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It could seem weird, but Scarsick was the first Pain of Salvation album I got. The title song sounded simply awesome to me, and I decided to take the risk and buy the full album. My first impression was “OK... but I'm a bit disappointed”. Over time, it really started growing on me. After like four months, someone borrowed it from me for quite a while. At the moment I'm writing this, it's been a year since I got this album (and I know half of the band's discography – it didn't change my view at Scarsick much) and I think the review title sums it up very well. This album requires LOTS of patience and open-mindedness, but it definitely pays off in the long run. It's really weird, chaotic, often contrasting, at moments even silly, but over time you realise one thing: it's all like it was meant to be. And the people – or was it just one person – who created this, knew what he was doing. He knew it damn well.
Let's begin with a general overview of what you can expect on this album. There are lots of different influences here, you can hear a bit of the “old PoS”, but overall, it's something completely new. There's some nu-metal, rap, disco (!), stupid pop-rock, progressive rock, maybe even a slight bit of doom. Actually, normally I'd hate the first four 'ingredients', but here I don't. It's pretty much like with salt I guess... If you know how much to add, and where to add it, it's great. If you don't know that, it's just plain awful. Pain of Salvation could add completely different things to their music, ending up with a strange, but definitely interesting sound. Also, their great songwriting, clever lyrics (we'll talk about them later – they deserve a whole paragraph here) and excellent production are here as well. Not to mention the last, but definitely not the least important thing...
...which is their instrumental skills. The sad thing is – you won't hear Kristoffer Gildenlow playing bass anymore here. Daniel took the bass on this album, and it's nothing special, but works well. What he – and Johan Hallgren – have always been good at can be heard very well though, and it's obviously the guitars. There's much less light, melodic guitar playing and more strong, dynamic riffs (not necessarily heavy). You can hear it from the very beginning of the album – the title song is driven mostly on a really crushing riff, and a similarly powerful riff can be heard during some moments of the closing track, Enter Rain. There are also some more unconventional guitar uses, like during America (reminds me a bit of System of a Down in fact) or Disco Queen. There's also some of the light and melodic playing, especially on Kingdom of Loss. Pain of Salvation guitarists have proven how versatile they are on the earlier albums, but Scarsick breaks any limits. Unfortunately, there's only one guitar solo during the whole album – which is a pity, because I think there are like two moments which would work really awesome with a nice solo. As for the remaining instruments... the drums are flawless like always. They don't take over at any point of the album, maybe except the beginning of Idiocracy, but if you listen to them more closely, there's plenty of interesting things to hear. Finally, the keyboards... there's less piano and more effects of different kinds. One thing hasn't changed – they almost never take the lead. They are there and form the atmosphere.
There's one more thing I cannot miss when talking about Pain of Salvation: the vocals. During the past year, Daniel Gildenlow has managed to become my favourite vocalist, and the competition was VERY strong. The vocals on this album are even more varied than the guitars – even rap is here (he can rap ten times better than most 'real' rappers. Really). No matter what he sings, whether about being pissed off at the society (Scarsick), ironic lyrics about America, calm 'thoughtful' style during Kingdom of Loss, or really broken, depressive singing during Enter Rain, you can really hear it's real, with a lot of emotion and soul in it. And since his vocal skills are really great, he can pull off things that are sometimes pretty hard to imagine before hearing the album.
Now, let's take a look at the songs. We have ten, divided into two parts. The music follows the storyline very closely, and we start from straightforward anger – which are Scarsick, with its crushing riffs and really furious, at some points, singing (one of my personal favourites), and Spitfall, with straightforward rapping and a pretty dark atmosphere. The anger slowly calms down during Cribcaged, what doesn't change the fact that it remains and is shown in the... language (the word 'fuck' is used like 15 times). The next two songs are definitely the two most controversial ones – America, in which you can hear some System of a Down and also some silly pop-rock, and the real star of the album ;) - Disco Queen, which is, musically, a parody of disco, though the disco itself isn't more than ¼ of the song. The second half is much darker – starting from Kingdom of Loss, which begins with a kind of 'reflection state' and becomes heavier over time, then we have Mrs Modern Mother Mary based on one main riff (personally, my least favourite song of the album), which is quite neutral. Idiocracy is sad and quite heavy at the same time, with a nice, catchy opening, Flame to the Moth is probably the second heaviest song after Scarsick, with some nu-metal influences (especially the chorus) and pretty dynamic structure. The album closes with my favourite - Enter Rain, a 10-minute masterpiece with a very complex song structure, simply awesome vocals, and a depressive atmosphere. And well... even if someone hates this album, I can't believe he/she doesn't remember the ending.
I still haven't said anything about probably the most important thing on this album, which has an influence on everything here – the concept and lyrics. It's the second part of The Perfect Element... trilogy? (Unless something changes again...) The general storyline seems quite simple – a man with a difficult past sees all that crap (rappers, plastic pop stars, commercialism etc.) on TV, tries to do something about that, fails, then tries to find his place in this society, unfortunately fails again and commits suicide. However, this is the biggest strength of this album... the deeper you dig, the most interesting it becomes. There's a lot of things which can be interpreted in many different ways (prime example – the lyrics of Disco Queen, I've heard 4 possible ways of reading them, and all four work very well), a lot of ideas that you won't notice until the 'n-th' listen, and some things start to make sense if you really look for them (the lyrics of Cribcaged are based on some programme on MTV regarding celebrities. The seemingly random targets of 'fucking' during the song are actually some of the clichés that appear there). It's a kind of album that really requires you to get into it in order to really appreciate it, but once you do – it's hard to get out of it. And Enter Rain still leaves me speechless every time I listen to the whole album, even though I've heard it like 50 times already...
