Band: Pain of Salvation
Album: In the Passing Light of Day
Available: January 13th, 2017 via InsideOut
In the Passing Light of Day: A Surprising Masterpiece in the Wake of Changed Lives
In the Passing Light of Day is quite the milestone record, being the first new Pain of Salvation album in 6 years. It’s also the first proper album with the “new band” following major lineup changes through 2011 and 2012, the first album since Daniel Gildenlow‘s recovery from a near-fatal illness in 2014, and the first album in several offerings where – at least it seems – Daniel Gildenlow is not the primary songwriter on every track. What further cements its significance is the return to the stylistic parameters nearing “progressive metal” that we haven’t heard from the band since 2004’s Be (or, some might say 2002’s Remedy Lane). And, perhaps most importantly, this album is one of Pain of Salvation‘s finest offerings.
The first several songs are some of the most energetic, frenetic, and well composed songs in the Pain of Salvation discography. The album opens with “On a Tuesday”, a 10-minute juggernaut that hardly feels as long as it is. The track seems to deal heavily with Gildenlow‘s near death experience, and while dark subject matter has often occupied space in Pain of Salvation‘s discography, this time it stings with a biting honesty and authenticity. “I close my hands, not in prayer, not in prayer, but in fists,” Gildenlow whisper-sings, just before the song erupts in anger. Overall, “On a Tuesday” is a very well-balanced composition that hits a perfect balance between driven, energetic parts, and softer, more pensive sections.
“Tongue of God” follows with the fake-out. What initially postures as a soft piano ballad i.e., Road Salt, morphs into one of the band’s most potent short anthems; something that takes the Remedy Lane sound and infuses it with the grunge, dirt, and gravel of the Road Salt albums. That formula turns out to be where the album is most effective – it’s not a rehash of Pain of Salvation‘s early days as much as it’s a natural evolution of everything the band have done before. This development continues with next track, “Meaningless”, which is another haunting rocker that manages to carry on this aesthetic despite being a reworked version of a song from guitarist Ragnar Zolberg‘s previous band, Sign.
We get a break from what amounts to 20 minutes of grungy metal via “Silent Gold”, a piano-driven ballad that features very well-performed and emotive vocals from Gildenlow. But the calm doesn’t last long, as the energy level ramps back up with “Full Throttle Tribe”, another long epic.
Fans will immediately recognize “Full Throttle Tribes’” Remedy Lane type rhythm and feel, and the callbacks to The Perfect Element style rapping vocals. Unlike the first long song thus far, “On a Tuesday”, “Full Throttle Tribe” does overstay its welcome by a few minutes. The vocals and instrumental feel a bit disjointed, and the song lacks the glue that would otherwise help keep other songs on the album cohesive. But the chorus is solid, featuring an infectious melody and vocals layered sweetly in a way that Gildenlow pulls off so well.
Subsequently, “Reasons” kicks in with one of the heaviest riffs on the album, though it is ironically one of the album’s more progressive and theatrical tracks. Once again, we hear Gildenlow‘s rap-vocals over odd time signatures and heavy riffs, but this time more reminiscent of Be. It’s an intense track, and as uncomfortable as the unwanted epiphany that the lyrics describe.
The pace and general feel of the album changes somewhat here, as the songs become softer for the remainder of the album. “Angels of Broken Things” is a more somber, down-tempo, and haunting number, but its atmosphere slowly builds and coalesces into one of Pain of Salvation‘s most impressive guitar solos yet. “The Taming of a Beast” is overall a livelier track, but akin to Road Salt in terms of an arrangement, with fuzzed out guitars and a vintage-sounding electric piano driving the song. Gildenlow vocally channels Leonard Cohen here, and it works, as should be no surprise to anyone who has heard Pain of Salvation’s cover of “Hallelujah” on Ending Themes. The next song “If This is the End”, is an acoustic ballad that eventually builds into an incredibly concentrated outburst of violence, but it feels somewhat like a prelude to the album’s closer, “The Passing Light of Day”.
Once again, the album takes a turn back to the subject of mortality and Gildenlow‘s illness. A large portion of the song is dominated by a low, soft singing over a minimalist, clean guitar. The mood is nostalgic and remorseful, rather than angsty or angry, and change of pace fits perfectly. “Some candles last an hour/and others one full day/but I want to be like the sun/that steady flame that burns all along”, Gildenlow muses. As the simultaneous admission of ego and one’s own mortality brings the album thematically full circle, the guitars swell into a burst. What follows is almost reminiscent of Devin Townsend Project; Gildenlow‘s voice sores as he delivers lines expounding on the lessons learned from overcoming great personal adversity; a wall of driven guitars scream underneath.
In the Passing Light of Day may have been billed as a return to Pain of Salvation‘s progressive metal roots – and it is – but the album is more of an evolutionary jump forward. The elements that made up albums such as Be, Scarsick and Road Salt are still present, but this time woven back into a more traditional Pain of Salvation format. Additionally, the trauma Gildenlow underwent with his illness is inevitably on full display; changing the music and lyrical themes just as it undeniably changed Gildenlow‘s life. This combo of factors is why In the Passing Light of Day is such a rewarding listen. It manages to push Pain of Salvation forward into new unexplored territory, but fans will be relieved to hear that the music is recognizably Pain of Salvation.
Joe’s Grade: A