It turns out nothing about Pain of Salvation will ever be [A walk in the park]. Uphill is sort of our default way of travelling
This is the quote that opens the press release I received along with a copy of Pain of Salvations 11th release. (8 Studio albums, an EP and 2 live offerings). The quote could not be more accurate. It’s been a period of upheaval for the band since 2012, with personnel changes galore including Daniels brother Kristoffer being asked to leave. This however, has not been the reason there hasn’t been a PoS release for just over 3 years. This album was scheduled to be a live recording along the lines of the outstanding 12:5 ten years previously. It didn’t go to plan however as for whatever the reason the show was never recorded and the stop gap live album to tide fans over until the next studio album became a fully fledged studio effort in its own right that took two years in the studio to produce
The majority of the make up of the album mostly comes from the more recent releases of Scarsick and the pair of Road Salt Albums. Now it’s fair to say these are not the most popular of the PoS back catalogue amongst fans as they moved away more and more from the progressive metal style they started with, The Perfect Element and BE arguably high-water marks for not just the band, but the entire genre they are that good. Gildenlow is not one to stand still though and you can hear him reinvent himself as you listen through the catalogue. What is consistent though is the mans undoubted talent in song writing (Whether particular entries or styles appeal to individual taste or not is irrelevant), his guitar prowess and his magic vocal touch both in the traditional metal sense and the more melodic. I’ve often fantasised about him walking into the X Factor audition room and leaving Beelzebub himself (Simon Cowell) open jawed witnessing raw talent most people simply just don’t possess.
Each track here has been rearranged especially for the acoustic theme of ‘Falling Down’, Linoleum is a perfect example of what they’re aiming for here, soothing harmonies and soft guitar work unfamiliar enough to be a new song but familiar enough to be comfortable to the listener.
'To The Shore Line’ feels like a more complete song here than the original filling it out and giving it depth that wasn’t present on Road Salt Pt. 2, possibly because Gildenlow has had nearly two years in the studio to perfect it; but the changes are justified here.
Two covers are included, a fun funky version of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ which wouldn’t sound or feel out of place in a smokey jazz bar somewhere and a beautiful one of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’. Although I would love to hear a full electric version of the latter with guitar solo’s et al.
The second half is definitely the stronger half, ‘Chain Sling’ from Remedy Lane is probably most faithful to any original version of a song here. ‘Mrs Modern Mother Mary’ is the biggest surprise for me, completely surpassing and breathing a new lease life into the original version.
The best for last though, as ‘Flame To The Moth’ and particularly, ‘Spitfall’ are outstanding versions. An original song is also included, ‘Falling Down’, for which the album takes it’s name. An emotional soaring acoustic song with harmonies littered throughout make this quite moving and a great way to see out the album.
What brings Falling Down down a couple of points for me is the strength of the original material chosen that has been adapted. I know an acoustic album may limit what may be available to be adapted, but for example I would have loved to have heard, The Perfect Element, Enter Rain, Beyond the Pale or King of Loss in this style. ‘1979’ in particular felt a bit flat, despite being executed to PoS’s normal high standards of musicianship and production.
Overall it’s a very good release from Pain of Salvation and a worthy addition to the collection, a live album that isn’t a live album, and rarely, one that doesn’t simply recycle album tracks with crowd noise behind them like many bands do (Where you might end up with 4 identical versions of a song in your iTunes a band might play at every recorded live gig). Probably not the one I would recommend to pick up if you making your first forays into ‘Pain of Salvation’ (Go with ‘The Perfect Element’ if you’re asking), but I guarantee you’ll enjoy it non the less.
I’m always excited about a new Pain Of Salvation album, I find you get taken on a trip when you sit down with one and really listen. This one is no different, and nor will the next one, which I will look forward to immensely.