes it’s curiously bad

  • crosskip

    Bringing an old song to your new band isn’t that unheard of is it? Especially if it gives you to make a better recording of it and present it to a way bigger audience. I don’t see the problem really. It is a bit unheard of for this band, with only a couple of songs being partly written by other members (Iter Impius!).

    • Stef

      I think it is quite bad though when, on the bonus CD which includes the demos and brief introductions by Daniel, he speaks about how he has massed up material from a few demo stages of the song… It seems to me that he is covering/trying to cover the fact that the song belongs elsewhere. It wouldn’t be as bad if he acknowledged the origins of the song, but this attitude is selfish and dishonest. Plus, the original song in question is no more available on youtube.

      • Sóley Ástudóttir

        AGREE!!!!!!

  • crosskip

    I think new guitarist Ragnar Zolberg at least deserves some appreciation for his contributions, as he was the co-writer for almost the complete album.

    • Sóley Ástudóttir

      Agree <3

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Sounds great though I was sure this review was heading to an ‘Excellent’. I’ve never listened to these guys before so this looks like a good entry point.

  • Nermin

    I personally thought it was a great improvement on Road Salt (1&2). Took me back to Remedy Lane days.

  • manimal

    Struggling to get into this.

    Completely unrelated, Portal is my ‘feels’ band.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    This album is immense. Can we say it’s “Sisters” great?

  • FelixtheMetalcat

    Really nice review that outlines many of the reasons why I have come to like this band. Even though I still have alot more of their albums to hear, I am sure I will like this one based on what I’ve heard so far. They really converted me into a fan with their performance at Prog Power USAin 2014…..I’m curious to know if Daniel’s illness was before or after that event.??

    • Vikram Shankar

      Daniel was hospitalized the first few months of 2014. Crazy to think he was giving the performance of a lifetime at Progpower a few months later! Best set I’ve ever seen :)

      • FelixtheMetalcat

        Wow, that is something. Thanks for the info, I agree that set they did was extremely entertaining.

  • William Hebblewhite

    What a beautifully crafted album. The aesthetic of “On a Tuesday” is delicious. Definitely need to hear it a couple more times, but taken it slowly…as its quite a emotionally heavy album to listen to.

  • naoto

    Listed just one time. Well played and produced, no doubt. But I can’t get into it. Too many melodic spans for my taste and too much vocals-centered. Maybe I need more listenings, but first impression kinda “ok, good, just that”.

  • Ninjakicktotheface

    I’ve been looking forward to reading the AMG of this album since I listened to it just over a week ago- you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say it’s an album you become emotionally invested in. You can hear Gildenlow’s near death experience shining through in different parts of the album, but it’s not explicitly about that- it’s laced with poignant moments but they are universal.
    I don’t comment much but I can’t get enough of this album and this review explains why so well. There’s good reason for taking 900 words to get to the instruments and production!

  • Shiny Metal Object

    Longtime reader, first time poster… Great review of a fantastic album. I’m hearing sounds reminiscent of artists as diverse as Leprous, Nine Inch Nails, Glen Hansard and System of a Down used to great effect. Putting together such a variety of songs and having none of them suck – that’s damn impressive. Having them build on each other – even better. Hell of a listening experience despite the somewhat crushed mix. I’m trapped in this album’s emotional vortex and don’t want to escape.

  • sir_c

    the first paragraph, was that not Opeth? *ducks away*

  • Tom Swinnen

    I have been so disappointed by Pain of Salvation in recent years. After losing their best line-up ever (Road Salt Pt.1 Tour Line-up), they released their acoustic efforts, which were, both on stage as well as on CD, lukewarm at best. Then they did something I absolutely loathe and that’s rehash old material with their revisited/remixed Remedy Lane. But, just a few months ago, after hearing “Meaningless” I had such high hopes for this new album and alas, I was again met with disappointment.

    First I’ll say that lyrics always have been mostly irrelevant to my enjoyment of music (backed by the fact that Cheesy Mr. McCheese – Mr. Arjen “Ayreon” Lucassen – is my favourite musician), so the lyrics here have little to no impact on me.

    I was very invested in Daniel’s story as it was happening more than 2 years ago but then again so was I when Arjen tumbled into a depression due to his break-up and his loss of taste/smell… While the latter brought forth Guilt Machine, one of the best albums ever, the Pain of Salvation album powered by a similar life-changing event just doesn’t feel all that powerful to me. The Daniel that sang to me on Road Salt, singing about his journey felt way more real, and I still see Road Salt Pt. 1 & 2 as the high point for Pain of Salvation. The point where Daniel said: “Never to make another full-on metal album ever again. Because he was just not feeling it.” And yet here we are. I guess the cries to “return to their roots” were just too difficult to ignore, and so they released an album that to me tries to find a symbiosis between some parts Road Salt and The Perfect Element. And fails, creating a watered down version of both, aimed at the nostalgia crowd.

    Just read the comments everywhere, saying it’s the best album since [insert album where person X stopped following/liking the band].

    I’m afraid that in my mind I’ve already passed the torch for most intense (and intensely emotional) Prog Metal band (live and on CD) from Pain of Salvation to Leprous.

  • Stef

    As an fan of the older PoS, it was with great surpise and pleasure that I listened to the embedded track over and over.
    Unfortunately, I then found out that it is an almost note-for-note cover of “Rockers don’t bathe” by Ragnar’s band Sign, even down to the lyrics. While the album is good, the knowledge that one of the best tracks in there is not from PoS, had originally a ridiculous title, has lyrics that destroy the idea of a cohesive story being told, really kills it for me…

  • Nag Dammit

    SPOKEN. WORD. SECTIONS!

  • Serjien

    Fantastic album!

  • h_f_m

    Wow

  • Gloomer88

    Two times around and I like it, also solo on Angels of Broken Things has to be the most exciting and freshest solo I have heard in a long time

    • Shiny Metal Object

      Agree 100% with the solo – it’s fabulous.

  • Bloated Goat

    I absolutely adore PoS’s old stuff but this album is lyrically corny and hamfisted; and lacks the vocal and guitar melodies that made their old stuff so powerful.

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Yeah not for this new stuff myself. There old stuff was pretty good. I’ll take SOEN any day over this.

  • Ben Davella

    Have you guys ever even mentioned Terramaze? Not that to ME, is good prog Actually greatness to these old ears

  • GWW

    This song is not a good song.

  • ghostofobia

    musically i loved the older albums from pain of salvation, but after listening to this album, i rather say, musically this album doesn’t bring anything new except from the excellent lyrics. they went from a 60, 70s style of music into a metal distorted djent riff style which in my opinion doesn’t make a perfect combination with his vocal,,its like having Metallica main singer singing a pop song,,,it just doesn’t blend. this album is good but i would have to give a 6 out of 10.
    after my favourite bands that did great albums before,,,almost all bands did fu*ked up their last album, except porcupine tree which they decide to have a continuous break down. sky architect, leprous, magic pie, haken and riverside did an average last album after a brilliant album before that. what is happening, no more great ideas?

  • baconJihad

    Remedy Lane is another super good album by this band. What makes it great is not only the feels but the great attention to music and composition. I mostly listen to much more aggressive music than this, thrash, crust, grindcore etc. But this band has hit me for over 20 years and keeps on hitting me in 2017 it seems.