One Hour By The Concrete Lake (2LP/CD Black Vinyl)
"Pain of Salvation is so much more than just a band name of three words. First of all, the Swedish prog metal band is original. They may be the first prog metal band since the early-90's that truly managed to impress not only prog listeners but fans of other genres as well. In the 80's we had Queensryche and Fates Warning dominating, in the 90's we had Dream Theater plus a few others paving the way for hundreds of other bands. And today we have Pain of Salvation. If they continue releasing diverse, emotional, chaotic and cerebral albums in this vein, they are going to put their mark on this decade as far as prog metal is concerned.
One Hour By The Concrete Lake is their second album, however it was the first to come out in Europe. Their debut Entropia was released in Japan but didn't really get too much critical acclaim in Europe or Stateside - until their second CD One Hour came out. You may be wondering what the title of album stands for. The ideas behind it are some of the most interesting things about this release, especially regarding the radioactivity in Lake Karachay in the former USSR. Most of us might have heard of Chernobyl, for example, because it was very apparent. But learning that a lake covered in concrete had such a high level of radioactivity that it could still kill someone after only an hour standing near it is very appalling to say the least.
Daniel Gildenlow, guitarist / vocalist / main songwriter of Pain Of Salvation, has always been very interested in politics, social injustice, and every other kind of wrong-doing going on in the world. He wrote the concept of One Hour during some International Relations and Nuclear Physics studies he did at school, and at the same time he was also writing a paper on music lyrics' influence on listeners on a social level. Thus, writing and releasing One Hour was also the first album that gave him the courage to believe he could actually spread good messages with music. This is the album where Pain Of Salvation realized the potential possibility of changing things through their records. And isn't that one of the core parts of heavy metal after all?
The album opens with the short intro "Spirit of the Land" setting the mood and moves on to "Inside" with an excellent keyboard mix that immediately catches your interest and prevents you from concentrating on something else. It is a very well crafted intro accompanied by the rhythm guitars, bass, drums and finally Gildenlow's wonderful vocal delivery. The first few lines give subtle messages and we gradually begin to understand that One Hour is a very angry album, especially in certain parts:
I was told the pain and hunger was not my fault...
Lyrically the album deals with issues like war, war industry, environment and pollution. The subtopics derive from the search of a man for the right way of living. At the time, all Pain Of Salvation albums are conceptual. While One Hour is also a concept album, it contains several independent subtopics, and instead of directly telling a story, it combines the above mentioned lyrical themes in a very unusual and successful way. Gildenlow believes that it is still possible to have individual lyrics within a concept and focus on various issues lyrically. According to Gildenlow, they decided to record this album after Gildenlow wrote a 600 page essay.
Compared to the band's debut Entropia, One Hour is more focused and mature. Entropia was fresh and raw. It had more groove and soul, while One Hour is a bit more stiff. But their debut had borrowed lots of elements from various genres and therefore it didn't sound as focused as this record. Perhaps trying to cover new ground every second was branching out too far.
The fifth track "Handful of Nothing" showcases one of the greatest screams to have been recorded. The advanced rhythm section sounds incredible, though to Daniel it is much harder to tap into the right emotions at the right time. This is another main aspect that makes Pain Of Salvation different to most other prog bands. They aren't about technical wizardy trying to impress their fans with any sort of prowess. While it is obvious they are extremely talented musicians, they seem to focus more on the emotional side of prog metal, which nowadays is not very common, especially considering all the Dream Theater clones out there.
Gildenlow's vocals are hard to describe. He is one of the most versatile, multi-dimensional singers out there (others would be Keith Sudano from Eternity X and Dan Swano from Nightingale & Edge of Sanity). He uses his voice in very different ways through the entire album, and on every other Pain Of Salvation release as well. He has said many a time that the prog metal genre has a fixed position with its high pitched vocals, doing the same stuff all the time - it's like a guitarist who only plays one style, just one range of the guitar. So we always hear him experimenting with his vocal delivery, shifting from the smoothest singing to the harshest, growling assertive vocals.
One Hour By The Concrete Lake is possibly the band's most interactive record, since all the band members had a certain amount of input in it. It is also their closest to a traditional metal album, but still has the trademark Pain Of Salvation flavor all over it. It may require some patience and thought till it grows on you, so don't give up on it if it doesn't click with you right away. It will be worth the wait." - Sea Of Tranquility