PAIN OF SALVATION — The Perfect Element, Part 1 (review)

PAIN OF SALVATION — The Perfect Element, Part 1 album cover Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
0.5/5 ·
adg211288
The Perfect Element, Part I by Pain of Salvation is one of those progressive metal albums with a reputation: if you claim to like progressive music, this is an album you must hear. Well I heard it many years ago and having been completely disenchanted by the band's two prior records, The Perfect Element proved to be the final nail in the coffin in my journey through the work of Pain of Salvation. In fact I disliked the album so much I left the lowest possible rating I could on it, a rating that many have questioned me over since. It's surely getting close to a whole decade later if it hasn't already done so, and regard for the album remains high. People seem to genuinely not believe me when I say I don't like The Perfect Element. And I reached a point where I couldn't even justify the rating, having long reached the point where I couldn't remember a single thing about what it actually sounded like or even why I disliked it so much. Therefore I decided to venture back in to see if this supposed masterpiece could click this time around.

The first song Used starts off and by its conclusion there's only one thought in my mind: that I've made a massive mistake. But not because I was wrong about the album before. The mistake was putting myself through this again. Used may just be the worst song I've heard from a supposed 'progressive' metal band. If this is how the album opened it left me with little hope for the rest of it.

The next track is In the Flesh, which actually has some brief moments of promise and some better showcase of the band as musicians. Unfortunately it's also a very boring track overall, dragged out for over eight and a half minutes. But at least that's preferable to Ashes, which is once again a load of rubbish. Next up, Morning on Earth, is bearable I guess, but not exactly an exciting track. It was at this point in the album that I really considered just switching it off. However I was committed to this review by that point, so I had to solider on, hoping there would be something in the next two thirds to justify even a portion of the album's reputation.

Idioglossia finally started to offer some promise for The Perfect Element with a great progressive metal intro, the first of its kind on the album thus far (when you can only say that about a progressive metal album when you get to its fifth song you know the thing has serious problems). Sadly it's ruined by the time the vocals come in. The vocals aren't the only problem I have with this album, but they really don't help the situation either. Daniel Gildenlöw isn't a bad singer; he would later be part of the cast on Ayreon's 01011001 album and I never had an issue with his voice there, but on The Perfect Element his performance rarely works for me. He even tries rapping in some places, like in Used. I don't like rap in general and can rarely even tolerate it. In an album with a reputation as a progressive metal masterpiece it's the last thing I want or expect to hear. But I don't care for his vocals at all times on this album no matter what he's doing at the time. Idioglossia is, at least, the best song the album has served up by this point, but even so, I don't feel especially positive about it overall. If anything I feel an irrational anger at the album by this point. Well, perhaps not at the album itself or the band, but certainly at the reputation people have built up around it. Nothing heard so far in any way justifies the kind of regard the album has.

Finally we get Her Voices, which after a shaky start becomes the first really good song on the album. But it feels like a lot of effort to get here after the first five tracks. But it is at least more like the sort of instrumental prowess and creativity that I was always led to expect from the album. Unfortunately this sudden surge of everything finally coming together doesn't last and following track Dedication is just boring and any good will garnered by Her Voices is soon used up. King of Loss isn't much better, dragging its feet for about three minutes before some heavy guitars show up. I don't mind soft music, but I did come here for progressive metal. By this point in that I can't say that much actual progressive metal has been delivered. Some alternative metal (arguably nu metal), absolutely. And some softer stuff which I am completely unconvinced over the band's ability to deliver convincingly.

As we start the album's last chapter, Reconciliation is a decent song. It's shorter, proggy and effective. Not a track that will leave your jaw on the floor in a hurry, but it does prove Pain of Salvation a capable unit when they get their act together and stop pussyfooting around with elements that clearly aren't in their wheelhouse. Song for the Innocent is also of the same calibre, but being the shortest song so far at barely three minutes feels more like an interlude, which is what the penultimate Falling actually is, not even hitting two minutes. It's just some nice, inoffensive lead guitar backed by ambience, clearly setting the stage for what on paper looks geared up to be the album's crowning achievement, it's ten minute title track, The Perfect Element. So is it?

