Friday, October 14, 2011

Pain of Salvation- Road Salt Two (2011)

I don't think my adoration of Pain of Salvation is a secret, so if you didn't like Road Salt One, you should probably skip this album. Road Salt Two accomplishes everything I enjoyed about the first part and pushes the concept into more prog-oriented territory by establishing musical themes and sticking to them throughout. The unified concept plays extremely well, and and I think the total Road Salt package stands beside The Perfect Element and Remedy Lane as a triumph of the prog-rock/metal genre.

The album opens with "Road Salt Theme" which made me think of that synthesizer piece on Remedy Lane except done right. It is a simple, but affecting and catchy melody that will appear throughout the record.

"Softly She Cries" kicks the music off proper with a dirty, grungy riff, immediately calling back to the style of Road Salt One, albeit with a much stronger chorus. Half way through the song reintroduces the "Road Salt Theme," appropriately, and, unlike the last album which tended to be a bit scatter-brained, begins to pull this record together into one grand piece.

"Conditioned" hearkens back to "Tell Me You Don't Know," while "Healing Now" is a fantastic acoustic that again plays with the "Road Salt Theme." The song has a nice forward momentum that builds toward a furious jam while playing with the melody of the "Road Salt Theme." Its a nice surprise when Road Salt One went for the relatively dull "Of Dust" at this point in the album.

"To the Shoreline" reminded me of "Sleeping Under the Stars" for no reason other than it is a stylistic departure from the rest of the album. "To the Shoreline" is stronger however, and my first impression is that they wanted to pay homage to Ennio Morricone. I don't know if that's correct, but it really has that feel on the introduction. Lyrically it plays with the idea of the narrator having anonymous sex with another mysterious woman. Honestly if even half of Gildenlow's lyrics are autobiographical, he gets way too much play for a smelly hippie.

"Eleven" captures the jam element they were going for on these two albums. The latter half of the song features some excellent bass work. "Mortar Grind" is the heaviest song on the album, and I believe, also featured on the Linoleum EP. This is not a heavy metal album, but the chorus to this song sells it. Gildenlow growls "MORTAR GRIND" with such ferocity, recalling the intensity and emotion he put into Pain of Salvation's earlier works.

I wish I could say more about "The Physics of Gridlock," but, even though I enjoy it, it doesn't compare to "Innocence" from the last album, with its biting riff. This song touches on all the right aspects and has an uplifting chorus, but I'd almost swap the two songs across albums.

Taken as one package Road Salt is a high point in Pain of Salvation's career. It's nice to know that bands can have a few hiccups, recover, shift styles, and continue to make great works. This album could appeal to newcomers, but I'd start earlier in the discography. If you liked their earlier works, I'd give it a shot. If you've been waiting for the next Perfect Element, than this is the one for you.

Here's hoping they make a Road Salt Three.

Verdict: Epic Win [9/10]

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