THIS IS HOW BLACK METAL SHOULD BE
I usually divide black metal into two categories: the “good” ones, yielding creativity and working guitars with riffs, alternating between fast and slow parts and controlling the ambience. I actually hate the “bad” ones that can’t do more than hyper-speed drumming and high pitched guitar tones up to the 12th fret ahead, and shredding all three strings all the time. We got the good one here, and the album spawns in showing that as it plays the first riff. It’s a great album from a band that surely knows what they’re doing. The main style could be defined as nihilist black metal. Nihilist mainly, because they don’t follow usual black metal tendencies. Their cause is not satanic at all. The Vatican image appears totally destroyed at the cover art, that is not due to Satanism but the most despicable work mankind has ever settled. Influenced mainly by the old Marduk from “Fuck Me Jesus” and “Dark Endless”, combined with Dark Throne’s “A Blaze In the Northern Sky, the album has got 9 songs of what black metal should be. The vocals are sharp and somehow apocalyptic. The guitar work is great, turning from fast riffs to slow low pitched melodies and the tone is amazing. This is their first release and they already show a very mature and consistent songwriting formula, yet managing to sound unique. The slow parts are always present, but most of the album is violent and fast. “He who must be killed” is a very good opening track, with a catchy main black metal riff followed by some good and weird slow parts. The blast beats are not as fast as ordinary black metal albums, they're a bit faster than thrash metal patterns, though. All the members seem to be very confident with their abilities, even though two of the members use to play in a hard rock/countrycore band, which has absolutely nothing to do with this style. the bass and drums parts are very creative, not repetitive, the mid paced tempo are very well structured and the guitars lines are very metallic and riffy.
Highlights to the “He who must be killed”, which shows lots of creative riffs and a tense ambience. “The funeral”, starting with the very famous Chopin’s piano sonata n° 2, also known as the “funeral march”. The song that gives name to the album is also a great highlight. Though, there is no bad song here. They’re not repetitive. Every song has its own peculiarities and this is so true that you can’t judge the band by listening to one or two songs, once they reach almost every black metal ground there is throughout the album. Their live performance is also very peculiar. The band comes dressed as monks with black cassocks, and the vocalist comes in mummified, and throughout the show he unfolds turn by turn, unveiling his face.
The name of the album “Nunc Scio Tenebris Lux” comes from Latin and means something like “Now I understand that the darkness comes from the light”. It was produced and recorded independently and this is why this material is so hard to find.
I really can't understand why the band took this kinky path. They have always been what I would call "intelligent music," both musically and lyrically. But since "Be" - which is a masterpiece - the front man started to use the band as his private laboratory, always experimenting with new styles. "Be" was a piece of art: success! However, since "Scarsick" was released, the quality and creativity have shifted to mediocre at best. (Sometimes I wonder if that would have happened if Kristopher was still in the band.) Although the work still showcases some of the remaining lyrical skills Daniel has, he has contradicted himself from what he wrote on "Be."
On "Road Salt One," what we see is another band, in another universe, like the Pain of Salvation that released "Entropia", "The Perfect Element I" and "Remedy Lane" has never existed. The style is totally different. The vocals are oversaturated and seem to be recorded in low quality on purpose (I have no idea what the purpose of that was!), the seventh string is vibrating all the time, and the drums are as dry as the Atacama Desert. The lack of guitar solos is something that really bothers me on this album. They forgot about the existence of the high pitched strings. Throughout the entire album, the seven-string, tuned down to A, can be heard and NO solos. Even Halgren - who is the best guitar wielder, in my opinion - was infected by this new Pain of Salvation order. Some songs like "No Way" and "She Likes to Hide" have a vintage spirit, sounding like Deep Purple and The Beatles' tones sometimes. The only thing "Scarsick" could still offer at the time, was the lyrics. We can tell that it was something Daniel spent some time working on, mainly because of the size of a couple of them. On this album, 80% of the lyrics come off as childish, commercial, simple, repetitive, boring, and actually quite annoying at times! "There is no way you can fuck her like I can", "She thinks of me when she is with you", "Your love is everything, my love is anything", "She likes to hide (x40)" - Seriously? Is that the same genius who wrote "Idioglossia", "Undertow", "Beyond the Pale", "Home", the whole "Be" concept?
