PAIN OF SALVATION — Linoleum (review)

PAIN OF SALVATION — Linoleum album cover EP · 2009 · Non-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sleeper
With the collapse of distribution giant SPV and the subsequent financial problems with InsideOut (that resulted in Pain of Salvation having to cancel 4 tours with no finance to underwrite them) and the buyout from Century Media, Pain of Salvation found that the new album they had recorded was going to have its release put back by about 6 months. So, to ease the fans wait for the new album, Road Salt, Pain of Salvation went back into the studio to record Linoleum, a 5 song EP of unique tracks meant to give us a taster of what's to come. Now, I don't normally buy EP's as they are just too short for me to waste my hard earned money on, but this is Pain of Salvation, so I wasn't about to pass up the oportunity to get new music from them, and now that I have I'm rather glad that I did.

I remember reading towards the end of 2008 Gildenlow describing his new material as "1976 on steroids" and its a phrase that's very much applicable to this EP to. The opening two tracks, Linoleum and Mortar Grind, have a very strong feeling that the band has been channeling Black Sabbaths early muse with dirty, grungy riffs powering the songs along but with the dynamic shifts and flurishes that are part and parcel of Pain of Salvation. This is a feeling that continous with the EP's 4th track, the 8 minute epic Gone, which for my money is possibly the best track the band has recorded since Beyond the Pale off of Remedy Lane some 7 years ago. This 1970's hard rock/metal feeling is helped by the inspired production on the album which gives a very "gritty" feel to the sound, remeniscent of the 70's production sound, but with excellent definition to each instrument used throughout the album, no problems with a bass or hammond organ/keyboards too low in the mix here. The EP is rounded out with a cover of the Scorpions Yellow Raven, an interesting choice of song but played in a way that keeps it very much in line with the rest of the EP's material.

Though I'm probably one of the biggest fans of Pain of Salvation currently on MMA, even I have to admit that previous album Scarsick was a disappointment on all levels but the technical proficiancy of the musicians. However I was certain, without hearing a note of new material beforehand, that Scarsick would very much be a one off and that Gildenlow hadn't lost his touch at musical composition, and Linoleum has very much proved me right. Scarsicks biggest failings were two fold IMO, musical structures that were too simple to hold the listeners attention for any length of time and lyrics that were overt and crass, though I felt both were called for by the concept of the album. Musically Linoleum is well ahead of Scarsick with complexity and catchyness being mixed together creatively resulting in 4 very strong songs, though non of them really try too hard to reach the levels of intricacy that was last heard on BE. 3rd track If You Wait stands out in this regard as being a bit different, more of a gentle, melencholic ambient piece than a full on rocker as the other 4 songs are and proving to be an interesting break in the structure of the EP, adding variety to avoid any chance of the sound getting stale, even if Linoleum is only 28 minutes. Lyrically this EP stays in the regions of heartfelt melencholly that the band tends to do best and so the poor socio-political comentaries of Scarsick are consigned to history, though I'll confess that nothing here touches me in the way that songs like Iter Impius (BE), A Trace of Blood (Remedy Lane) and Reconciliation (The Perfect Element Pt1) have done.

Long time drummer Johan Langal retired from music at the end of 2007 and has been replaced by Frenchman Leo Margarit while a permanent bassist continues to allude the band as well, with Gildenlow once again playing bass as well as his normal vocal and guitar duties. The results are excellent, Margarit is clearly an excellent drummer and on the strength of this recording will prove to be a match for Langal's legacy. The rest of the band are playing at their best as well with them all proving their virtuosity whilst holding a very tight performance that is centred on the composition. The only track on here that I havn't mentioned yet is the 5th one, Bonus Track B, which isn't a song but a rather funny discussion by the band at what they will do for a bonus "track" that I probably shouldn't laugh at, but still do anyway. Overall this is an excellent EP that puts to rest the memory of Scarsick but as a taster for the new album, Road Salt One, its a bit misleading as it heavier in feel and definitely metal, unlike the new album, though both maintain that 70's like sound. Personal favourits on here is the dynamic Mortar Grind and the powerful epic Gone, both of which have risen my personal favourites list within Pain of Salvations discography, and there is no low points to speak of. This EP doesnt reach the emotional highs that the bands first 4 albums brought me too, but it lacks the vehicle of a concept that Gildenlow has always used to give greater meaning to the bands work but as a taster of things to come, Linoleum fills its requirments fairly well.
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