In a word: no. It's not bad either, but it is anticlimactic. A rather drawn out end to a drawn out and disjointed album that over the course of over seventy minutes has never once lived up to its reputation, produced a fair amount of dull material and a couple of bloody awful tracks. The second half is certainly stronger than the first (as would it always have been by virtue of not having Used as a part of it), but it's still not anything special. It at least sounds more maturely delivered, which given that the album is a concept album dealing with childhood and adolescence, is probably by design, but the whole concept idea and delivery really doesn't fly with me. Her Voices remains, by the end, the album's best and only solid track.

And so let's summarise:

The Perfect Element? What an ironically named album. I would really love to know what other people seem to hear in this, because I think it's one of the worst progressive metal albums I've ever heard, also barely deserving of the term being applied to it, at least in its first half. There are a few decent moments, enough that I objectively shouldn't retain my older 0.5 star rating on it (though objectively it is no more than two stars at most), but I feel that I ultimately must because even though The Perfect Element does have its moments, it's never excellent and upon its conclusion the things I dislike about it outweigh the things I didn't mind or liked so much that I'm left with only one feeling for it: I despise this album and while I do try to write the text of my reviews objectively and not come across as a raving lunatic, the score should be my opinion. And my opinion is that The Perfect Element is much less than the sum of its parts and the only good thing I feel to have come out of giving it another chance was the opportunity to write this review to refer people to when they ask why the fuck do I have a 0.5 on The Perfect Element. And in another ten years maybe I'll re-read this and remind myself to next time not to bother revisiting it. And I certainly have no intention of ever intentionally hearing a single note of its sequel Scarsick, or anything else by Pain of Salvation. We are clearly incompatible.
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34 days ago
I think for me it was that I felt the vocals were trying to be overly dramatic, the proggy bits I had come for were not as frequent as I'd hoped, the first few tracks didn't capture my interest at all, and the story of two broken people just didn't resonate with me. Remedy Lane was even more disappointing. But I should probably listen again. Either that or sell them off.
43 days ago
This was released at the height of nu metal and was very obviously influenced by it. Not enough to really have wide appeal among nu metal fans but enough to alienate certain prog fans with those elements. Guess I'm just paraphrasing the last comment there eh?

I know I checked this out at some point in the past but I don't really remember it now. It certainly didn't grab me enough to want to buy it, but I don't think I hated it either. Unlike some I actually enjoyed some of what the nu metal surge brought us and while a lot of bands from that time now feel like I've outgrown them there is some stuff I do look back on with at least nostalgia, so a few nu metal elements in a prog album from that time wouldn't be a deal breaker for me.

siLLy puPPy wrote:
43 days ago
The thing about this album is that it has enough to piss everybody off! The first nu metal song will piss off the proggers, the proggier than thou songs will alienate the alt metalheads. It's a delicious mess! This is an acquired taste for sure and not everybody will want to go to this buffet of sounds! The first song sounds a lot like what Bumblefoot was doing on his French version of Uncool. Anywayz, i'm just sharing that if you sail long enough in the seas of unorthodoxy then shit like this actually sounds fucking cool! But then again i'm just a stoopeed dog :/
Vim Fuego wrote:
44 days ago
The first song... In the words of Simon Cowell: it's a no from me.
Probably no big surprise to anyone, since I'm not much of a prog fan. ;-)

siLLy puPPy wrote:
44 days ago
I didn't like it either the first time but I thrive on stepping out of my comfort zone. After I accepted it on its own terms and a number of spins now I'm quite fond of it. It's obviously not for everyone.
44 days ago
Well I didn't care for it either. Most of its seems very dull and the first song is crap. Sorry, but to give an album that sets such an impression 20 spins or more would require one to have the patience of a saint. Or be stubborn as a mule. Take your pick.