There are some highlights on this album, of course. They are basically "Sisters" and "Innocence", the best songs in my opinion. "Sisters" has very touching and meaningful lyrics and a deep, beautiful melody, unfortunately, once again, it's annoying and disappointing, the way we have the vocals. At 4:00 to 4:15 you can see clearly how oversaturated it is, but this part is followed by one of the best parts on the album at 4:38. "Of Dust" is just like a "Nauticus - Drifting #2." Great song, but with a minimal arrangement of voice and background organ, no drums, no solos, no bass, just that. "Tell Me You Don't Know" is a very simple song, again with the over-over-saturated voice. Simple songs sometimes turns to boring songs when it comes to a progressive metal band, and that is exactly what happens. The song starts with a phrase on a banjo, sticks to it and ends the same way, two minutes and 40 seconds later. After this song comes Pain of Salvation's weirdest song of all time, "Sleeping Under the Stars." This is by far the most Avant-garde thing they have ever recorded. I like Avant-garde a lot, but this is totally out of Pain of Salvation's element! "Darkness of Mine," is another very boring song, in that it is too repetitive. Even so, the end of the song is great. The guitars need to lay off these annoying effects, rubbing the strings horizontally. "Linoleum," which most of us already know, from the EP "Linoleum". I can't understand what was in the intro. Five years ago I could never imagine a Pain of Salvation song starting this way. It's notable since they went "sick of the scars," the music switched from sad and depressed stuff, to happy, even more depressing stuff. The video clip for this song is a joke and if you haven’t seen it yet, do not! "Curiosity" starts totally emo, and then goes for a ska background, along with "Where It Hurts," which soon become perfect playgrounds for the new drummer to show the fans what he is capable of. Just for the record, "Where it Hurts" starts with those annoying guitar effects AGAIN and the vocals are covered in weird effects as well. Then we have another song with just keys and vocals, "Road Salt." Great song, yet again, very simple. The album finished with "Innocence." This song shows a lot of the oldest of Pain of Salvation's influences, on "One Hour by the Concrete Lake" and "The Perfect Element I," even though sometimes it sounds like "A Flame to the Moth." It's a very progressive song, and it's the one responsible for not extinguishing their candle on me.
Overall, this is a good album, but not for Pain of Salvation. When the level of songs the band has always composed is that high, it's even more risky to continue working on new stuff when the inspiration is not as abundant as it was before. I'd rate this album as 65% for any other band, but coming from Pain of Salvation and comparing this album to everything the band has released throughout its path since the beginning, it's not fair giving a rating that is so close to the other albums. This album has nothing to do with the old classic stuff. It's not even close. I'd rather have the band release this as a side project from all the members, instead of seeing the Pain of Salvation name branded on what would be, by the way, the weakest cover art in Pain of Salvation history. Maybe the point of it all is just a simple personal quest by Daniel, who now wants to write "unlabelable music," and what we get in exchange is this shallow, mediocre and soulless music.
AN UNPARALLELED GEM OF ART
This is simply the best, most versatile and complete package of songs in an album, and in that, a very challenging album to digest. I’ve always been a great fan of the band. I've listened carefully to every Pain of Salvation’s album, and until "Be", this was the only one that I didn’t become a big fan within a short period of listening, mainly due to the fact that this is a very difficult album to understand. It has got an intricate technique, very strong and touching lyrics and very efficient melodies when it comes to feelings. The album can be described by the term "obscure art." Well, everything is just perfect here. The music seems very simple, but all the musicians, when analyzed separately, prove themselves to be very creative, technically skilled and qualified, especially while considering the small details, and of course, watching all the arrangements, focusing on creativity. The vocals are absolutely perfect, without any objection. Bass lines have a very free style, improvising all the time and are even capable of having their own melodies separately from the main melody of the song. On several songs a fretless-bass can be noticed. Langell has got his snare drum sharper than the previous albums, and with less effect. It worked very well, once it is clear and loud enough. Langell has got even more impressive when you check his creativity closer, with great grooves and lots of odd-time-signatures and different patterns, working around in 6/8 and 7/8 and sometimes even as odd as 9/16 and 15/16. Guitars and keyboards are the highlight here. Voice arrangements are perfectly clear, very heavy and flat, with little effect. Improvisations and arrangements are constant and quite creative. The solos are genially composed and the keyboard suits the general ambience created by the whole album. This album definitely has to be analyzed on each song, minute by minute, detail by detail, and I got a suggestion for you, reader. Go through this review listening the album at the same time.
