Support Acts: Cryptex

London Relentless Garage, 13th February 2012

Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis

To say that changes on a grand scale have taken place in the Pain Of Salvation camp since they last visited London back in November 2011 as an opening act for fellow Swedes Opeth would be the understatement of the century. Having suffered the loss of guitarist extraordinaire and much loved member Johan Hallgren back in October, less than a month later it was keyboardist Fredrik Hermansson who announced his decision to leave the fold, leading many fans of the Eskilstuna-based outfit wondering over the band’s future. Whereas most bands would have opted for dissolution at this point, founding member and main man Daniel Gildenlow managed to employ the services of two musicians and, in a very short period of time, prepare them for a twenty nine day European tour – a tour that, luckily for us, made a stop at the Highbury and Islington’s Relentless Garage on the night of the 13th of February 2012.

Having arrived outside the venue quite early on in order to do an interview with a, sadly, fairly under-the-weather Daniel, I soon found myself part of a pretty decent queue and, not long thereafter, I claimed a strategic spot quite close to the stage. My excitement of seeing Pain Of Salvation as headliners so soon after last November’s impressive short performance at the Brixton Academy was such that I did not even bother to check out the opening act Cryptex in advance – much to my detriment as this Hannover-based trio ended up absolutely blowing my mind! Though quite young looking, this Progressive Folk Rock trio radiated enormous amounts of confidence and power, using all the available stage space to the maximum and literally pounding their instruments to breaking point. It was Simon Moskon’s (lead vocals, piano/keys, bass) individual performance which predominantly attracted people’s attention and rightfully so, as this guy probably consumed more energy during the show than my four year old nephew. With a rough Blues/Rock voice which perfectly complemented Martin Linke’s heavily distorted guitar riffs, the pleasant German kept the crowd on its toes throughout the band’s performance – a performance that was further enhanced by Ramon Fleig’s powerful contributions behind the drum kit. Influences carried from Led Zeppelin and 70s Deep Purple all the way to Cheap Trick and Jethro Tull but they were presented in such a respectful and, dare I say, fresh way that I am sure that even the most loyal fans of these great bands would appreciate their inclusion in Cryptex’s music. It is fair to say that when the band left the stage roughly forty minutes later, they did so in a triumphant manner, having won the interest and appreciation of a pretty warmed-up crowd.

When the new line up of Pain Of Salvation first hit the stage fifteen minutes after nine I greeted them with much anticipation and anxiety – anticipation because that is the prevalent sentiment that I feel every time I attend a concert of a band whose music bewitched me with the release of their 2000 opus “The Perfect Element, Part I” and anxiety because there were many good and justifiable reasons capable of undermining the quality of the night’s show. Would Daniel’s sore throat enable him to perform? Would the new line up, which had only so far performed four gigs together, manage to give justice to the band’s emotionally and technically demanding material? Finally, was Daniel’s decision to incorporate material never before performed in a live environment, such as “Stress” and “Sisters”, going to work or backfire?

The first five minutes of the band’s set was a nervous encounter for both the bands and the fans alike as the performance of the opening track “Softly She Cries” came across as slightly disjointed while the crowd was still trying to figure out if guitarist Ragnar Zolberg and bassist Gustaf Hielm (Charta 77, Meshuggah) deserved their place on stage. The moment the first few notes of the classic opus “Ashes” were performed, however, the whole place suddenly livened up and by the time the solid guitar riff of “Linoleum” ground in, the crowd had completely surrendered its last lines of defence and Daniel & Co. were boosted by a much-needed dose of adrenaline. Witty and chatty as always, Daniel managed to instantly establish a connection with his London fans – fans with no inhibitions whatsoever to singing along to the emotional tunes of tracks, such as “Deeper Cut”, “1979” and “Shoreline”. Actually, one thing that one can say about Pain Of Salvation era 2012 is that their multi-vocal performances are much improved as a direct result of all five members being quite skilled lead and backing vocalists, thereby adding a new dimension to the band’s show. “Chain Sling” was the first song from the 2002 opus “Remedy Lane” to be performed and was followed by the much loved “Ending Theme” – a composition that saw Ragnar Zolberg acquire a more active vocal role which could only be characterised as dead impressive. “Stress” was a ‘make or break’ moment in the show as it is the one composition which really tested the band’s cohesiveness and I am glad to report that the end result was a complete triumph. An equally impressive performance of “Kingdom Of Loss” brought a smile to the face of all us old-school fans while the younger members of the audience gave their all during the performances of both the lyrically-challenging “No Way” and the surprisingly eloquent “Enter Rain”, after which the band left the stage for the first time. Moments later, Daniel’s guitar tone once again filled the venue, introducing the beautifully crafted “Physics Of Gridlock”, while the best was definitely saved for last with the emotionally charged performance of the opus “Sisters”, after which they gave their bows and left the stage, this time for good.

What music fans such as I who attended tonight’s show at the Relentless Garage experienced was nothing short of a miracle. I really cannot think of another case of a band that has come together at such short notice and was able to produce such outstanding results but, then again, Daniel Gildenlow is hardly what you would describe as an ordinary artist! Against all odds, Daniel proved for yet another time during the band’s turbulent career that Pain Of Salvation as a band/idea/entity is far more important than any of the individuals involved (Daniel excluded, of course) and that one ought to think really hard before assuming that this musical train has reached the end of the tracks. If you live in or close by any of the towns/cities that Pain Of Salvation are currently visiting this Winter/Spring headlining tour, I strongly suggest that you get a ticket, pronto. As for me: I’m booking a flight to another European city to see this amazing performance all over again.

What an amazing night for good quality music this has been!

Pain Of Salvation Set List:

Main Set:
1. “Softly She Cries”
2. “Ashes”
3. “Linoleum”
4. “Deeper Cut”
5. “1979”
6. “Shoreline”
7. “Chain Sling”
8. “Ending Theme”
9. “Stress”
10. “Kingdom Of Loss”
11. “No Way”
12. “Enter Rain”

13. “Physics Of Gridlock”
14. “Sisters”