Pain Of Salvation - Panther review



Reviewer:
8.2

136 users:
8.01
Band: Pain Of Salvation
Album: Panther
Release date: August 2020


Disc I
01. Accelerator
02. Unfuture
03. Restless Boy
04. Wait
05. Keen To A Fault
06. Fur
07. Panther
08. Species
09. Icon

Disc II [limited mediabook edition]
01. Panther [demo]
02. Keen To A Fault [demo]
03. Fifi Gruffi
04. Unforever


In The Passing Light Of Day was a highly successful return for Pain Of Salvation following the health issues of bandleader Daniel Gildenlöw. Naturally, for their follow-up record Panther, they went in a completely different musical direction.

The Swedish prog heavyweights are no strangers to reinventing their sound almost on an album-to-album basis; In The Passing Light Of Day itself was a return to heavier and proggier territory after the rock-oriented Road Salt records. Given the success of this album, Gildenlöw may have felt inclined to stick close to that sound for an album or two to capitalize on the momentum; however, the first single and opening track to Panther, "Accelerator", made it pretty clear that the band were going to put forth an altogether different beast of a record, and the album as a whole follows up on that promise.

The most striking thing about "Accelerator" on first listening was how prominent the electronics were throughout, with a dark yet anthemic synth line riding above the opening polyrhythms, and an array of electronic tones and effects drifting in and out of the song as it progressed, including the odd robotic vocal effect. This track did not end up being an anomaly; Panther is far and away the band's most electronic-heavy record yet, and benefits greatly from this approach. The robo-vocals and synth pulses in "Restless Boy" feed into the insidious vibe of this off-kilter, rhythmic track, and the lead synths on "Keen To A Fault" work nicely both as accompaniment to acoustic guitar in the smooth verses and as a noisy lead in the contorted chorus. Additionally, glitching sounds provide a cyberpunk feel to the quirky title track. The keyboards do venture away from purely synth territory, with some lush piano arrangements in "Wait", but overall the tones used here help to emulate the dystopian cyberpunk vibe hinted at by the album artwork.

The other thing that really stood out to me on initial listens of Panther was how relatively easy it was to like from very early on in my time with it. I do like Pain Of Salvation, but they are an adventurous and, for lack of a better word, "quirky" band; Gildenlöw himself proclaims himself to be "a perfectionist with a taste for the flawed" on his Twitter bio, and that taste for the flawed has always stood out to me listening to Pain Of Salvation, even on the likes of The Perfect Element and Remedy Lane, comfortably my favourite records from the band. In comparison to In The Passing Light Of Day, however, there were surprisingly few moments on Panther that provided the kind of recoil that I'm trained to expect from the band. "Restless Boy", a curious choice for a single from the album, is probably the most "out there" track on the album, although the return of rapping (a long-time occasional feature of the band, right back to "Used" on The Perfect Element) on the title track certainly has the potential to divide; I'm not a huge fan, but I do like the sung chorus on "Panther". The album's not exempt from the kind of vocally twisted and challenging chorus the group can deliver, most notably on "Keen To A Fault", where said chorus provides stark contrast to the otherwise lush acoustic guitars and moving soundscapes of the rest of the track. However, these moments feel like more of an exception this time round; hardcore fans may not be thrilled by this, but I appreciated how immediately likeable the record is.

And likeable it very much is, right from the get go. "Accelerator", although quite not as sensational as "On A Tuesday" from the last record, is a strong opening gambit, carrying a serious sense of urgency whilst also feeling subdued and gradually dialling up the intensity throughout. It's a serious contender for my favourite track on Panther, but faces stiff competition from "Wait" and "Icon". "Wait" is one of the most melodic tracks the band has done, sustained by soulful piano, delicate Latin guitar and persistently moving and evocative vocals throughout from Gildenlöw. The track even manages to fit in a turn for the weird later on with what sounds like discordant wind pipes midway through, without diminishing any of the track's lustre. "Icon", on the other hand, follows in the long legacy of top-tier lengthy closing tracks (see "The Perfect Element", "Beyond The Pale" and "In The Passing Light Of Day" for others), spending most of its time in muted territory with smooth soundscapes occasionally punctuated by bursts of metal. The track is fairly vocal-dominated, drawing noticeably from R&B/soul with some of its melodies midway through, but delivers a belter of a solo before all is said and done.

