To say that a Pain of Salvation album is not a journey is to assert that water is dry. For their eleventh record, the enigmatic Swedes once again hit the reset button on their sound while diving deep into a further facet of our species. “Panther” toys with a fresh palette of sounds and textures while keeping the heavier edge 2017’s “In the Passing Light of Day” reintroduced and, in typical Pain of Salvation fashion, doesn’t settle for an easily pigeonholed sonic identity. Much like the subject matter and those who live with it, “Panther” is an entity unto itself.
Scathing from “Accelerator’s” opening lines, “Panther” is a merciless indictment of how society at large approaches people who live with autism. How scathing? To borrow a line that appears later in the album, “at times I hate my f**king species.” The optimism only intensifies as lines like “this is just a test” are accented with the most battering aural assault we’ve heard from these guys since last time returning guitarist Johann Hallgren was in the band.
Similarly, the hypnotic “Wait” – and you can go ahead and add this song to your personal ‘Best of Pain of Salvation’ list right now – cleverly fools the listener into biding for the refrain’s conclusion before abruptly abandoning the clearly established motif before you expect it to conclude. It’s a subtle trick, and insidious moves like this help “Panther” suck the listener into its irresistible vortex. They don’t merely describe the unsettling; they unsettle the very listener. “Don’t tell me you’re angry,” bandleader Daniel Gildenlöw seems to tell himself. “Make me feel your anger.”
“Wait” also sees Pain of Salvation delicately dabbling with electronic music in the form of sound effects and the surprising use of auto-tune on Gildenlöw‘s voice (and if you’ve ever heard him sing, you know he don’t need no stinkin’ auto-tune), but these experiments are more prominently swung in the title track, where Gildenlöw raps more fluidly and viciously than any white dude from Sweden has any right to do. The album wraps powerfully with a Samsonian addition to their long string of enduring ending themes, “Icon,” which has also earned a spot in my own personal “Best of” from this band.
Pain of Salvation simply don’t know how to suck. Even when they befuddled fans with their retro detour over a decade ago (years ahead of retro bands like Ghost and Night Flight Orchestra, I might add), their commitment to that sound was unwavering and precise, to say nothing of the songs themselves. “Panther” continues in Pain of Salvation‘s other unwavering commitment – that to excellence. Truth be told, the only downside to “Panther” is that it feels way too short to be a Pain of Salvation album. For now, I’ll take solace in knowing that previous albums like “The Perfect Element,” “Remedy Lane,” and “Road Salt” were two-parters. Hint hint.
Released by: Inside Out Music
Release Date: August 28th, 2020
Genre: Progressive Rock
- Daniel Gildenlöw / Vocals, guitar
- Johann Hallgren / Guitars
- Léo Margarit / Drums
- Daniel Karlsson / Keyboards
- Gustaf Hielm / Session bass
- Restless Boy
- Keen to a Fault
The casual observer may believe that an electronic/metal album with dashes of classical and hip hop that likens people with autism to big cats and cars with big engines might be peak insufferable hipster. These people are wrong. “Panther” is a vivid illustration of the challenges autistic folks face from the rest of us, and is yet another in a long line of Pain of Salvation records that takes a long, hard, and terrifying look at the human experience