In The Passing Light Of Day is the tenth studio album by Pain Of Salvation, a band who, up until now, I have approached with some degree of caution. Why? Because their brand of Scandinavian prog metal I have always found too visceral and intense, akin to being grabbed and shaken very hard acoustically. However, I also find the band's mainman, Daniel Gildenlöw, one of prog's most charismatic and intelligent characters, who wears his emotions like a second skin, and I use my words advisedly.
That this album is based on his unimaginably horrific experience of contracting the flesh-eating bug necrotising fascilitis early in 2014, which confined him to hospital for several months, makes him truly remarkable. In The Passing Light Of Day is the musical outpouring of his descent into the unknown, when his existence and future remained uncertain day to day. It was only the small daily routines he came to embrace while in hospital and the unconditional love for his family that kept him going.
His band mates, Ragnar Zolberg, who shares lead guitar and lead vocals with Gildenlöw, Léo Margarit on drums and vocals, Daniel Karlsson on keyboards and vocals and Gustaf Hielm on bass and vocals, provide the necessary ammunition and firepower to bring this uncertain world to life. Uncompromising at times and tender at others, a whole spectrum of unknowing is crafted across the 71 minutes, starting with the full-on riffage, vocal whispers and achingly anguished keyboards on the opener On A Tuesday through to the gorgeous 15 minute title track where he reflects on his life with his wife.
The quiet piano-led intro of Tongue Of God soon gives way to huge high voltage crunching guitars and the nearest they get to growling vocals. It's angry and an epistle to whoever may be watching over him.
The wonderfully plaintive guitars and the beat which follows the mournful vocals of Meaningless, some of which are provided by Zolberg, again convey so many mixed emotions including helplessness and despair.
One of the gems on the album is the stunningly beautiful ballad, Silent Gold, where voice and piano lead the haunting melody line and the epic line “God is what we do now”.
The album's pivotal track is the challenging Full Throttle Tribe, the name he uses to refer to his family and also the band itself, which he sees as his “tribe”. The band is what he has been unable to keep together over the decades and hence is a constant source of pain to him. As the title indicates, it is deeply tribal in its rhythms, massive panoramic guitars and staccato vocal. It is the affirmation of the life already led, the life unlived ahead and the legacy which may or may not be left behind.
For sheer anger, there's nothing to touch Reasons, a gut-wrenching emotional prog metal cry for the truth before the gorgeous Angels Of Broken Things, Gildenlöw's name for the bringers of the drugs, which help him to disappear into the darkness of undreaming sleep (his own respite from the broken things in his life) while his wound is treated.
A spooky keyboard undercurrent drives The Taming Of The Beast, which creeps along in a very unsettling way, lyrics such as “Sometimes I feel the beast gets the best of me” showing the tightrope he walks in his silent, bedridden hours.
That melancholic feeling continues in If This Is The End, a lament that features a very muted guitar and vocal contemplating the unthinkable that then explodes into chaos after the repetition of the words “(I Want To) Stay” as he fights his illness and signals to his tribe that he's not going anywhere. At the same time, some of the lyrics hark back to incidents covered in the earlier Remedy Lane (2002).
As previously mentioned, the title track is the perfect denouement to this journey along the road few of us will fortunately never travel. The first part is slow, reflecting on his near-death experience. It comprises mainly vocals and accompanying guitar, before it gradually develops into a crescendo then returning to its dream-like state. The track is swathed in nostalgia and longing throughout, and as Gildenlöw says in his extensive notes, finally offers the hope of a tomorrow. It also indicates that he has finally accepted what has happened and acknowledges that he is part of the “tribe” that is moving along with the passing light of day.
With this album comes both the Pain and Salvation. It's an extraordinary album bearing in mind the circumstances which brought about its inception and the way the story is told. This is truly art borne out of a life and we are all the richer for having heard the message it ultimately conveys.
***** Alison Reijman
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