Panther is also a departure from its predecessor on the lyrical front. In The Passing Light Of Day was rooted in Gildenlöw's health scares amongst other things, and was a deeply personal record lyrically. Panther in contrast, shifts its focus to more societal and political territory, a concept album that muses on norms in society and those that deviate from them, set in a city populated by dogs (the 'normies', as it were) and panthers. Gildenlöw's evidently not afraid to make his message nakedly clear at times (see the choral line "Sometimes I hate my fucking species" from "Species"), but he's also capable of delivering moving lyrics to match the quality of the vocal melodies on songs such as "Icon", meaning the record's not a complete departure emotionally from its predecessor.

I've long accepted that nothing else Pain Of Salvation release will challenge The Perfect Element or Remedy Lane for my favourite record from the group, but Panther makes a solid case for taking third place from In The Passing Light Of Day. One of prog's most creative and ambitious groups have pulled of a successful reinvention here, and although based on past form it may end up being a one-off, the increased prominence of electronics was an inspired move.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8


 



Written on 12.08.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 13   Visited by: 172 users
13.08.2020 - 10:34
nikarg
Mod
I liked both tracks already available. Curious to listen to this, especially if it is "electronic-heavy" like you say, even though I am not a big fan of the band in general.
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13.08.2020 - 10:54
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Glad to see they're reinventing themselves again, looking forward to this one.
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- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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13.08.2020 - 13:18
Milena
gloom cookie
Good writeup, can't wait to go through this one. They really are a band that "bites back", and like you, I expected a heavy and challenging first listen, but I got and liked the first two tracks immediately.
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"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."
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13.08.2020 - 15:48
Witchslayer
Nice to hear the prominent role of electronica on this one. Always liked artists who could fuse those genres. Although different in mood mostly I always liked 1. Outside by Bowie for just a brilliant way he used electronica there. The same could be said of Ulver's Perdition City or Netra's Ingrats.
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Avantgarde / Oriental Black; Psychedelic / Stoner; Post / Sludge; Djent / Prog; Jazz Rock / Metal / Fusion / Cool Jazz; Ambient / Ambient Techno
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13.08.2020 - 18:23
musclassia
Written by Milena on 13.08.2020 at 13:18

Good writeup, can't wait to go through this one. They really are a band that "bites back", and like you, I expected a heavy and challenging first listen, but I got and liked the first two tracks immediately.


Restless Boy wasn't love at first sight for me, but I was surprised how instantly likeable Accelerator was (and it's sustained its appeal, really dig that song)
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13.08.2020 - 18:24
musclassia
Written by Witchslayer on 13.08.2020 at 15:48

The same could be said of Ulver's Perdition City or Netra's Ingrats.


Both great albums. I agree it's nice when bands can effectively infuse electronics in an interesting way into more metal sounds
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15.08.2020 - 18:25
BlankFile
I´ve already heard the 3 songs available so far quite a few times and altough I enjoy them, they don´t make me "crazy in love" or something like that. Really good songs, but not great or excellent. I somewhat feel "Scarsick vibes" about this one, don´t know if it´s a good thing or a bad thing yet, but... we´ll see. For me "Scarsick" is maybe the least enjoyable and consensual record of Pain of Salvation, but on the other hand, the most risky and diversified one musically speaking.

