10 March 2009

REVIEW: Ending Themes (On the Two Deaths of Pain of Salvation)



As mentioned briefly yesterday, I am not what one would call a huge fan of Pain of Salvation. I know for some people it is perhaps blasphemy (especially in some of the progressive metal forums and circles I frequent), but the fact of the matter is that…well, while I find their playing to be pretty good, I don’t find the songs to be that memorable. I don’t find the lyrics to connect with me like they apparently do for so many others, and as for Daniel Gildenlöw’s voice…well, it’s flexible and wide ranging, but I’d not say it’s all that unique really.


People reading this may say, “Well, you’re saying this because you didn’t like Scarsick,” or “You are saying this because you disagree with Gildenlöw’s politics.” And it’s true…sort of. And on only one count. I found Scarsick to be tedious and long overstaying its welcome in my CD player. But I also found myself less than impressed with the majority of The Perfect Element, didn’t think BE lived up to the lofty expectations that the concept presented, and so on. As for Gildenlöw’s politics…they are his, and who am I to tell someone what to think?

(I do think change is best attempted from the inside, not the outside, but that’s not a story for this blog.)


All of this is preface for my position reviewing Ending Themes (On the Two Deaths of Pain of Salvation), the new 2 DVD set from Pain of Salvation. If you don’t want to read the rest, having already been offended by my blasphemous opening paragraphs, let me cut to the chase so you can move on to more pleasing material; I actually enjoyed the DVD set more than I thought I would, and while it has not brought me any closer to becoming a fan of the band, I feel it has succeeded in presenting a few years in the life of a band on the road.


Packaged as 2 seasons of a TV series, the first ‘season’ covers the band’s 2005 tour, which led to the requested departure of bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw from the band. His moving to Holland from Sweden made it difficult for the band to rehearse and play together as much between tours as they would have liked, and it led to a personal gulf that apparently was too wide to breach. 8 vignettes cover a good bit of the first leg of the tour, from last rehearsals (sans Daniel, who is sick and authoring the DVD with back projections for the stage show) through shows in Essen, Paris, and the Netherlands, among others. One gets a very good sense of what touring is like for a band at this level…for many prog fans, PoS is a fairly major band, yet we see them moving their own gear, thrilling over the sale of 45 DVDs and 60 shirts at a single show, and concerts with presales of 400 tickets. I think in some ways this first disc should be almost essential viewing for people who find it perfectly fine to download loads of music illegally…you want to see who you’re affecting? It’s right on the screen.


Ahem…


Moving on…the first disc is enlightening on many levels. One picks up some of the stress that is going on behind the scenes. People calling home to talk to wives and children that are missed, band members not showing up for meet and greets, and so on. The tension seems palpable, and often one sees the band, and then Daniel…as two separate entities. There’s not a lot of performance footage on this first disc, but we make up for that soon.


Disc or “Season” 2 is a film of a full performance from the 2007 Scarsick tour…the tour that led to Johan Langell’s departure to spend more time with his wife and child (hence the second death of Pain of Salvation). Filmed in Amsterdam, the footage is fairly straight forward…no special effects or overlays or film intercuts. What you get is pure, unadulterated Pain of Salvation playing 16 tracks for a wildly appreciative audience and filmed in 16x9 widescreen. The show opens with Scarsick and America from the band’s most recent album, and flows through a range of material from throughout the group’s 6 album back catalogue. Add in a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and you have a pretty enjoyable show, all told. I liked pieces like Ashes and Undertow, while finding the Scarsick material in general just as tedious as ever (having said this, Flame to the Moth comes over better live than in the studio).


The 2 DVDs are packed with extras, but it’s the set on disc 2 that are of more interest…mostly because they take work to get to. They are all locked, and require you to go through a series of quizzes based on the material on the DVDs. Yes, you actually had to pay attention to the documentary in order to access the bonus features. Once in, you can see photo galleries, listen to demos of material from Scarsick, and more. It’s an interesting way of doing things, and while it may seem tedious, it’s something unlike anything I’ve seen on a music DVD before (thankfully, once you unlock them all, you get a ‘secret code’ that allows you to unlock them again without going through the quiz process again).


Later this year, this set will also be released in 2 CD audio format and a limited edition 2 CD/2 DVD set.


So, I mentioned earlier that this set didn’t make me any more of a fan of the band than I already was…or perhaps more accurately, was not. I did enjoy watching it, I did see some of the reasons why they have the fervent, devoted fan base they do, and I can state without feeling forced to do so that they are certainly powerful on stage. For fans of the band, Ending Themes will be most enjoyable. For the audient less familiar with the band, the live album that comes later this year (taken directly from the second DVD) may be a better choice than the 2 DVD set. For the music fan interested in what goes on behind the scenes of a band on the run, the first DVD is essential. The set dies try to offer something to a wide rangeof people, and I think it succeeds at that pretty well.


DVD1 - The First Death Of

SixWorlds/EightDays (80-minute documentary of 2005 world tour by Per Hillblom)


DVD2 - The Second Death Of

Touching You Harder: Live From Amsterdam

  1. "Scarsick"
  2. "America"
  3. "!"
  4. "Nightmist"
  5. "Handful of Nothing"
  6. "New Year's Eve"
  7. "Ashes"
  8. "Undertow"
  9. "This Heart of Mine/Song for the Innocent"
  10. "Chain Sling"
  11. "Diffidentia"
  12. "Flame to the Moth"
  13. "Disco Queen"
  14. "Hallelujah"
  15. "Cribcaged"
  16. "Used"


3 comments:

Javier said...

Very good review. I'm personally a huge fan of the band, and I didn't find you to be overly biased despite not being a fan per se. You should mention that Daniel's voice was acting up during this show, yet he controlled it admirably and gave a solid performance.

Peace.

אורי ברייטמן (Uri Breitman) said...

Good review, although I have a few comments:

1) The Amsterdam set-list was a bit too brief, and even the band members themselves are not very happy with the fact that some crowds get 2.5-hour shows, while others get only 90 minutes. So the live-show dvd was way too short for me, and too much Scarsick material is present ("Disco Queen" the highlight of the show? how low can we go?).

2) The documentary is full of delicate hints, but missing some essential interviews. It does show the band on the road, but not enough solid information is presented. I was disappointed with the docu, overall.

3) The docu shows the band in a poor state, with the spirits low etc. However, PoS has now been included in the "Progressive Nation" US tour with DT. I think that's very good news for a "dead" band like PoS. Or is it?

Anonymous said...

The documentary is about the tour of 2005... the first tour as main act. The first one inside-out was willing to pay for. ;-)
Thus, they were actually a poor band! :-D happy with 6-700 people.