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DVD Feature/ Pain of Salvation: "Ending Themes"

img  Tobias

When formations go through as many line-up changes as Pain Of Salvation, fingers are quickly pointed at the supposed dictatorial traits of their leader. And judging by the plentiful behind-the-camera-shots on „Ending Themes“, Daniel Gildenlöw indeed comes across as a man possessed: When his bandmates are relaxing, he is tending to his soar throat. When everyone's sleeping, he is editing footage for the DVD. When the others are out and about, he is having to sit through yet another interview session. But for all his natural personal engagement in a project he has naturally nurtured with utmost dedication since the tender age of eleven, he never seems an ego on the loose.

Rather, Gildenlöw has a pronounced desire to do the right thing. His albums have revolved around ecological-, political- and socially motivated themes and his collaborations with colleagues were based on a shared, uncompromising stance towards composition. With Progressive-Rock Supergroup Transatlantic, he embarked on hour-long journeys through a cornucopia of genres and styles, defying even the expectations of the most adventurous listeners. And during the Bush-years, he refused to embark on an American tour as a result of the introduction of the country's fingerprinting policy for visitors – despite continually growing demand for his group to perform live again and an ongoing creative friendship with flagship entity Dream Theater.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the first official Pain of Salvation DVD comes across as the complete opposite of the usual artificial, glossy and drastically post-edited products churned out by the dozens to glorify life on the road. It is also the realist's version of „The Dirt“, the hillarious ode to hedonism by 80s Glam-Rock jokers Motley Crue. Composed of a complete concert and a self-shot documentary highlighting their 2003 European tour, it demystifies each and every cliche of rockstardom you may still have secretly fostered to keep the dream alive: On the first night, noone knows whether or not the ingeniously crafted visuals will work. During practise sessions,  Gildenlöw's mother tends to painful muscles. Babies and wives rather than babes and groupies dominate the picture during the sober aftershow sessions. After one of the concerts, Drummer Johann Langell can hardly bear his pain. Musicians fall ill with a flue and a swollen eye. The band's view of Paris is restricted to a decripit parking lot for long-distance busses. And rewarding as they may be, most of their free time is goggled up by meetings with fan club members, record company executives and journalists. „We're only a week in and it already feels like an eternity“ someone says at one point and it's not meant as a compliment.

On the other hand, there's also a lot of energy and insight to be drawn from this Double-Disc release. The entire Quartet appears deeply interested in all aspects of their trade, with sound engineers and stage technicians turning into additional band members and friends instead of merely being considered professional aides. You're taken through a plethora of different locations and the most unusual event spaces, including backstage areas situated in former corridors. And the excitement on the night of their succesful tour start, after initial doubts have made way for the euphoria of completely winning over the audience, is real and contageous. You can sense the same spark on the concert portion of the DVD, which captures Pain of Salvation live in Amsterdam's Paradiso club: The sound is raw yet clear, the ensemble tight and hungry, the stage performance simple but effective. Most importantly, the band does not consider the live situation as a place to show off, but to enter into a communication on eye level with their public.

Comprising of works from their first three albums, the program acts as a summary and lense of their early years. While the opening third of the concert focusses on their razorsharp combination of edgey riffing and sinister hooks (culminating in the morbid ballad „Ashes“), the gig increasingly focusses on more melodic material in the later sections. It becomes apparent that, already at this stage of their career, the group were turning away from the purity of Metal or the formulas of Progressive Rock and towards a style dictated solely by their own tastes and deadly precise songwriting. The latter will not sit easy with everyone: Pain of Salvation's live shows are performances for the initiated, where each step is as closely choreographed as it is carefully planned. As an outsider, you are constantly thrown from one emotional extreme to the next and for fans of the more aggressive side of the band, the inclusion of a Leonard Cohan cover version and the bouncey „Disco Queen“ may be hard to swallow. But with a record of always trying to do the right thing, Daniel Gildenlöw can be trusted to never bow down to commercial pressure and to base these decisions on his musical convictions alone.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Pain of Salvation
Homepage: SPV Records

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