"Used" pervades the album, instantly frightening you. How can a progressive metal band compose a song with three different notes and make technical and intricate music out of it? The song starts in a very strange and different style comparing to the Pain of Salvation we knew so far at that time, but soon it becomes very friendly and catchy again. The “Used” solo is one of Daniel Gildenlöw’s best solos throughout this album and right after the solo the song takes an unexpected course, presenting an amazing vocal exhibition, showcasing Gildenlöw’s outstanding vocal range. Beginning with a wave with low pitched vocals, turning to median, then high pitched, and the final climax at 4:21 until 4:35! With the second song, "In The Flesh", very touching lyrics are offered in a regular melody, initially calm and smooth. As most of the songs on this album, it goes through several different stages. This one starts slow, and boosts up pace. At 4:09, we listen to one of the most creative parts of the album, with two overlapping vocals and incredible guitar and bass arrangements. For the first time in the album, we can observe the use of a fretless bass, most notably from 4:50 beyond, onwards to a great 7/8 groove. At this point, something amazing happens in the ambience of the song. It gradually turns from a smooth, flowing pattern into heavy riffs completely full of tension. "Ashes" comes off as the simple song in the album; it provides a sense of versatility and completeness to the album, when seen as a whole. "Morning On Earth" begins with a melody that seems to be played on a piano by the protagonist of the song, showing his anger and hate, as he strikes every key. The guitars are beautiful as the song reaches its half, as well as the chorus.
We arrive at the second part of the album, with “Idioglossia.” Endowed with some of the best lyrics Daniel has ever written, the music goes through several instrumentals stages. Each one seems to unleash a different kind of emotion and feeling, usually involving hatred, despair, anger, disappointment and vengeance. "I scratched the surface and see, someone better than me," “As I search through the ashes, for someone to blame, I'm afraid to see my face", "As I walk through the ashes, I whisper your name, meeting you forced me to meet myself", "... for your stupidity, for stealing what could have been… …ME!" These are the highlight excerpts in the lyrics of this song, This is a big song completely full of different patterns, and I must mention that the ending of this song is outrageous! "Her Voices" begins, again with the usual music stages. It begins a very soft and melodic pattern, with a very slow and heavy chorus with great bass, keyboard, and guitar arrangements, the song has its climax at 4:20 onwards, with an extremely creative instrumental, involving a fast and long solo. We even have violins here! The song ends as smoothly as it begins. "Dedication" is a perfect example of what a ballad should be. Slow music, acoustic, almost romantic, and excellent lyrics, presented with beautiful melodies and great vocal lines. The time varies rhythmically in grooves on 6/7, 7/8 and even 15/16, which you may observe at 3:14.
The other song that caught my attention on the album, along with "Idioglossia," was "King of Loss." It is a well of creativity, heaviness, melody and emotions. It starts off smoothly, creating an ambience of tension and suspense. It is worth noting the guitar arrangements that may be heard working in the background with the vocals. The music continues to feed a heavier suspense with every running second. At 2:06, a choir sings along with Daniel, humming crooked frightening melodies until Daniel sings "I am the king of loss!", then the music starts to get heavy, and as soon as we reach the chorus part, the spirit and the atmosphere get really tense, with very heavy guitar patterns, and a droning note on the keyboards. Then, at 5:55, the music begins to move to a different stage, where vocal improvisation is the highlight. Soon after the chorus, the music begins to reach what could be considered the best part of the entire album. At 6:40 all of the instruments will have your skin crawl with violins, leading up to one of the best solos on the record. And as it seems the song is finally over, it suddenly rises again, striking you with a frightening and desperate ending. Definitely, a gem of a song!
