Pain of Salvation // Road Salt pt. 1 – Ivory
Rating: 5.0/5.0 —A stellar re-invention that should bring you to tears
Label: InsideOut
Websites: painofsalvation.com | myspace.com/painofsalvation
Release Dates: SE: 14.05.2010 | EU: 17.05.2010 | US: 06.08.2010

Pain of Salvation - Road Salt 1 - IvoryOne would assume that an Angry Metal Guy wouldn’t be handing out high scores willy nilly, something I seriously try to avoid doing. But apparently 2010 is a year filled with really fantastic albums by bands doing the things that, as a reviewer, and more specifically, as a music-lover, I have trouble not totally falling for. Pain of Salvation has never been a band that I personally fell for. Scarsick, the band’s 2007 release, was a record that I had issues with and I’ve had some personal gripes about Daniel Gildenlöw’s vocals on the older material (specifically his wannabe Mike Patton rappy/talky vocals). But, that said, Pain of Salvation has long been the darling of the progressive rock and metal scene, with legions of fans who love their technical prowess and pop sensibility.

Road Salt, then, stands to be a great disappointment for a large number of fans who are looking for neo-progressive sensibilities. This is simply not the same band that put out The Perfect  Element (Part I). There is nothing on this record that should outright appeal to metal heads and fans of tech music. But there’s something else, and something that in my opinion places this album on a different plane than 99% of albums released this year, an emotional depth, beauty, fragility and, lastly, dirtiness that makes this album a fantastic journey and easily my favorite Pain of Salvation to date.

Road Salt is still a prog record, however, it’s just way more a 70s rock influenced album that places the band into the same arena as bands like Porcupine Tree, Anathema, Guilt Machine and their ilk. And when I say “70s rock influenced”, let me be totally clear: this is an album that is built to sound like it was recorded on analogue equipment in a room with brown shag carpeting, made by bearded men in bell bottoms who’d smoked a little bit too much hash. The guitar tone screams Hendrix, the vocal harmonies mimic the soul harmonies of folk musicians like Kris Kristofferson and the moog organ is something that you’ve heard a million times while digging through your dad’s record collection. Hell, even the build at the end of the first track “No Way”, sounds like it came off a TrettioÃ¥riga Kriget record. And there’s nary a technical wank solo to be found on this album. No, instead the album is based a lot around blues rock, a thing that this Angry Metal Guy hates with a total passion.

But from the opening notes of this album, I was moved emotionally in a way that I think no record has done almost ever. Gildenlöw’s vocal performance is perfect, it is emotionally evocative, huge and sweeping and amazing. His emotional performance reshapes good (or excellent) music into something that is epic and transformative. By bringing his prog and non-blues rock influenced sensibilities to the entire genre and then placing his vocal perfection over songs like “She Likes to Hide”, “Sisters”, “Linoleum” and probably the most evocative of  A Cold Walk - Pain of Salvation by Lars Ardarveall the tracks on the album “Road Salt”, Gildenlöw and Pain of Salvation create a sound all their own in what is easily the most overdone genre in the history of mankind. Turning the sounds of 60s and 70s rock and blues into something unique in 2010 is a magical feat, honestly. I have trouble wrapping my mind around how it was done.

In the end, this is an album that should make your heart ache. There is a sadness that really permeates the album. And in an era when hard rock and metal is so incredibly impersonal, when every other record is faux hate and anger or cliched nonsense, it is beyond refreshing to have band produce material that is so emotionally poignant and beautiful. On top of that, of course, is the fantastic production of this album, mixed with the superb quality of musicians involved in the whole production and you have the formula for what is easily one of the best albums of the year, and one of the best albums I have heard in a really, really long time.