Thursday, October 4, 2012

Review - Pain of Salvation - Remedy Lane

Just like Dream Theater, POS doesn't do much for me. I'm glad that I don't have to write reviews anymore where I feel compelled to conjure up some positive statement just because the label gives me free music. But for a while it helped with the bills.

* * * * * Pain of Salvation has been heralded by many to be the heirs apparent to the Progressive Metal throne, seizing the crown from the head of Dream Theater itself. Remedy Lane, only their fourth album, is full of their deeply emotional melodies and accomplished technical prowess that is rarely used in excess, features that have made them favorites of fans and critics alike.

Instead of being part two of last years incredible The Perfect Element, the band decided to put off completing the set. What they have delivered instead is more of their raw, earthy sounds mixed with anguished melodic vocals. A concept album in the classic sense with the songs grouped into three "chapters", Remedy Lane is about failed relationships and the thin line between love and sex. The aptly titled "Beginnings" opens the album, setting the tone with ominous overtones painted by broad strokes of distorted guitars. An almost spooky, intricate guitar line from "Ending Theme" introduces a musical motif that repeats later in the album, creating continuity. Quiet, spoken lyrics alternate with jagged guitars that lead the way to "Fandango", a wonderfully aggressive song with staccato Faith No More vocals, complex drum rhythms, and an oddly figured melody. The melodic rock of "This Heart of Mine" conceals a sweet, appealing 70s pop melody that closes the first chapter.

The second chapter focuses lyrically on perspectives of sadness, anger and despair. Highlights include the chaotic, irregular rhythm of the cinematic "Rope Ends" and the "Celtic Rock Band in Arabia" sound of "Chain Sling" which evokes nostalgic wisps of Zeppelin and Jesus Christ Superstar. In stark contrast is "Dryad of the Woods", a five-minute instrumental of piano, acoustic guitars, and light strings that would be at home on any dental office radio station.

The final chapter ponders the question of "Am I my brother's keeper?" Nice bits here include the Blue Oyster Cult overtones of the reflective power ballad "Second Love" and the intricate layered vocal lines of "Waking Every God." The final track, "Beyond the Pale" includes just about a bit of everything. With aggressive and chunky guitar riffs, sections of choral calm, soaring vocal passages, and episodes of contemplative guitars, this ten-minute song is the kind of stuff that makes fans of early Dream Theater drool uncontrollably.

More than just one of the many Dream Theater or Rush clones, Pain of Salvation has the rare ability to assimilate their influences and create something new. In addition whereas much in the progressive genre is just head music these songs encompass a full range of emotions, digging deep into the heart of the listener. While this album is not as good as The Perfect Element 1, Remedy Lane is definitely stronger than the cheesy "80's metal" cover would imply.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, May 2002.

No comments: