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Pain Of Salvation: London Islington Assembly Hall

andy rawll
Words and Pictures: Andy Rawll

pain of salvation

Swedish progressive Metal innovators Pain Of Salvation returned to London as part of their first European tour, in support of their acclaimed album 'In the Passing Light Of Day'. It's their first fully plugged show in London for five years, as their most recent visit in 2013 was an eclectic acoustic-based show with some wonderfully prog moments, like the reggae-tinged, jazz-swing version of 'Holy Diver'. More significantly, it's band leader Daniel Gildenlöw's first UK show since his recovery from serious illness in 2014.

Unlike the previous twinned 'Road Salt' releases, that presented a more stripped back and, dare I say it, less-progressive sound, that divided opinion, the latest album marks a return to rich, powerful and unpredictable sound that made their mid-period releases, 'The Perfect Element Part 1' and 'Remedy Lane' so compelling. All these factors heightened the levels of anticipation as Daniel and his 'Full Throttle Tribe' took to the stage.

pain of salvation

This opening song perfectly encapsulates everything that is unique about the band's sonic signature. The guitars growl, the keyboards soar, the vocals emote and the bass and drums resonate as you expect from a band of elite progsters, yet there is one perfect element that marks out Pain Of Salvation and that is in the spaces in time and the sound of silence. For example, Dream Theater's arrangements and instrumentation are dense and intense, whereas this band proffers similar tricky rhythms, yet are full of punctuating gaps and pauses that allow the music to cry and sing, enabling the evocative melodies to breathe.

The other thrilling aspect to their songs is the vocals. Not only is Daniel gifted with an extraordinary range and a chameleon delivery that invokes Devin Townsend, but the latest incarnation of the band is capable of complex five-part harmonies, most effectively demonstrated on the second song, 'Reasons'. He also benefits from a fine lead guitar and lead vocal foil in 2012 recruit Ragnar Zolberg, whose upper register harmonies on the beautiful 'Meaningless' are effortlessly wondrous.

pain of salvation

The return to their regal mid-period sound is reinforced by featuring a three-song synopsis of 'Remedy Lane', the 2002 album with which the latest release has the most sonic kinship. From the Incubus-meets-Yes-in-a-bit-of-a-Rush amalgam of 'A Trace Of Blood' to the Dream Theater-meets-System delight of 'Rope Ends' culminating in the sophisticated Tool-meets-Marillion gorgeousness of 'Beyond The Pale', Daniel's charismatic vocals are beyond superlative and the tsunami response from the crowd bears testament.

Indeed, the cohesion and momentum of the main set benefited from the judicious inclusion of songs from previous releases that fit the sonic template of the latest album. As such, only single songs from 'The Perfect Element Part 1' ('Ashes'), 'Road Salt 1' ('Linoleum') and 'Road Salt 2' ('The Physics Of Gridlock') were included and the more experimental or eclectic releases, like 'Entropia', 'Scarsick' and 'BE' were overlooked.

pain of salvation

Yet, it was the new songs that shone most brightly. The stripped-bare balladry of 'Silent Gold' was heart-wrenching, revealing the deep intensity of the lyrics on the album, most of which trace back to Daniel's journey of recovery from life-threatening illness in 2014 and the related intense emotions of fear, helplessness, redemption and hope. That said, it was the penultimate song, 'On A Tuesday', the symphonic ten minute lead track on the album, that was the highpoint of the set and masterfully articulates the pain of Daniel's salvation in breathtaking style.

Although dynamically, that song would have worked best as the encore, it was most fitting that the show closed with the stately album title track, with its poignant lyrics referring to his beloved wife and the dawning sense of his mortality, and a dark return to the theme melody of the album from 'On A Tuesday'.

pain of salvation

This was a fabulous return to the band's unique majestic, hectic, taunting and haunting sound. No wonder it was so raucously acclaimed by the most fervent audience response that I have heard at the Islington Assembly Hall. They may be Pain by name, but the pleasure of the performance revealed their true nature. Salvation has never felt so utterly stunning.


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Full Throttle Tribe
A Trace Of Blood
Rope Ends
Beyond The Pale
Silent Gold
On A Tuesday
The Physics Of Gridlock
The Passing Light Of Day

pain of salvation

Released: 13th January 2017 (InsideOut Music)

It's been an interesting time in the house of Pain since the release of that savoury double dose of 'Road Salt' in 2010 and 2011. With band leader Daniel laid Gildenlöw out with a serious illness for much of 2014, that year's acoustic 'Falling Home' release failed to fully satisfy the faithful followers of these seasoned Swedes.

Indeed, with the 20th anniversary of their fine debut, 'Entropia', approaching, many yearned for a sweeter return to the beautiful yet disturbing sonic panoramas of that album and subsequent classics such as the recently Re:visited, Re:mixed & Re:lived issue of 'Remedy Lane'.

pain of salvation

I'm delighted to report that salvation is indeed at hand. Marked by the portentous release date of Friday the 13th, 'In The Passing Light Of Day' is the killer album we've been waiting for. Opening track, 'On A Tuesday', has all the perfect elements that encapsulate the unique sound of the band. Starting with a crunching entropian riff and segueing with remedy melody into staccato sick rhythm and rhyme as Daniel's stellar vocals stretch to the stratosphere.

And so the album unfolds, song-upon-song, revealing its dark and at times intense heart, yet it's an uplifting experience, full of dynamics, rich instrumentation, tricky rhythms and thought-provoking lyrics. It's made all the more visceral knowing that Daniel survived the lions' den and the flesh eating monster that almost saw him pass into the dark of night. Never more has the light of day been such a wonderful sight and had such a thrilling soundtrack.

Catch Pain Of Salvation live at:
16th to 18th June: Hellfest - Clisson, France
19th June: Le Rex – Toulouse, France
23rd June: Chez Paulette/Derriere Barine – Toul, France

The album’s first two singles/videos can be checked out here:

Pain Of Salvation are:
Daniel Gildenlöw – vocals, guitars
Ragnar Zolberg – guitars, vocals
Daniel D2 Karlsson – keyboards, backing vocals
Gustaf Hielm – bass, backing vocals
Léo Margarit – drums, backing vocals

27th April 2017


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