In other words, Scarsick is a very complex album, even though it may feel in the beginning that's it's simple, shallow and 'modern' for no apparent reason. It takes a lot of patience to find everything it has to offer, but it's worth it. There's a lot of different influences, unconventional ideas, clever lyrics, and most importantly – emotion. You can feel it's for real, it's not just an album. There are a few moments which could be improved, but with this amount of experimentation, I think some slight flaws were unavoidable. My advice is: give it a try, but stay open-minded.
I've reviewed three other Pain of Salvation albums here. All rather highly rated. All turned out to be obnoxiously long reviews because I couldn't stop myself from writing until I had every little detail that made those albums so great down on paper. One has been dubbed my favorite album of all time. I generally hold Pain of Salvation in the absolute highest tier of not just great progressive metal, but godly music in general. I view Daniel Gildenlow as one of the most talented and powerful individuals in the business. I even managed to enjoy the musical clusterfuck and lyrical labyrinth that was BE. In short, I pretty much unconditionally love this band like a typical naive fanboy.
That being said, Pain of Salvation have managed to release an album that I completely fucking despise with every fiber of my being. I didn't just get this album yesterday, either. I've had it for around two years, which is generally more than enough time for me to "understand" an album that I dislike at first - assuming there's anything in it worth understanding to begin with. No such luck here.
This band has always been very good at a few critical things - taking an idea or a concept, building a tangible framework around that concept, crafting a world to house that framework, and then developing an intricate and empathic musical journey through that world wherein both the lyrics *and* the music express the nuances of the original concept. One is incomplete without the other. As such, their music has never really been a vessel for the instrumental masturbation that you typically find in progressive metal. Rather, they utilize their instruments as a medium for the listener to lose themselves in the world that has been presented. This approach has produced a number of stellar albums, and some albums that were pretty strange but, at the end of the day, still captivating. One in particular seems overly relevant -
Since Scarsick is the direct followup to The Perfect Element I, I feel that I should mention a few things about that album. The Perfect Element I is basically about a boy (He) and a girl (She) living in a fictional place known as Idioglossia. As the characters grow up together, they each have vital things missing in their lives which leave empty spaces in their wake, and the characters consequently choose to fill these empty spaces in rather depraved and jarring ways while trying to survive in the dreary backside of society. The album encompasses a large number of complex and interrelated themes, including childhood, adolescence, violence, sexuality, tragedy, loss, the human mind and soul, the individual and the society in which he exists, emotional extremes, and more. The album eventually comes to a conclusion with a focus on the male counterpart, He, as his society shuns him, burns the spark of life out of him, and drains all will out of his soul. The lyricism on The Perfect Element I is incredibly dark and distraught, but also very poetic and intelligent. The way the lyrics are delivered gives the listener insight into what the characters are feeling and the trials which they are being pushed through. The music behind the words admirably enhances the vocal delivery. Overall, the album is incredibly moving and largely convincing.
Fast forward to Scarsick. The album is a continuation of the story introduced on The Perfect Element I, but the focus has shifted entirely to He after his destructive falling out with society. Now, remember what I said about Pain of Salvation being really good at taking a concept and developing an encompassing lyrical and musical framework around it? Apparently, the male protagonist from TPE is now very bitter and completely pissed off at everything, and Pain of Salvation *really* want you to know that. No longer do we have the wide range of themes that were found on TPE. Here, there's pretty much one theme - "I'M ANGRY AND CYNICAL AND I HATE EVERYTHING." Now, from a conceptual perspective I can completely understand the basic approach that the band has taken. We have this utterly wrecked character who has been gradually transformed into a sardonic prick, and as usual the lyrics and the music are going to as closely as possible reflect the things that this character is feeling. The only problem this time around is that the things that this character is feeling apparently translate into really fucking horrible music and embarrassingly pathetic lyrics. A great concept is a great concept and a great story is a great story, but if your delivery is unlistenable, then you have an issue.
The other problem is that while the themes and ideas on TPE were genuinely interesting and abstract, the stuff on Scarsick comes way too close to being a vessel for Daniel's personal views on Western civilization. It's not exactly a big secret that Daniel doesn't like the United States government very much. At one point he even refused to go on a tour in the US because he didn't want to submit to the US government's finger printing requirements for foreign visitors. So here we have the song "America". Not only is the music itself irritating as all hell with its bouncy rhythms and poppy melodies (for an example of how to do this in a slightly less retarded fashion, look back to the Entropia album and the song "Stress"), but the lyrics are typical anti-war, anti-government, anti-capitalism stuff - and they're more banal than interesting.
To further exacerbate the lyrical tragedy, you have songs like "Cribcaged" where Daniel includes the f-bomb in something like 16 or 17 consecutive vocal lines, denouncing everything from home designers and strip poles to million dollar kitchens and Al Pacino posters. F this. F that. And that. Oh, and that too. And those dozen things over there also. Come on. Seriously? I mean, to be honest, I can probably agree with some of the ideas that he's trying to get across there - although some of the subjects he targets are laughable - but the way he does it is completely juvenile. I'd understand if the song was a joke, but I'm pretty sure he's being completely serious. Sad. Furthermore, with songs like this and "America", it can be difficult to tell if the thoughts are those of the male character from TPE or those of Daniel himself. This, at least for me, interferes with the mood and immersion that made TPE such an incredible album and is one of the major reasons why this album is a disappointment to me as The Perfect Element part 2.
