The Porcelain Throne: Pain of Salvation
The Porcelain Throne is a column that discusses the bands you put on a pedestal, specifically, a water-filled ceramic-based pedestal. What is the Toilet of Hell if not a place to dump your passions and leave for the next guy to flush?
Everyone has those bands that they love from years past, but as your tastes evolve and music libraries grow, you push them to the side. Bring out your obsessions, your secret pleasures, your comfort food bands, and deliver them to the Toilet of Hell for all to see.
To start this column off, I am going to write about a band that will surely encourage you to write your own, if only to dig this column out of the gutter. I apologize in advance to you listeners who can’t tolerate a little bit of cheese, pretentiousness, and random high-pitched squeals in your music, for the first band on the throne is my beloved Pain of Salvation.
The progressive rock/metal band from Sweden released their first album in 1997, but wouldn’t enter my life for another ten years after that and 7 full concept albums later. Good music was very new to me at that point in my life, so when something as conceptually complicated and emotional as Pain of Salvation hit my disc-man, I had no choice but to study it to no end. I could bore you to tears with my lyrical analysis of each concept album, but let’s focus on what matters: the music. I will suggest a starting point in some songs that I find interesting, but if you have the time, feel free to start everything from the beginning.
Entropia (1997) and One Hour by the Concrete Lake (1998)
Musically, I find these albums are the most similar so I am going to group them together. I find that these albums are more enjoyable once you are already a fan of their style, so I will leave most of the discussion to the songs that might catch your attention. If anything, these albums are a raw sample of the style they pivot off for the rest of their work. (Start 2:39)
This section of Nightmist is a funky collection of solos capped off by Daniel Gildenlöw’s bone cheezing “WHY SHALL I DIE” screech that I can’t help but love.
The Perfect Element, Part 1 (2000)
PoS gets a little heavier and more robust with their sound on The Perfect Element. They start to perfect their ability to take a riff and build a song around it, usually with a huge payoff somewhere towards the end. Daniel’s voice seems to be a binary switch with most people that determines whether or not they can dig the band. I can vaguely see the other side of the coin, but I love the goofy inflections and obnoxious scales (skip to 3:35 of the next video to see what I mean).
This live studio performance of Reconciliation is close to the album version, but it does strip a little bit of the heaviness from the essence of the album. In typical PoS fashion, the best song on the album is also the longest, so if you really want to get a feel for the studio album, the song The Perfect Element is where you should start.
Remedy Lane (2002)
If I have one complaint about Pain of Salvation, it’s that their album artwork is a mess. I seriously have no idea where they were going with this or any of their first four albums (don’t even look up One Hour by the Concrete Lake, it’s awful and confusing). Anyway, I tend to go back and forth on how much I like Remedy Lane. I finally got the honor of seeing them live last week (see my title picture), and the Remedy Lane songs they played KILLED, but the album production tends to get on my nerves occasionally. There’s a certain exotic feel to the album that only resonates with me about half the time, but what never falters is my absolute love of the song below. (Start 5:50)
Beyond the Pale contains what I believe to be my favorite two minutes in all of music. In short, this song is about a couple who realized the pleasures of intimacy as children, and the pain that comes from growing up too early. The section I started the song at is the point where the relationship is deteriorating, and the emotion in the vocals just nails that feeling.
Oh boy. BE. Many PoS listeners know BE as an impossibly complicated and pretentious concept album. I will readily admit that it is not for everyone, and actually took me months to learn to admire. I studied the concepts within the album way more than I would like to admit, looking for hidden meanings and possibly even some deeper life-changing purpose. It sounds stupid, and I know now that it is, but the fact that I thought one hour of music could contain that amount of profound knowledge speaks to its ambition. If I had to sum up the concept in a sentence, it would be: BE is a theatrical performance with a timeframe that spans the entire existence of humanity, with characters including the first man learning to how to Be (in every way, shape and form), the richest man in the world at the time of the world’s demise, and a satellite drifting into space that contains all of what humanity became before its demise. (Start 2:34)
This video is from the “BE Original Stage Production” which is, for a lack of words, a clusterfuck. A beautiful, genius, delightfully confusing clusterfuck. I own the DVD and have watched it no fewer than ten times, and this closing song still sends chills down my spine. I have no idea what Skyrim-era instrument Daniel is playing there, but he rips it to pieces.
Scarsick is a very angst-y anti-capitalism / anti-American (well, more about the cultural pitfalls that America was embodying at the time) album. There are so many amusing and powerful moments in the album (including a song that is based around a disco beat, and most of the lyrics are a double entendre between sex and a record player, very amusing indeed), but for me, the whole album is really brought together by one song.
I don’t have a lot to say for this one because it stands so well on its own. From my experience in sharing this band with others, Scarsick is really the album to start with. It’s less over-the-top progressive, it’s message is clear, and the production is probably my favorite of all the albums. However, for me it lays pretty low on my list of favorites because it can be conceptually heavy handed at times.
Road Salt One (2010) and Road Salt Two (2011)
The Road Salt albums have a very old-school hard rock influence but with that unmistakable PoS flare. I like many individual songs on the two albums, but overall I still haven’t listened to them enough to develop a full opinion. The mix of old and new throughout the albums is interesting with filtered vocals and a very crunchy guitar tone.
Thank you if you stayed with me all this time, but now it is your turn! Do you have a band (preferably not one we talk about all the time on here) that you can do something like this with? I will assist with editing, formatting, and all that stuff that normal people hate to do. Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org at any stage in the process, whether you have a band in mind but you’re unsure about it, or you have a full completed essay, I’ll be happy to help. Let’s keep the toilet swirling!