Pain Of Salvation - Scarsick

10 songs
67:48 minutes
***** *****


I have to admit to my shame that although the name Pain Of Salvation was familiar to me, I have never even heard one song from this Swedish prog rock/metal band. Band leader Daniel Gildenlöw used to be the singer with the Flower Kings, another Swedish prog band that lately seemed to get lost in creative dead end streets, so I didn't expect too much from Scarsick, the meanwhile seventh album by Pain Of Salvation.

The CD start strongly with Scarsick, a modern progressive hard rock song, but continues in an unexpected way with Spitfall, where the band combines their general prog sound with nu metal and crossover elements. Normally I would call such a combination of styles a blasphemous heresy, but here it actually works wonderfully, as if fellow Swedes Clawfinger decided to tackle Dream Theater. The following Cribcaged is a ballad, where Pain Of Salvation again show that they master that genre too, adding a lot of emotion into a very heartfelt song. The next two tracks are totally crazy über-songs. America (the first single?) is an acerbic take on the United States, enveloped into a fast musical-like track with theatrical vocals and a nasty banjo part. And if you thought this was insane, just wait for the following Disco Queen, which is just what it says: an eight-minute marriage of Seventies disco sound with trademark prog. Abba wouldn't have done it better.

The second half of Scarsick isn't as surprising anymore, but still full of qualities that just waiting to be discovered. Kingdom Of Loss is again a quieter song with spoken word parts, very dark at heart, giving me the impression that although there are funny moments, there is nothing to laugh about actually. Every bit of humour on this album is tinged pitch-black. Mrs Modern Mother Mary, with four minutes the shortest song, is a weird combination of strange keyboard sounds with groovy angular guitar, reminding a bit of King's X. Idiocracy is another dark and moodier track. Flame To The Moth is the album's most aggressive track, with vocals sounding at times like Pantera at their nastiest. The album ends with the solemn ten minute epic Enter Rain, leaving me with a renewed faith in progressive hard rock music.

The backcover splits Scarsick into two parts, which makes perfectly sense. The first five songs are a kaleidoscope of different styles, tearing the listener from one mood into another, not really giving away much of a concept except that they can do it all. The remaining five songs are more on a same level, with the musical intricacies better hidden. Instead of adhering just to one simple genre, Pain Of Salvation oscillate from pop rock over prog rock to full fledged heavy metal, incorporating seamlessly any other style they find along the road.

I had to fight with myself over giving this album a maximum rating, but in the end I decided that prog rock albums that really try to innovate are so rare these days, with most bands just being satisfied at copying the old templates, that Scarsick stands out already as a prog masterpiece in this still young year 2007.

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