There are some other gems. On "Spitfall", Daniel seemingly found it necessary to formulate an ironically rapped song that cuts down the mainstream rap artists that are dominating the American airwaves. I found the lyrics fairly amusing, but not so much in a "Hey, this is really good" way. More in a "Wow, is Daniel really singing this?" sort of way. Musically, this song - as well as the preceding title track - is somewhat reminiscent of Candiria, with the exception that Candiria is actually good at making this sort of music, while Pain of Salvation completely suck at it.
"Disco Queen" is just gay. I'm sorry, but mixing straight disco and metal isn't new or exciting. Other bands have done this kind of thing, and it's dumb. That is probably the reason why this appears to be new and exciting - nobody does it anymore because of how fucking dumb it is. The closing track, "Enter Rain", is pathetic as a closing track. Ten minutes of boredom. Coming from a closing a track as awesome as "The Perfect Element", "Enter Rain" doesn't even qualify as a proper climax. Some of the other tracks are okay. "Mrs. Modern Mother Mary" has some cool rhythms and is a decent song all around. "Kingdom of Loss" is pretty good musically, but has more of that trite lyricism about how everything in America is for sale. Meh.
All in all, I just can't find much to like on this album. It's missing the flow, the conviction, the power, and the pure pathos of everything that this band has put out prior. Much like the fictional character that Scarsick is meant to represent, you could say that this album is a burning wreck. I guess, in some way, I can give credit to the band for making that thematic connection (if that was even their intent), but it came at a severe cost. I doubt I would ever recommend this album to anybody who has not heard Pain of Salvation before, because the very things that have defined Pain of Salvation as a standout band over the last decade are grossly understated here. Or altogether missing.
Hopefully this was a one-off.
Seven years have passed since the release of what is perhaps the greatest album in music history, Pain of Salvation’s The Perfect Element. Being that it was mentioned in the lyric booklet that it is only the first part of a two-piece planned conceptual story, fans began to wonder. “What would part two come out? Will it ever come out? What if it isn’t as good as the first part?” Well, they didn’t have to wait too long. The answer came a few months after the release of the 2004 masterpiece BE.
We’re working on three different albums. The first will be something new and then the second will be the second part to the The Perfect Element, Daniel Gildenlow had said in an interview. Well, it was a mix of good and bad feelings at that point. “TPE2 will come out in 2010! So long, but if they’re working on it that much then it will be even better than the original.”
So fast-forward to January 2007, Scarsick was released and something was revealed to the fans. We had been unexpectedly given The Perfect Element part Two. Wait? But this couldn’t be! It was 3 years too early, but it was true. The booklet clearly read “Part II.” Well, what was in store for us? Something that I honestly didn’t expect at all!
Gone was the orchestra of BE, gone were the fair amount of solos (there is a total of ONE on the entire album), and well gone was that nuanced and complex progressive metal sound that Pain of Salvation fans were so used to. And I’ll be honest; at first I didn’t much care for it. I didn’t like the more straightforward approach. The guitars being heavier than they had at any time in Pain of Salvation’s career wasn’t a sign for the best in my mind at that point. I had always adored them because of their focus on intricate melodies and complex rhythms (oh, and I suppose I’ve got to mention Daniel’s vocals somewhere there too), and this new sound really was just such a big change from that. Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t really simple and banal, there was still a distinct progressiveness but it seemed to be somewhat streamlined. Oh, and I guess I was somewhat shocked at the amount of swearing used. Fuck was used 26 times through the album, something that hadn’t been done on any previous PoS record. I was shocked. Daniel was usually so eloquent.
But then, something happened. Something happened which had changed the way I perceived the entire record as a whole. I went back and analyzed the concept of The Perfect Element I and then Scarsick. The connection was clear to me. The reasons behind the straightforward approach suddenly entered my mind and a whole new appreciation for the record was formed. This album was full of the thoughts of an angry youth. It had his views on the same society that had kicked him while he was down and spit on him when he tried to get back up. He was full of rage and disgust with the materialistic and selfish culture that was around him. The music reflected that! The profanities reflected that! The heavier riffs, the lack of guitar solos. Everything made sense. I listened to Scarsick now not expecting what had come before. I did not want to hear The Perfect Element I. I wanted to hear The Perfect Element 2 and that was what I was hearing. It wasn’t anything like the first part, it wasn’t anything like BE, it wasn’t like ANYTHING they had done previously and I was glad about that! It was refreshing and fun (I dare you to listen to Disco Queen and try to not dance along), and it had an identity all its own. And you know the best part about it all? The words ‘To be continued’ appear on the final page of the liner notes!
If there's one statement to be made about Pain Of Salvation's unique take on concept albums, it's that they're not content with simply letting the lyrics tell the story; rather, the contextual visage of each album bleeds right through into the music, and it's most evident right here on 2007's Scarsick. Dissonant, straightforward riffing and aggrivated tones dominate this opus as fitting with the concept, but does it work? Let's scale back a bit.