Let me just say this...im sorry, but I don´t agree with the reviewer about saying that "Panther" may take away the third place from "In the Passing Light of Day". Because let´s be real here... third place belongs to álbums such as Entropia, One Hour by the Concrete Lake (My personal all time favourite of POS) or BE. Top5 Pain of Salvation is pretty clear to me. Just my opinion. And I absolutely love "In the Passing Light of Day", and for me comes right next to the Top5 in terms of quality and consistency. The two Road Salt´s and Scarsick, altough good records aswell, they don´t reach the quality of the other ones.

Regarding "Panther", im curious to listen to the whole record. So far, it´s good like i said... but im a little cautious.
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16.08.2020 - 00:57
musclassia
Written by BlankFile on 15.08.2020 at 18:25

Because let´s be real here... third place belongs to álbums such as Entropia, One Hour by the Concrete Lake (My personal all time favourite of POS) or BE. Top5 Pain of Salvation is pretty clear to me. Just my opinion. And I absolutely love "In the Passing Light of Day", and for me comes right next to the Top5 in terms of quality and consistency. The two Road Salt´s and Scarsick, altough good records aswell, they don´t reach the quality of the other ones.


I've tried Entropia and OHBTCL several times over the years, and neither record has ever made a real impression on me. I don't know what it is about them, as The Perfect Element and Remedy Lane both hooked me on pretty much first listen, and it wasn't long after I heard those albums that I tried One Hour, but didn't do anything, and neither record pulled me in when I replayed their discog before this album. BE, I remember actively disliking when I first heard it, and whilst I'm warmer towards it now, it hangs out with Scarsick and Road Salt 1 at the bottom of my PoS rankings.

I've got no issue ranking either ITPLOD or Panther above any of those records in terms of my enjoyment of them, but I know I'm in a minority that haven't clicked with those first two albums for whatever reason. I don't think this record sounds like Scarsick, but it's quite possible you'll feel similarly ambivalent towards it.
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16.08.2020 - 05:52
BlankFile
Written by musclassia on 16.08.2020 at 00:57

Written by BlankFile on 15.08.2020 at 18:25

Because let´s be real here... third place belongs to álbums such as Entropia, One Hour by the Concrete Lake (My personal all time favourite of POS) or BE. Top5 Pain of Salvation is pretty clear to me. Just my opinion. And I absolutely love "In the Passing Light of Day", and for me comes right next to the Top5 in terms of quality and consistency. The two Road Salt´s and Scarsick, altough good records aswell, they don´t reach the quality of the other ones.


I've tried Entropia and OHBTCL several times over the years, and neither record has ever made a real impression on me. I don't know what it is about them, as The Perfect Element and Remedy Lane both hooked me on pretty much first listen, and it wasn't long after I heard those albums that I tried One Hour, but didn't do anything, and neither record pulled me in when I replayed their discog before this album. BE, I remember actively disliking when I first heard it, and whilst I'm warmer towards it now, it hangs out with Scarsick and Road Salt 1 at the bottom of my PoS rankings.

I've got no issue ranking either ITPLOD or Panther above any of those records in terms of my enjoyment of them, but I know I'm in a minority that haven't clicked with those first two albums for whatever reason. I don't think this record sounds like Scarsick, but it's quite possible you'll feel similarly ambivalent towards it.


I understand and I respect that. I guess it´s a matter of taste then, and I can relate to that, obviously. The impact that the first two records caused on me, was way different and bigger. Specially "One Hour by the Concrete Lake..."

When I say i feel "Scarsick vibes" about this one (Panther), i´m referring mainly to the change of their sound direction again, considering that in the previous record, they´ve decided to go back a little bit more to their roots, after the Road Salts that were more like hard rock and blues oriented. I was expecting maybe an evolution of ITPLOD, but these 3 songs that i´ve heard so far, prove me wrong in a way. But hey, Pain of Salvation is and always was a creative, inventive and restless band regarding their sound and concepts, and they´ve always changed something in their sound from álbum to álbum over the years, bringing new things do the table everytime. It´s a good thing and I admire that. That´s one of the reasons that this band is my favourite of all time.

