With a career that dates back to the mid-'80s, Sweden's own Pain of Salvation need no introduction, especially to those who know a thing or two about forward-thinking, progressive music. Essentially Europe's answer to Dream Theater, Pain of Salvation has traversed the vast soundscapes that progressive music has to offer since their 1997 debut, Entropia, and garnered a bit of a cult following in the process.
Though they've never quite enjoyed the same mainstream success as some of their peers, Pain of Salvation has always represented an immediate and informed style of progressive metal, one that pays attention to the current musical trends and incorporates them into style of music, rather than the other way around. Band mastermind and frontman Daniel Gildenlöw remains the sole founding member of the band, and with their latest album, In the Passing Light of Day, 2017's Pain of Salvation should appease longtime fans of the band while perhaps capturing some new ones.
"On a Tuesday" begins the album on an upbeat note, a song whose jaunting riff is very clearly influenced by some of modern metal's finest. With the album beginning on such a high note, it's a bit disappointing that the rest of it isn't consistently as good. Modern metal and rock plays a huge part in how Pain of Salvation's songs are composed this time around, which shows in some of the shorter tracks. This both benefits the execution of the album but also hurts it. There are certainly a lot of cool riffs and moments of creativity to be found throughout; however, while listening, one can't help but feel like they were trying a little too hard to imitate some of their peers. It doesn't quite have the lasting power that recent albums from bands such as Katatonia or Opeth do, but that's not to say that Pain of Salvation don't know what they're doing; it's just that somewhere along the way, their peers raised the bar.
Gildenlöw's vocals take the spotlight throughout much of the album, and how could they not? His emotional croon and searing screams are some of the most striking in all of metal; he's always had a knack for the theatrical, and it's no different here. A highlight is the Middle Eastern-influenced "Meaningless" and the piano ballad "Silent Gold," but he shines especially on the album's anthemic closing track, "The Passing Light of Day." Clocking in at just past 15 minutes, this heartbreaking song is rich with lush instrumentation and serves as the perfect means to close the album, as it builds and builds into the most memorable chorus of the entire record.
Overall, In the Passing Light of Day is rife with impressive musicality and a fair amount of crossover appeal. It's always great to see a long-running band like Pain of Salvation still creating art that can stand on its own two legs and pays attention to what's relevant. However, being from a country that is responsible for some of the biggest movers and shakers of metal, Pain of Salvation has fallen a bit by the wayside when it comes to innovation and what can be defined as truly "progressive." Still, In the Passing Light of Day is worth a listen or two for those who appreciate this style of metal.
Follow Aaron on Twitter for musings about metal and more.