And for the record I also like prog and not just prog metal. And I have no desire to try this record again.

siLLy puPPy wrote:
45 days ago
This album is a classic in the prog world. Number 88 on PA top 100 and even Number 1754 on Rate Your Music's overall albums. So if you're giving this only a half star then clearly you don't enjoy the exploration of figuring out where this band is coming from!
siLLy puPPy wrote:
45 days ago
There is a hierarchy of complexity that one must attune one's sensibilities around. Pain of Salvation is in its own little world where either you're going to adapt to its idiosyncrasies or not. When i say this is for progheads what i mean is that this is basically sophisticated prog rock that happens to have some metal instrumentation therefore it will appeal to those who are focused on prog rather than metal. This album is in the PA top 100 albums for example. I could also argue that those who appreciate avant-garde classical and jazz will appreciate this more than the average metalhead as well as there are many aspects of many musical genres being put in the blender.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
45 days ago
Dude, that's kind of true for everyone no matter how much of a proghead you are. Some prog music is so experimental and has so much going on it takes 10, 20 or even more listens to comprehend. Forget the term prog for a minute. Think extremely experimental. Some bands are so out there they literally require that you learn a new musical language to follow them. Now there are cases when a first exposure is so appalling that you don't want to pursue it any further and that's all good. So just because you like a given prog band doesn't mean you will like another.


adg211288 wrote:
45 days ago
That's the second time you've insinuated that I'm not enough of a 'proghead' to get an album. I love prog rock AND metal. This is just full the kind of thing I was trying to avoid when I found prog in the first place.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
45 days ago
I love this one a lot. This is very much geared towards progheads so if highly experimental prog isn't your shtick then most metalheads probably won't dig this too much. It took a while to grow on me but i think their first five albums up to "Be" are all quite great prog metal IMHO.
46 days ago
After you mentioned this in the comments of that Poppy album review, I had to read what you wrote. Then I re-read my review. I was much kinder but I also agree about the first few songs having nothing special to offer. Also, there are actually only four songs on the album I liked, apparently. A friend recommended Remedy Lane, but that album I found even less interesting and so my PoS journey ended with those two albums.
3 months ago
Just had a listen. Average and patchy for me and I agree that the first song is terrible. Wouldn't go so far as to give it 0.5 overall, but yeah I didn't like this either. Maybe Dippo will have better luck in 'getting' it.
adg211288 wrote:
3 months ago
Well they do say there's no such thing as bad publicity. Be interested to know what both of you think of it if you decide to listen. I'm well aware I'm in a very small minority on this one (though I really can't work out why).
3 months ago
Wow, shots fired much?

I haven't ever been compelled to check out this band myself despite liking a drop of prog. Ironically this negative review makes me more inclined to. Now I want to know if it's really as bad as you say. :P

DippoMagoo wrote:
3 months ago
They're such a frustrating band, in that Scarshit (oops, probably a slight misspelling) and their last album are so bad, they make me question how I could have ever liked them, but then I re-listen to Remedy Lane and BE, and I still love those albums. So, yeah, they're just about the most inconsistent band ever, in terms of whether or not I'll enjoy one of their albums. I'm certainly curious to see which side I'd fall on with this one, though seeing its place in their discography, I'd probably end up liking it, I think.
DippoMagoo wrote:
3 months ago
That's actually their one album I've never heard before (aside from their upcoming one, though that doesn't look good, based on the single I've heard), so I should probably give it a shot, the next time my ears aren't in an excruciating amount of pain, which they are atm.

I've always had a strong love/hate thing for PoS, where sometimes I think their name should be changed to something slightly different, while still using that same acronym, LOL I find some of their softer, more prog rock stuff can really hit the spot, as well as their more moody or atmospheric tracks. Even their metal stuff can work, if they don't go over the top with nu metal or rap bullshit, which unfortunately seems to be happening more and more on their new albums.

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