Cheers
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30.08.2020 - 16:19
tintinb
Really creative album. Also that album cover, I really really want that printed on a t-shirt.
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30.08.2020 - 22:15
tintinb
So I revisited all the single videos and, gosh the amount of detailing I missed, that was actually made clear by this review. I mean the same child actors being repeated in Panther and Restless Boy, the same dog mask being used, being a symbology of the lyrical viewpoint of the song, "Species", where a repeated chorus goes like: "Sometimes I hate this fucking species, Yet I'll do anything to please it". The fact that Daniel Gildenlöw consistently donning these dog masks whenever he's trying to conform to societal events. I think I would have missed out on a lot of it f it weren't for this review. So yeah, thanks, Musclassia.
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31.08.2020 - 15:48
musclassia
Written by tintinb on 30.08.2020 at 16:19

Really creative album. Also that album cover, I really really want that printed on a t-shirt.


I very much enjoy the artwork to this record too.

Written by tintinb on 30.08.2020 at 22:15

So I revisited all the single videos and, gosh the amount of detailing I missed, that was actually made clear by this review. I mean the same child actors being repeated in Panther and Restless Boy, the same dog mask being used, being a symbology of the lyrical viewpoint of the song, "Species", where a repeated chorus goes like: "Sometimes I hate this fucking species, Yet I'll do anything to please it". The fact that Daniel Gildenlöw consistently donning these dog masks whenever he's trying to conform to societal events. I think I would have missed out on a lot of it f it weren't for this review. So yeah, thanks, Musclassia.


I'm not someone who particularly delves into lyrics, but I know the ones for this record have been quite divisive; good to see that they've seemingly worked positively for you. I need to find time to give this album another listen now that it's out; I've played Accelerator enough times between writing the review and now, but looking forward to hearing Wait and Icon again.
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04.09.2020 - 19:44
BlankFile
I´ve heard it more than 10 times now. Well, i guess some of my concerns were true and justified and others not so much. I think this is a very good record overall, but not at the level of their best ones, in my honest opinion. It has some fantastic, creative and beautiful moments, and others more ... how can i say this, a little bit more bland and forgettable. The concept is great, the lyrics are strong and well adapted to current times, but musically speaking it could have been a Masterpiece, with the right touches, but it doesn´t reach that status. It´s very good, like i said, but i kinda felt... a little bit disappointed in a certain level. Maybe my expectacions were too high. I expected more intensity and heaviness overall, i guess. It´s still a great record as i said, and in my mind POS can´t make a bad record. At least so far...

My review, song by song:

Accelerator - First single, Very good opener, with the right amount of disconnection and a strong climax. In terms of lyrics, it adapts well to current times.

Unfuture - At first i was suspicious, but rapidly became one of my favourite songs of the record. It´s a more "OHBTCL" type of song. Really strong and with a great message. Really well done and creative structurally.

Restless Boy - Interesting song, with a more electronical and calm beggining, ending with an absolute "bang". I like the atmosphere, it´s engaging.

Wait- Really beautiful song, it connected with me instantly. Beutiful melody, acoustic parts and vocals, for sure one of the best songs of the record.

Keen to a Fault - My personal favourite. It has it all, and certainly can become a POS classic in a few years.

Fur - interesting instrumental, with acoustic guittars even remiding me in a way the classic portuguese guittar. Im affraid it is to short. Could have been a 3 minute song at least.

Panther - The more straight forward/in your face song of the álbum. Awsome vocals and chorus that stick in your head for weeks.

Species - Calm beggining and then... the explosion. I think it´s the more intense and heavy track of the álbum. Really good one and can easily became a classic POS aswell.

Icon - Yes, it´s a beutiful song from beggining to end, with a similar structure of the song "In the Passing Light of Day". One of the best songs of the record, aswell, with really nostalgic and emotional lyrics.


8,5/10 for me.

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