Pain Of Salvation - Scarsick

Year of Release: 2007
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: SPV 79202 CD / IOMCD 264
Format: CD
Total Time: 67:52:00

When I first listened to Scarsick, I figured that the songs that would standout the most would be "America" and "Disco Queen." That isn't to say these are the best two (I'll give that to "Enter Rain" and "Kingdom Of Loss"), but mainly because they seemed so very much out-of-character for Pain Of Salvation, they'd get the "press." They are, but not for the reasons I thought (not having the lyrics with the promo). "Disco Queen" stands out for its disco rhythm, naturally; it isn't exactly your Bee Gees, ABBA, or Gloria Gaynor disco tune. Imagine it delivered by Lou Reed, in some real world that isn't just satin, glittering balls, and a thumping beat. Yeh, I'm thinking of Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side." Here slightly grizzled vocals are delivered in a seductive and languid manner, surrounded by sultry whispers here and there, all over a siren-like keyboard. And then, of course, the danceable, throbbing disco beat for the chorus, falsetto vocals intact. But the song's subject is raw and frank, there's sex, metaphorically rendered?

"America" sounds like the chorus has been lifted, and then altered a bit, from the Kim Wilde hit "Kids In America." It certainly has the same urgent pop beat, at that point. It's otherwise a funky alternative metal like track (like most of the material on the album). Oddly, without the vitriolic delivery and the lyrics, at times it sounds as if it could be a Flower Kings tune? go figure. Roine Stolt rubbing off on someone else?

So, I had wondered if these two American sounding musical styles weren't part 'n' parcel of what Daniel Gildenlöw's message - indictment? - of America is (well, the US, as he's kept Canada and Mexico out of it). Well, yes, in as much as the whole album is. Why is a lot of the attention being cast, directed at "America" in particular? It's an attack on the US, its policies and how it projects itself as dominant force on the planet, the ideal, that every other nation wants to be like the US. You can't lay it all at government's feet; we (for I am in and of the US) buy in to the consumerism we promote ? whether that's buying items, ideology or idolatry. A topic that's tackled in "Kingdom Of Loss," a piece that has the mellow warmth musically that Remedy Lane used so effectively; fragile vocals, sparse arrangement, classic touches, including acoustic guitar and watery keyboards, makes this a lovely song, pastoral in places -- it's a beautifully arranged and presented track.

It isn't just in the last 6 years, either; it's only coming into sharper focus from without because we've gone bullying our way into, well, Iraq, for one. And, at least right now, with a swagger, we pretend we can ride in and save the rest of the world. Like we did in Louisiana, Mississippi??? Let's leave it with fact that he - DG - has said what many think - within and without the US - and that the song will at least bring about conversation.

Most of the music on Scarsick takes POS into a more alternative metal/nu-metal realms, which is progression of a certain type, at least it shows that the band aren't content to release the same successful album every time. And yet there is a funky vibe running through most of the album's 10 tracks. It is more immediately accessible than was Be that preceded it, harking back to Remedy Lane, but not quite as? romantic. As you can guess without even looking at the song titles or the lyrics that DG is making a point about something is every song. It seems as if this is the long-anticipated sequel to The Perfect Element, Part 1? but not having yet heard (though it's here waiting) TPE, I can't compare the two.

If "America" is the broadstrokes, the remainder is subsets of this main theme, or the more finite illustration of some of those ills. And you should be warned, there are "adult themes" here throughout; it's raw and, some might say, crude. I'm not offended, mind; but some more sensitive types might be. It's funny that "fuck" is considered adult language, when it's mainly kids that use it. I mention is word in particular because I'd guess that ol' Daniel says "fuck" a couple dozen or more times throughout "Cribcaged," one of two "attacks" on the rap/hip-hop crowd - scene - culture ? whatever term you want to use (the other is "Spitfall"). You'd not expect it given the baby sounds, gentle acoustic guitar, and calm vocal delivery that open the track - a great moment. Not that the word is given any special emphasis, isn't there drawing attention to itself, unless you're reading the lyrics.

In "Scarsick," lyrics are spoken -- mostly spat -- in a staccato manner over sparse percussion and funky bass, led into and out of by harsh, swirling guitars and driving drums. There is a bridge that smoothes out the angry edges with a liquid bass line that gives it a slow-funk feel, like moving through clear gel but not getting traction (it will come to full boil on "Disco Queen"). It is, of course, intense as all music by POS necessarily is, and here, as throughout, it is an angry album. But "Spitfall" is as close to rap as the band will get, being even more speak-singing than "Scarsick," but not quite rap; at times it reminded me Eminem's "Lose Yourself" -- and I don't half wonder if Mathers isn't Gildenlöw's ? poster boy for the poser he's taking aim at (the country-club boy affecting street cred. Vanilla Ice anyone?). It does have the structure of modern rap - which I've been peripherally subjected to - the rapped verses, sung choruses. What I like are the heavy choruses, though, that are in the metal realm.