Prior to this release, Pain Of Salvation was riding pretty on the coattails of its previous album BE, the conceptual behemoth that spawned a live DVD and a hell of a lot of scratched heads (Read the DVD booklet; it's very helpful). But needless to say, after a track record like Pain Of Salvation's, expectations were sky-high for Scarsick. Well, I think it's fair to say that it blew away the expectations of all involved...in various directions.
So what we've here is the proper part-two to the much-lauded Perfect Element album, so it feels only fair to address the concept in order to give context to the music. The last of that album left a young man against that dirty floor, eyes fixed on the ceiling - tossed around and left embittered to the world that shunned him. Scarsick takes us into the mind and through the eyes of this young man.
In this way, this album succeeds where a more traditional approach couldn't have reached: a bitter, sardonic mostly-rapped Spitfall mocks and lashes out at materialistic rappers, while elsewhere cheery and bouncy melodies house the seething lyrics that criticize America in the song of the same name. The 'sick' and 'scarred' memes are repeated many times throughout the album, being drilled into the listener's head by the time the final track Enter Rain comes to a close. Irony and mood juxtaposition are just two of the thematic devices at work here, but the most important question of the music is whether it's an enjoyable listen or not.
So is it? Well, sort of. Much of the musically-linking threads from PoS's past releases - such when the refrain breaks down into a euphoric wall of sound under Gildenlow's passionate vocal acrobatics - are either missing or altered here. Influences are grabbed from every which way, with a greater influence on rapping (Much of the title track and Spitfall) in the beginning and then 70s pop in America and even disco with the bizarre and somewhat erratic, drawn-out and even a little disturbing Disco Queen, but much of the rest of the album is deep in its own embittered little style. I even sense a little bit of Korn in some of the stop-start riffs and panted or angrily-shouted but clean vocal work at points. That last part alone would be enough to turn off many metalheads I know without a second thought, but it's difficult to paint a single style that dominates the whole album. The individual songs, however, seem focused within themselves, not straying from their territories for the most part. What you hear in the first few minutes of the song will likely be what you hear in the last few minutes, with a few exceptions.
Speaking of which, Cribcaged. This is weird for PoS - it has one or two vocal melodies throughout the whole song and has "fuck" in half the lines. I'm fine with the swearing and the lyrics as they fit with the theme, but the song is just very repetitive. There are a few nice parts, but it and others on the album such as Scarsick and Kingdom Of Loss suffer from that lack of variation. It gets somewhat boring on repeated listens.
I see no problems with the production, though. It's darn crispy.
Can this be compared to the rest of the band's collection, or even just to its predecessor? Not really. This is bound to be remembered as the black sheep of the band's discography, a rougher and grittier but deliberate effort: by that I mean that it wasn't brought about by a lack of focus within the musicians, such as Helloween's Chameleon, but rather a purposeful shift in focus for the recording, such as Sonata Arctica's Unia.
It's important to remember, though, that for those of us who know well Pain Of Salvation, the boys haven't sold out or lost their direction; on the contrary, it would seem that they know exactly what they're doing, to the point of releasing an album so musically into He's theme of bitterness, despair and anger that they seemed to have angered quite a few people in the process. Don't fear, though - if I'm right and this whole opus was written as a thematic extension of its lyrics and concept, then Daniel and co. will have new and very different material coming up for us on the next record.
Buy/download/avoid? If you've read through this and aren't feeling confident about it, then download a few songs - try America with its infectiously catchy everything and Spitfall with its surprisingly well-rounded and paced rap job. This is the kind of album that was unleashed upon a fanbase that wasn't expecting its style, but it deserves a look both as a historical discography curiosity and to see what became of The Perfect Element Part II.
Now, any Pain of Salvation release from Entropia to Remedy Lane is an album I have replayed endlessly, and still don’t need much of an excuse to spin again. I’ve had friends tell me that it took a while to get into their music, but once they did they were really digging them. For me, it was love at first listen – I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked a band this monumental for so long.
2004’s BE album was a bit of a diversion, and while I wouldn’t have it perched in the same lofty shelf as their previous studio output, it didn’t take me long to settle into it. The shifting between atmospheric parts and more conventional aggression was expertly handled, and though I wasn’t bowled over by the theme itself, it was a great ride on a musical level.
Scarsick is a different beast. The changes come right from the skeletal structure itself, and I’m talking about the departure of founding member/bassist Kristoffer Gildenlow. This led to frontman Daniel Gildenlow taking on bass duties in addition to vocals and guitars. Typical of the man, he does a decent job, but it’s not hard to see that his brother’s presence is missed.
Another point is the general direction that they seem to be going. Ever since Entropia, each album has had a tight focus, and whether it dealt with environmental abuse (One Hour by the Concrete Lake) or exorcising personal demons (Remedy Lane), it seems to have helped the music flourish. BE was an ambitious thematic exercise, and the music was a little more nebulous, but managed to stay within a boundary that was possible to follow, if barely. Scarsick seems to lack that quality – it’s angry, lashing out at several facets of society almost to the point of preaching, and does so in quite a few ways, but overall, this is probably the most aimless album they’ve ever done.
The surprises arrive early, seeing that the vocals on the first two songs are almost done entirely using rapping. On the title track, Dan uses this style of spitting out syllabic triplets that sound remniscient of Eminem on 8 Mile. I’m not denying it’s done well, but it just doesn’t seem to sit right with me. The chorus is catchy enough that I find myself humming it while crossing the road sometimes (I really should pay more attention to those asshole cyclists), but it’s just not a deep enough song to justify its length.
