As someone who is new to this band, I was looking forward to reviewing Road Salt One, the first of a two-CD concept. I am mostly a progressive metal listener who appreciates soaring vocals and complex guitar driven songs, and since certain circles speak of Pain of Salvation in the same breath as Dream Theater, Symphony X and Vanden Plas I had certain expectations. Road Salt One pretty much took those expectations, giggled, and took me by the hand in a completely different direction. While initially I was put off, the journey was indeed painless and full of wonder.
The opening track “No Way” is a great start to let the listener know that something different is going on here. A very bluesy track, it serves as a fine opening chapter of this story, and allows each of the musicians to shine. While Johan Hallgren’s guitar wails and Léo Margarit’s drums are stellar, I was most impressed with Fredrik Hermansson’s keyboard and synth work. Throughout Road Salt One Hermannson finds his exact place in the mix, providing the perfect melodies where needed and content to fade to the background where the music requires it. Gildenlöw’s voice is very versatile and unlike some progressive singers, he does not distract from the overall feel of the music at all. At times his sound was very reminiscent of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell.
Track 3, “Sisters,” begins with a sweet, melancholy piano riff and a military style drum cadence. The song builds in sound and emotion and is an excellent showcase for Gildenlöw’s vocal range as well as his ability to communicate emotion well beyond the lyrics he sings. The next track, “Of Dust,” has a gospel vibe. Chilling and goose-pimple inducing, the layering of the backing vocals gives you the feel of a prayer being sung at Sunday service in a muggy Louisiana church.
Track 6, “Sleeping under the Stars” is a circus style performance, evoking images of ringmasters, hucksters and halls-of-mirrors, and at any moment I expected Pennywise the Clown to jump out of my closet. By Track 7, “Darkness of Mine,” I knew that Road Salt One will go into heavy rotation in my music collection so I can fully absorb the concept of the whole work, the subtleties, and the meanings both lyrical and musical. The band is amazing at telling their story with the music and pulling the mood from the listener that they are trying to convey.
I listened to this CD several times in the car and as background music, but this is one that I would highly recommend you devote some closed-eye headphones time to. I’m very happy with the journey that Pain of Salvation has taken me on, and I’m looking forward to continuing it with their next release.