"Mrs. Modern Mother Mary" is a harsher track, raw and distorted guitars, over another sinewy, slinky vocal delivery - and has the band sounding at times a bit like Prince. Here religion is the target to some degree? that somehow finding "god" absolves one of responsibility for? whatever. This is another track where I really like the arrangement? that very choral refrain that ends "since I found god" is a moment that just sounds? cool. Not the words, but their cadence, over a revving-saw guitar.

Rumbling, tribal percussion and chugging guitars open "Idiocracy," which goes from being a very tight, closed-in track to something that ends (essentially) as a booming epic, without all the full trappings of an epic. It is lyrically sparse; vocals again delivered in a falsetto, slinky manner. Here, too, you'll here a touch of flamenco guitar.

"Flame To The Moth" is one part crunchy, chunky metal, one part quicksilver - glistening and quivering, waiting for something? yet, as the piece progresses, the guitars become more insistent, as a sense of urgency quickens.

The album ends with the one part smoldering, one part aflame "Enter Rain" (you'd think that would have been said about the track above, eh?). No, we get very languid, shimmery guitar, slow-motion bass and percussion, and audio effects that make you feel as if you're inside a lava lamp, without any 60s psychedelic trappings. Whatever drug we're on, everything's in grays and whites and hazy light. Until the bright breakthrough of the chorus, the title repeated with increasing urgency.

Yes, I did mean to use urgency more than once. That is the underlying feel here - a sense of urgency. That something must change; but isn't DG and POS all about change anyway? Is that what every album, ultimately has been about? The urgency of change before we all go pffft and earth is left barren and lifeless like Mars? Or uninhabitable like Venus? This is the kind of album that makes it seem a little bit? strange reviewing it on its musical merits and telling you whether you should buy it or not and add it to your collection. The irony that some of those who will be buying this CD reside in the US cannot be lost on Gildenlöw; that the very consumerism mentality he decries will have you setting down your $16 dollars to hear him attack that very act. Do you not just because you don't like what is being said about the US? Those outside might see that comment/question as further evidence of the perceived primacy of the US, but the album squarely takes aim at the US, so I'm gathering that there will be few German, French, Australian, South African, Chinese, Japanese, etc. fans who would be particularly, or personally, offended in the same way that that would be a consideration, though they may just find the topics uninteresting (oh, yet another person bashing the US; yeh yeh, US is the evil empire, ho-hum). My point is, if the music itself wasn't compelling, if he, the band, didn't have something to give you back for that $16 (or your local equivalent), would it be worth it? Does it make more than conspicuous consumption? (Let's presume for the sake of the argument that you aren't going to pirate this release in some manner).

Subject matter aside, this is a very strong release. The whole musical vibe of "Disco Queen" almost seems out of place, although there's enough a similar groove in other tracks that doesn't entirely. It is a very measured release, tracks don't seem to outstay their welcome; that is, they aren't long for the sake of length; they make their point directly, even if metaphorically. And to judge the album as a reviewer must, one must take out personal feelings about issues expressed; if one can't, they shouldn't review the album. So, on technical merits, how it sounds, production values, performance, etc., this is a strong Pain Of Salvation album. Their best yet? I can't say, maybe because I'm still partial to Remedy Lane; but it is as immediate as that release, and so may attract more fans than, say, the more "complicated" One Hour By The Concrete Lake or the more? esoteric? Be. And even if it ends up not being the best of 2007, it might be the most talked about (at least in prog/prog metal circles? ah what if Rolling Stone reviewed it??).

Scarsick (7:08) / Spitfall (7:17) / Cribcaged (5:56) / America (5:05) / Disco Queen (8:22) / Kingdom Of Loss (6:41) / Mrs. Modern Mother Mary (4:14) / Idiocracy (7:04) / Flame To The Moth (5:58) / Enter Rain (10:03)

Daniel Gildenlöw - lead vocals, guitars, bass guitar, banjos and samples
Fredrik Hermansson - keyboards, samples
Johan Hallgren - guitars, vocals
Johan Langell - drums, vocals

Entropia (1998)
One Hour By The Concrete Lake (1999)
The Perfect Element (2000)
Remedy Lane (2002)
12:5 (2004)
Be (2004)
The Orchestration Of Eternity - Be (original stage production)
Scarsick (2007)
Linoleum (EP) (2009)
Ending Themes (On The Two Deaths Of Pain Of Salvation) (2009)
Road Salt One (2010)
Road Salt Two (2011)
Falling Home (2014)
The Passing Light Of Day (2016)

Be - Live DVD (DVD) (2005)
Ending Themes (On The Two Deaths Of Pain Of Salvation) (DVD) (2009)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: February 4th 2007
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 3919
Language: english


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