Ditto with Spitfall – it’s a lengthy indictment of the hip-hop lifestyle done using rap itself. While it gives me a hell of an irony boner, I can’t help but question the intent. It’s all good to go “Fuck you, and look, I can do this better than you,” but do you really have to go and make a 7 minute opus just for that purpose? And the frequent cussing here and on Cribcaged raises eyebrows as well. Seems a little like what Dream Theater tried with Train of Thought, and we all know how that turned out.
America is the first completely bright spot on the album, displaying terrific potshots being taken across the Atlantic, with all the deft and biting eloquence that is typical of Gildenlow’s lyrical ability, laid on the backbone of a great kooky tune. “So now you are scared the Arabs will kill for their god. Like you do for yours? Protect your obesity with your life, man. Hey – Angry God or Diet Coke? Who cares, it’s all a joke.” Nasty!
And just what the hell is Disco Queen about? I’ve got nothing against taking the piss out of that genre, but I’ll leave it to bands like Carnival in Coal (you have to check out the song Cartilage Holocaust!) to do it right. This one just goes on and on, and isn’t even funny! Checking the lyrics, I find I’m totally off the mark and it’s actually a three part concept song. Jeez.
Kingdom of Loss has more condemnation of modern consumerist culture, but what it actually is most notable for is having the ONLY fucking guitar solo in the entire album! I mean, scorning solos is for bands that aren’t competent enough to do a good job with them, not for an outfit that’s had a past of playing some of the most tasteful, well-thought-out and appropriate solos I’ve heard.
My next favourite on the album – Mrs. Modern Mother Mary. It’s simple in concept, and one reason it works is because there’s just that off-kilter approach to the beat that serves to wind up and hit you in the face. Another chorus I catch myself singing now and then.
Wrapping up, we’ve got two more overlong songs, Idiocracy and Enter Rain, with a considerably shorter Flame to the Moth sandwiched in between. Again, a song that I’ve taken quite a liking to, thanks to the urgency of the tempo that builds up throughout the song and explodes in a vicious bridge, leaving just enough gap before the chorus for you to punch your fist up in glee.
It seems to be consistent that the songs I really like are the shorter ones. Thanks to the complexity and depth of the songwriting having been drastically slashed, it just doesn’t make sense having so many long compositions. This album seems more of a vehicle for Dan Gildenlow’s beliefs than for great music. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that it’s a terrible album, and he’s still one of the best lyricists out there, but for someone who’s been knocked over flat by some of their back catalog, it’s just disappointing. Add to the mix the fact that another founding member, drummer Johann Langell has left since the release of the album, and I have to fear that the best days for this phenomenal band are over. I hope I’m wrong – it wouldn’t be the first time.
Pain of Salvation have managed to pull off an amazing feat with Scarsick. They've managed to take their average fan, who sees them as gods, and most of the time is physically unable to score them at under 100% for an album, and make these fans actually hate one of their albums. This is no easy feat, because from a passing fans point of view, such as mine, it doesn't seem right that they can continually give 100% to an album which starts with the song, "Used". For them to openly hate an album from a band who could get away with that song, it's really quite impressive.
Of course, I mean impressive in the most painful, stupid way possible, because Scarsick is pretty damn awful.
It's not just the rapping of the first two tracks, it's not just the pathetically pretentious and stupid lyrics, it's not just the absurd and unlistenable experiments, it's a combination of all these, and a huge collection of minor irritants all over the album. This album has almost nothing going for it. Apart from one good aspect, each of these songs has NOTHING going for it.
So, what is that positive aspect? In short, most of the songs have good endings. I don't mean that as a joke about them being over, almost every song ends in a big way, leaving a nice taste in the mouth. As for what they do, it is very predictable. Basically, the band takes all the vocals lines from the various sections of the song, and multi-tracks them all together for a big finish. It's like when you see one of those concerts you see on TV consisting of three or four classic musicians, and they always end with all three coming out together and singing one of members songs as a medley. Effectively, Pain of Salvation sound like a lower Daniel Gildenlow (As to be expected), Diesel and a female black 70's soul singer. It's an old technique, it's predictable, but hell, it still sounds good, and manages to make the songs which don't have any particularly bad sections in the songs themselves seem quite listenable...
Unfortunately, there are only three songs on here which don't have content which is designed to be repulsive. And those three songs, the final three, aren't great; they just don't go out of their way to make you hate them. That's right, 7 of the 10 songs on this album are actually aggressively bad. Not just average with no real positives, but there seems to be a definite focus on negatives.
This list of negatives on the album is huge, and I couldn't list them all without the bones in my fingers grinding into powder, so I'll just stick to main ones. There's some rapping, on the title track it's not too bad, as it's complemented by some nice enough chorus work, along with a progressive section. But Spitfall on the other hand only has a short chorus, everything else is rapped, and it's terrible. But still, it's not the worst thing on this album.
