I first came across Pain of Salvation when I was sent their second album, ‘One Hour by Concrete Lake’, which I reviewed back in 1999. Not too long afterwards I was sent this, their third, and now some 20 years later here I am writing about it again. It has now been completely remixed and remastered, there is a bonus number on the album itself, plus an additional CD containing some live and scarce tracks, as well as a version of “Ashes” where the vocals have been removed so you can undertake your best karaoke. Over the years PoS have been through some line-up and musical changes and challenges, but back then they were at their absolute peak for me, and this and the albums immediately following (‘Remedy Lane’, ‘Be’ and the superb live ’12:5’) are still essential. The line-up was Daniel Gildenlöw (lead vocals, guitars), Johan Langell (drums, backing vocals), Kristoffer Gildenlöw (bass, backing vocals), Fredrik Hermansson (keyboards) and Johan Hallgren (guitar, backing vocals), the same line-up as the previous album while just Hallgren was missing on the debut (he replaced Daniel Magdic for ‘OHBCL’), so they were a tight knit unt by this time.
To celebrate the anniversary, Pain of Salvation had planned to perform this album in its entirety at the ProgPower Festival, but of course due to the pandemic that never happened, although there are hopes that this can still happen at some point, and the fans are certainly going to lap that up as even twenty years on from when I first heard this album it is still fresh and exciting. The sound has been cleaned up, and it is almost as if it is fresh from the studio, and the album is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. This was the one which for me cemented PoS as being a major player in the European progressive scene and became a band I kept a lookout for when it came to new material (which in those pre-internet and Prog Magazine days was somewhat harder than it is now). It is an album full of epics, prog metal which understood the need to keep the word “Progressive” at the top of mind, and unlike some others in the scene they deliberately approached their music from that end as opposed to metal. It was a logical progression, bringing together elements of neo-prog into a new format, looking back to classic sweeping keyboards of the Seventies while also casting an eye to Twelfth Night, as well as some of the heavier bands. The lead vocals are wonderful, while the harmonies are sublime. Combine that with wonderful arrangements, great hooks and performances, and the result is an album which has more than stood the test of time. The additional tracks make this even more of a complete package, the result being something that every fan of the band or genre need to seek out.