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Well, this has been a longtime coming. Here we have 'In the Passing Light of Day', a brand new studio album, good and proper, from Sweden's Pain of Salvation. 2014, of course, saw the release of 'Falling Home', but that was constituted by reworked back catalogue tracks and covers. A remixed take on 'Remedy Lane' and accompanying live album appeared last year, in the form of 'Remedy Lane Re:visited (Re:mixed & Re:lived)', plus a box set of reissues. However, not since 2011's 'Road Salt Two' have we had an album full of brand spanking new Pain of Salvation tracks. And it's even longer since we've heard the band exercise their heavier muscle with any genuine sense of metal oomph. 'In the Passing Light of Day' is that and far more, over the course of 70+ minutes of blissful, emotionally profound, genuinely progressive music.

With only one original member remaining in the lineup, namely frontman Daniel Gildenl÷w, he's joined by drummer LÚo Margarit (the band's sticksman since 2007), keys man Daniel Karlsson who joined in 2011, and 2013 recruits, bassist Gustaf Hielm and guitarist Ragnar Zolberg. So, despite Pain of Salvation's lineup mutating over the years beyond recognition of their former selves, many would argue that Gildenl÷w has long been the beating heart and soul of the band's creative impetus, so I think few would question the integrity of the band's current formation. Besides, this has always been a band, regardless of personnel, who've continually progressed their aesthetic into all kinds of previously unexplored musical territory. This is part of what a genuinely progressive band should be, and Pain of Salvation's changing formation has become a natural part of Gildenl÷w's ever evolving musical journey.

Anyway, I digress, but I think it's important to establish that Pain of Salvation deserve to be considered with an undiminished sense of integrity, despite their radically different constitution from, say, a decade ago. And the evidence is here on 'In the Passing Light of Day', as Gildenl÷w and his current musical clan have created a near-masterpiece.

From the off, on opener 'On a Tuesday', this is more like Pissed Off Salvation. The album is has an inherent anger in much of the music, a distinct bitterness. It's unsurprising, I guess, given the subject matter, which is partly self-reflective of Gildenl÷w's own tumultuous experience of suffering and recovering from a near-fatal flesh-eating bacterial infection a few years ago. But, for all the vehemence, there are as many passages throughout the album coloured with a calmer, reflective nature and introspective lyrical content. There's also a degree of optimism that occasionally shines through the melancholic, darker depths of the music and hard-hitting heaviness, together with moments of uncertainty, fear, despair and hope.

As with all of PoS albums, the key to the aesthetic is about aesthetic contrapositions and the finely honed balance of such. And, beyond the moods of the music, concordant fluencies are punctuated with discordant idiosyncrasies so it's as bewildering a listen as it is an enlightening one. Likewise, there are a number of offbeat time signatures across multifarious tempos. Basically, on paper, 'In the Passing Light of Day' sounds like it's some kind of disjointed mess, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Everything gels so perfectly on an album that offers up an invigorating emotional rollercoaster.

The tonal and stylistic range of Gildenl÷w's voice is as wide and impressive as the range of moods he's able to express through his impassioned delivery. This is personal. It sounds personal. Perhaps more so than on any previous PoS album. In fact, the array of emotions in both the instrumentations and Daniel's voice is astounding. And every word sung, every note played sounds heartfelt, sincere, scathing, bitter and, ultimately, cathartic in the most naturally expressed ways possible. This is all helped along by an incredible sounding production by the ever-reliable Daniel Bergstrand, who co-produced with both Gildenl÷w and Zolberg. The music sounds polished enough, but retains a nicely organic, analogue quality. This is quite remarkable considering the precision within the music for some of the more technical, polyrhythmic time signatures. It holds onto its human essence, and conveys the band's very soul to perfection.

Pain of Salvation have always been an unpredictable band in the sense that you're never sure just where they're going to take their aesthetic next, and in what ways they chose to progress and develop their music. It's what's always made them an exciting listen. However, they've also been predictable, in the most positive of ways, in that you can rely on Gildenl÷w and co. for consistency in musical excellence. 'In the Passing Light of Day' is no exception.
Inside Out
Review by Mark Holmes
13th January 2017
1) On a Tuesday
2) Tongue of God
3) Meaningless
4) Silent Gold
5) Full Throttle Tribe
6) Reasons
7) Angels of Broken Things
8) The Taming of a Beast
9) If This is the End
10) The Passing Light of Day
"...Gildenl÷w and his current musical clan have created a near-masterpiece."