Next up, you've got the experimental tracks. Which are experimental to an extreme no one has ever thought of, but there's a reason for that. "Disco Queen" and "America" are disgustingly painful journeys into disco-esque, bouncy, and what I assume to be attempting-to-be-catchy prog. Disco-queen, takes a disco song, complete with Daniel's effeminate higher voice, plays some guitar riffs over it, resulting in, well, something new and original, but it's unlistenable. America is in the best way I can think of it, is the musical equivalent of sunshine. It's stupidly happy and bouncy despite it's anti-America and establishment lyrics. While the other example was an example of stupid originality, "America" is just plain retarded.
Still, while these are stupid, I wouldn't consider these the worst content on the album. They're worse than most of the failed progressive metal tracks on here, "Kingdom of Loss", and "Mrs. Modern Mother Mary" are a little better. but then there's... the other one.
I can't be 100% sure on this, but I'm pretty sure that Cribcaged is the worst serious metal-song I've ever heard. I'm sorry, but it is. It's not as bad as some non-metal stuff I've heard. But truly, the Gwen Stefanni song with yodeling, and the Christina Aguilera song about being a 1950's whore are the only two songs I can think of that I hate more. No joke, this is a lesson in disgracefully bad music. From about 20 seconds in, you can tell that it's going to be horrible. To go with its "witty" title, the band adds in some sound effects of a baby crying or laughing or some shit. The music itself is a terrible little circular sounds piano piece an eight year could have written, and then been told off for writing because it's irritating. The vocals do the same thing, looping around in a headache inducing drawl, it's just high note, followed by lower note, followed by higher note, followed by low note, ad nauseam. Then you have the lyrics. This would make Fred Durst complain about its immaturity. It's loaded with needless swearing, and more importantly, completely random and stupid insult targets. Seriously guys, there has to be a group of people who are more in need of being "fucked" than home designers. Home designers suck and all, but they're lower on my list of people to hate than old drivers, people who exercise in tights outside my house, and the people who work at my local Burger king and serve too slowly. The song doesn't progress, it just keeps going on and on, "Fuck this and fuck that". The thing that makes it so bad is the fact you can tell that they were really trying to make a good progressive song, not that it's just a bit of bad filler which they made to fill up time, which turned out worse than expected. Cribcaged is simply one of the worst things ever written. These flaws are all over the album, but not in this sort of quantity.
There are countless other problems all over the album, but none on the scales of the problems I have specifically mentioned. In fact, the only thing I wouldn't add to my list of things they've done is that they've sold out. This is hypocritical as hell, because it's true that they are reckless in their anti-capitalism slurs, but this album is actually a lot heavier than all the other albums I've heard of them. It's worse by a long way, but heavier. To be honest, as boring as I find their love of balladry, it's better than them being heavy.
This is simply a terrible album, with a good deal of talent in writing the ends of songs. I guess it's on the same level as listening to a band who writes frightfully bad music but have good solos. If you're willing took look past about an hour of this album's 67 minute runtime, there is some stuff to enjoy, but it's simply not worth looking for. And I guess you couldn't call it one dimensional or boring, but really, it just varies from crap to shit. Avoid this, stick to their earlier stuff.
Many things have been said about this album. For one, this is the one Pain of Salvation album to have a notably low score on this site. Many claim that the band has sold-out, gone nu-metal, and have completely lost their delicious sound that has captured so many hearts.
What was my first impression of Scarsick? Well, it wasn't particularly good. It sounds like progressive rap-metal to me. Yes, Mr. Daniel Gildenlow actually raps to an extent in the title track. Luckily it does not last throughout the entire song, but after you hear some of the other stuff that the track has to offer, you'll wish that he'll start back up again. So, after living through the nightmare that is the intro track, we enter...oh Jesus...WTF. This song sounds very much like the first one, only with extra rap-metal influence. Now I'm starting to get a bit worried. Progressive metal should never, I repeat NEVER sound like Linkin Park.
So, combined, the first two tracks waste about fourteen and a half minutes of your valuable time :\. That's a pretty bad start for any album, especially when it is of a band with such a repuation like Pain of Salvation. We move onto "Cribcaged", which actually sounds like *GASP* traditional Pain of Salvation! Although the song isn't particularly enticing, it's nice to see that these guys haven't lost touch with their roots. Following this, we have the absurdly poppy, yet undeniably catchy "America". It takes influence from more anthematic hard rock. I actually find this to be the first notably good song that Scarsick has to offer.
Now it's time for "Disco Queen" to start and OH MY GOD......what the hell?? I'm not quite sure what the hell this piece is. I like experimental shit, but this is one of the most pretentious, pointless songs that you'll ever lay ears on. Complete with a poppy sound, a disco sound, mediocre female (possibly imitation) diva vocals, and an WTF flag sticking out of the top of it, this is one of the album's weakest moments. "Kingdom of Loss" features the first moment of actual beauty spawned from Salvation's '07 album. It sounds much more like their Remedy Lane days.
The alliterate "Mrs. Modern Mother Mary" is a strange track, which features in cheesy electronic sounds with intriguing progressive metal. Have you ever loved a song's lyrics, but you don't like the song itself? This was one of those songs for me. Unfortunately, Daniel does show a few moments of vocal interest in this track, although it doesn't stay throughout the song. "Idiocracy" is just as stupid as its title. Sir Gildenlow actually sounds mildly reminiscent of *twitch* Johnathis Davis *shudders into coma*. "Flame to the Moth" is nu-metal shit, highly reminiscent of Slipknot even (now that's an insult). The final track, "Enter Rain", is a ten-minute snoozefest, with only a few mildly good moments.
