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(Inside Out IOMCD152)(2004)

For many bands the ‘live’ album is something that takes the place of a ‘Greatest Hits’ disk and is often used as a means of fulfilling contractual obligations to a record label. Very few bands take the opportunity to do something different. Perhaps because they are afraid of upsetting a fan base who desire nothing other than note-perfect replicas of the band’s most popular songs from their studio albums or perhaps because they themselves are not brave enough to attempt something out of the ordinary.

We need have no such fears when it comes to the case of Swedish Prog-Metal masters Pain of Salvation who are not the sorts to play along with the usual script and in the case of this new album, 12:5, not only produced a live album that includes re-worked versions of many stage favourites, but one that was performed using acoustic instruments.

Recorded in front of a tiny audience of just 80, in their home town of Eskilstuna, this is and extremely stripped down and intimate recording and a far cry from some of the heavier and more jarring sounds of, in particular, their debut album ‘Entropia’. The music is broken down into 3 books, or groupings of songs, entitled respectively Genesis, Genesister and Genesinister, each of which presents a selection of full songs and modified extracts, in a manner which blends the material into a single story. The names of the more heavily modified tunes are changed to the more obscure ‘Brickwork I thru X’ and along with the album’s title are not really spelt out. Main composer Daniel Gildenlow seems to prefer it that way and invites the fans of the group to present their own interpretations and theories on the message boards of the band’s official and fan websites.

The first part, entitled ‘Brickwork part 1 (I-V)’ begins with an extract from the band’s debut disk, in the form of a reworking of ‘Leaving Entropia’. Gildenlow is pleased with the result and it really does shed new light on a fantastic song. From there, the music flows into the beautiful and enchanting ‘Heart of Mine’ in which the emotion expressed via Daniel’s unique voice seems even more haunting than ever in this stripped-down and very ‘naked’ form. The delightful guitars and piano leave much more space for the vocals and both those of main vocalist Daniel and the backing vocals contributed by drummer Johan Langell and guitarist Johan Hallgren really shine throughout the disk.

The second part consists of complete versions of songs such as ‘Winning a War’ and ‘Undertow’, while the third and final part consists of the concluding ‘Brickwork’ section. Where no suitable recorded piece exists, the band insert specially written short instrumental pieces or borrow extracts from longer songs to bridge the music together. In all, songs from 3 of the band’s four studio albums are featured, with only ‘One Hour by the Concrete Lake’ not being represented at all.

In fact there is a nice balance between the full and shortened versions of songs and it is only in the form of ‘Ashes’ that the band plays dangerously with one of the staples of its live setlists. While opening in the same key as the version on ‘The Perfect Element’, once one hears the cheers of recognition from the audience, the band suddenly switches key from minor to major giving the tune and its dark subject matter an altogether and slightly uneasy twist. It is certainly an interpretation which appears to have split the fans’ opinion.

With the bulk of the material being culled from the band’s more recent studio albums, the material on this live album, it is very much the band’s ‘accessible’ side which is presented here. If you, like me, found Pain of Salvations first two studio disks rather hard going and indigestible, then this disk just be the key you need to unlock the secrets of one of prog-metal’s more complex and challenging artists. Personally, I found it to be a delightful listen and I’m sure that many more will also find that to be the case for themselves.

Buy this CD

© 2004 Pain Of Salvation/Inside Out. All rights reserved.


Review by Charlie Farrell


***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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