“Reconciliation” kicks in running at mid-tempo, with yet another great melody. It shows all it wants to send to the listener: sadness, nostalgia, anger and sometimes even joy, in a strange way. The solo is really creative, following different patterns inside the song itself. At 3:40 Daniel shows again the power of his voice, going high pitch from mid range voice. “Song For The Innocent” is a very calm song, in that it is very different from the other songs from the album. This makes it a great backdrop for the fretless bass to stand out. It’s a short song, but it darkens the ambience at 1:27 and hits your ears with probably the greatest solo of the record. It resembles “Comfortably Numb” from Pink Floyd. As it seems, this is the most guitar oriented part of the album, since the next song is basically a big guitar solo with a smooth tone, very emotional and slow. It comes as an intro, a preparation of the song that gives its name to the album: “The Perfect Element”. This last song contains one more beautiful melody, which walks along until the end of the song. An epic song, I must add. “And I set myself on fire.” “In his head a thunderous cry of desperation.” “If you take from the ones you fear, everything they value, you have bred the perfect beast, drained enough to kill you.” “Falling far beyond the point of no return, nothing to become and nothing left to burn.” Simply stated, the song has some of the best lyrics on the album, accompanied by one of the greatest instrumental backgrounds of the record. At 3:33, one can just picture how chaotic the instrumental is. And exactly one minute later, we see beauty of classic acoustic guitars, soft vocals and a background chorus. Voices keep moving higher and higher until the song reaches its climax, with a great pattern involving drums, guitars, keys and bass. At 6:33 the smooth part comes in, up until 7:40. “Will I ever walk again?” leads us to the end of this perfect element of an album. It ends with an interesting pattern, also used later on the album “Be”. The drums step ahead and begin to up their sound until the loud end.
All in all, we can tell that this is the most elaborated and skilled work from Pain of Salvation. It took me a couple of years to understand the album and love it as it should be loved, so, I advise you not to judge this album as you listen for the first time, or after a couple of months. It requires one to spend time with it to fully realize that it’s a great album, a masterpiece: an unparalleled gem of art.
TALES FROM GOOD MEMORIES
This is my first review for Metal-Archives. The reason I chose this album to be the first one being reviewed is that this was the album that made me understand gutural vocals, what they are, why they exist and what they mean.
If you follow them since the beginning, something to notice immediately is about the style. They used to be more like "old school death metal", then turned a bit melodic, then turned to doom metal in this release. They were really good as a death metal band, and usually when a band is considered good, and they change their style, it turns out bad. But that's not what we have here. The album is creative, melodic, heavy, and beautiful. The atmosphere is just like the artwork (which is amazingly beautiful) suggests: dark, gloomy, and Scandinavian.
The album starts with an intro piece on piano, very touching and beautiful. And soon you're into a tide of good/heavy/melodic riffs and a low pitched growl. Into Hiding is the perfect song to summarize the whole album. We have clean vocals here also, interacting with the gutural voices. The next song, The Castaway is clearly influenced by local melodies and Pink Floyd. Yes, Pink Floyd. Check it out yourself at the mark of 4 minutes. First Doom shows some influence from the past with faster riffs than the rest of the album, and lots of double bass.
The next song is a masterpiece. Best song of the album in my opinion, and the first song I heard by them. Magic melody and creative riffs, which is more like a solo. The clean vocals strike again with grace and beauty. The main solo is played by a keyboard then it is followed by the essence of the riff, which, as I said, is more like a solo, and if you play guitar, you should try to learn this piece, soon you'll realize this isn't easy at all!
Drowned Maid's got the best groove of the album. and the best chorus as well. Lots of riffs keeps looping during the song for like 20 times, but turns out this is the magic of the song, every time the next riff comes, you feel like you're hipnotized by the melody.
The rest of the album keeps showing more progressive influences and local melodies. The use of keyboard solos/arranges are very creative and deserves to be noticed properly. Forgotten Sunrise has a nice time signature which will make you look to your guitar and say: "I want to put up something like this for one song of mine". Same occurs when you listen to the riff at 2:50. Very heavy and catchy, maybe the heaviest riff in the album. Followed by a solo that will surely crawl your skin. To Father's Cabin starts with a progressive wave, then clean vocals declaimed like a poetry are followed by a nice piece of improvisation and good riffs, like the one at 2:32. No vocals until the end of the song: magic! Which is by the way a part of the name of the last song. Magic & Mayhem. Soon enough at :20, you'll see a beautiful bridge which leads you to a festival of riffs, until, finally the song starts. It's a great song filled with finnish influences also. Some versions have the weird and funny cover Light My Fire (The Doors). It's heavy and awkward. If you haven't had yet, the opportunity to listen to that, you might wanna. Funny stuff.
Overall, the album deserves the rate I gave to it. Not only because is an important album for me, which I consider as a milestone, but this is a true masterpiece that should last forever as one of the best doom metal albums.