This is the St. Anger of Pain of Salvation. I highly do not recommend this album. If you do want to get into this band, look into Remedy Lane, one of progressive metal's best achievements.
Don't let the title fool you, I love each and every PoS album. What I find commendable is that they somehow maintained the ability to surprise. I was actually expecting something similar to The Perfect Element, but maybe with a touch more darkness and energy. In some ways, it's like that. Yeah, it's fairly straight-forward, and it's heavy. You could say it's the St. Anger of prog metal. Even the solos are minimal, smothered in rapid-fire vocals. You don't get the motion and the texture of the solos and the guitars in general you might find on Remedy Lane, but that's alright.
When I first heard about Kristoffer leaving the band, I was shocked. He's one of the best bassists I've ever heard, and was almost the entire reason I picked up the instrument. But I know Daniel wrote the majority of the material, if not all, and was a more-than-competent bass player himself. But I figured Kris was more in touch with the bass, and maybe he is, but Daniel pulled this off with flying colors. Inaudible bass? No more than in any other albums. The production remains top-notch, and Daniel would never smother an instrument. You just need to know how to listen. The bass in Scarsick and Disco Queen alone are fantastic.
And Disco Queen... I have to comment. I was taken aback. Being caught off guard has never been so pleasurable. Maybe not the highlight of the album, but it feels like a pillar. It's like a splash of red on a black canvas. But don't get me wrong, it's not like the rest of the album is monotonous.
No, but possibly the biggest change in the PoS album structure is that each song is its own song. They don't thrive off the previous and following tracks. The endings and intros of songs still complement each other, but they only set the songs off in different directions, and if that's not progressive I don't know what is.
And while at first listen, I was kinda iffy on the whole hate on our nation's social status (I'm an American), only because it's been done to death. But this was as refreshing as it gets. First two tracks take nu-metal and make it a viable genre, while completely separating the band from the crap you hear on the radio. Some of Daniel's raps are reminiscent of Zach de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine. But Daniel can also sing. Don't let any bias against rap in metal let you toss aside these great tracks.
And I can't pick a favorite song. Right now I'm stuck on Idiocracy, but this is the 4th track I've picked as my favorite. And tomorrow it might be a different one. It changes constantly. So don't let anyone tell you this isn't progressive; not technical. There are layers and layers of melody and intricacy, and what else can you expect from them? That they can maintain so much attention to detail while thriving on rhythm is astounding.
I can't say this for sure, but I'd bet money that this will be my favorite album of 2007 come December.
Way before this album leaked, Daniel stated that this would be a more "band-oriented" album which isn't bad at all especially coming off of something like BE. But after having listened to this whole thing, I'm very disappointed.
The first question: is it more band-oriented? In a way, yes. More focus on rhythm, and the majority of the songs are fairly straight-forward. The problem is, not much is really going on from a technical point-of-view. The guitars are usually playing heavy chords, the drums accent that heaviness, the bass is inaudible, and (as I mentioned before) the keyboards are mainly absent. Daniel plays bass here, by the way, and the Kristoffer's departure are already evident. The group doesn’t sound as tight as on their previous albums.
The biggest problem I have with this album is the lack of musical quality stemming from the fact that the mostly boring and uninspired instrumental parts are drawn-out and repeated ad-nauseum. The majority of the songs begin on a riff and little changes as it drones on for up to 10 minutes. Not only that, there is this air of unoriginality in a few songs like "Scarsick" (rip-off of "S.C.I.E.N.C.E."-era Incubus) and "Spitfall" (which sounds like Linkin Park only one-hundred times nastier). After those songs, there is this general System of a Down with slight Pink Floyd overtones sound to the album. The System of a Down comes mostly from the lyrics and simplicity and the Pink Floyd is the brooding sound that is in the second half of the album (especially "Enter Rain" which also sounds a bit like "Beyond the Pale"). We do get a good-sized of Daniel's soaring emotional vocals along with his angrier side, but we also get very grating wails on "Disco Queen" (most of his high notes are irritating here as well) and the very whiney chorus on "America". He's an excellent vocalist overall, but it doesn't show much on this work.
A few more issues are the contrived attempts at diversity. Sure, the album is diverse in that every song sounds completely different, but it sounds forced and comes-off as token diversity. This fact also might make it difficult for some to get into the album. "Disco Queen" is probably the weirdest thing this band has written, but it is very annoying in the intro and outro and seems to meander senselessly in the middle. The track "Scarsick" doesn't seem to go anyway at all! The album as a whole seems completely unfocused. Although I will give this band recognition for experimenting as I've never heard an album with these kinds of experiments on it (rap/hip-hop, disco, funk, and "America" which is kind of a strange hybrid of 70's and 80's pop).
The lyrics are the other major flaw, especially the track "Cribcaged" which uses "fuck" enough times (both in succession and over a period of time) to make KoRn blush. Scatological and crude sexual references in "Spitfall" make the already-mediocre song bomb. The lyrics throughout the album sound very juvenile and irritatingly angsty. Politics, George W. Bush, America, and those capitalist pigs get chewed-out in teenage political activist fashion. The subject matters don’t bother me, it's just the way they’re presented. And while Daniel may have some good points, his delivery is completely off-putting. And there is a vague concept here mostly being sneery, sarcastic, and very pissed-off. That is somewhat interesting but at the same time very low-brow for this band.
"Low-brow", "juvenile", "angsty", and "crude" are words that I never thought I'd use in a Pain of Salvation review. And while the band gets points for being experimental and making an album that no one could have predicted, it ultimately fails for me. I will admit that there is some good music here (mostly on the last five tracks), but it's buried underneath so much garbage that it isn't very satisfying in the end. Overall, the album is unfocused and directionless musically. This makes me wonder what the band's future will be like. I see this album as being very hard to rebound from, but I still have some faith in the guys. And maybe getting all this anger and frustration off of his chest will be beneficial in the end.
I have been waiting for the new POS album for quite some time now and since it is my favorite band, my expectations were high, perhaps a little bit too high. When I first heard this album, I couldn't help but feeling a bit disappointed. It's like nothing they ever done before (i.e. Disco Queen and Spitfall) and just didn't sound like POS. But for some reason it captivated me and I felt compelled to listen to it again and again. After listening to it about 25 times, I came to the conclusion that in fact it is a fantastic album with a lot of memorable songs and hooks.
This is not your vintage POS album so I wouldn't recommend it to people who are trying to get into POS, but just like any other POS album you need to give it time to let it sink in. What first caught my attention were the lyrics. They are mostly about anti-capitalism which is very clichy, so that was a little bit disappointing. What makes it better that Daniel gives his own twist to them making them more emotional, something which he excels at. I wish he would write more emotional lyrics like The Perfect Element and Remedy Lane. But all in all the lyrics aren't that bad.
Scarsick has virtually no solos, which is not very surprising since Daniel has stated time and time again that he doesn't really like playing solos. Still the solos that are there are perfectly timed. One of the strong points of the album is it's variety, no song really sounds the same. In Spitfall you can hear Daniel rapping, which works surprisingly well and Enter Rain sounds kind of Pink Floydish.
All in all it's a great album and hopefully it will continue to get better with each listen. I'm not gonna a track by track review, the stand out tracks are: Spitfall, Cribcaged, Disco Queen, Idiocracy and Enter Rain. The only song I didn't really like is Mrs. Modern Day Mary. I would recommend Scarsick to everyone, just remember to have an open mind.
Scarsick, Pain of Salvation’s recent follow-up to 2004’s BE, has been an album I have been looking forward to for months now. Ever since the very first details of the album were revealed I have been patiently waiting to hear what I presumed to be this band’s latest masterpiece. As the first, title track started to play, I was excited for what was to come. Perhaps I set my expectations a tad too high.
Don’t get me wrong: Scarsick is an excellent album. Gildenlow’s genius shines through vividly as he leads the album straight through various genre barriers and pulls each off with absolute ease. Unfortunately, this album might be a tad too diverse, if possible. While it is indeed progressive metal at the heart, each track has a distinctly different sound that will catch you off guard. That may not be a bad thing, per se, though when you couple the genres represented with the progressive formula of odd rhythms and lengthy songs, you end up with something that is somewhat boring and only occasionally shows some flair.
That said, Scarsick has its gems. Spitfall, a song that mixes electronic hip-hop beats with rapped verses and a nicely done chorus, pulls off the hybridization and puts Anthrax’s rap-metal to shame. Gildenlow’s aggressive side is obvious in tracks such as Cribcaged, a semi-ballad with emotions represented on both extremes – the sounds of a newborn baby and the curses of an angry man. America is another song that stuck out to me. It’s the most upbeat on the album with a poppy overtone and lyrics criticizing the U.S.A.
Die-hard Pain of Salvation fans will probably have many more criticisms of this album than I do. Scarsick is definitely worth buying, though it would not be my first choice when recommending an album to a wishful PoS-fan-to-be.
I have always been a fan of epic prog metal concept albums that spin a tale that will engulf you in an orgy of audio heaven and swirling lights in your head. Bands like Ayreon, Shadow Gallery, and on occasion, Dream Theater. One band sticks out among the group though, that transcends just plain prog metal into a story that will entertain and work that mind of yours. This band is Pain of Salvation, and they have been releasing album after album, each surpassing each other in one way or another. Scarsick is the evolution of their sound after three years of stewing ideas.
I had been awaiting this release ever since I found out they were recording a new album, so I was almost afraid to spin it. The album starts out with a kind of nu-metal song, and it started to crush my hopes of this album being the wave of sound that you can drown in. After the first track was over, it started with a more progressive sound, and got back to what they were good at doing.
Daniels vocals are amazing as always, with soaring high notes and fast pace rants and a sarcastic snide in his voice, which is what fans will love. I remember reading that this LP would be more band oriented than their past few releases, and this is pretty much true. Not as much keyboards or orchestras, more guitar solos and technical drumming. The only problem I had with the instruments was the bass. Daniel is an amazing singer and guitar player, but his bass playing will never match up to his brother. It’s good, but not amazing like in their past releases.
The lyrics are mostly anti-capitalism and political, and has Daniel letting out his frustration in the world around him, but it kind of comes off pretentious. It would have worked better if they were giving out the album for free. Since, if I understand this right, in the song Kingdom Of Loss, proclaims that Americans buy so much stuff to keep them happy. So, if any members of the band are reading this, I want you to send me Scarsick for free, since buying it would totally go against your message.
Overall, it’s a good album with a lot of interesting vocal melodies and instrumentals. Get this album if you can, but what ever you do, don’t buy it or you will be the capitalist the band preaches against.