Pain Of Salvation at Club Academy: Live Review
A night of truly international progressive metal starts with Italians Kingcrow, who only released their seventh album The Persistence five days ago, dedicate half the set to tracks from that album, namely the title track along with Nights Descending, Father and Closer. Interstingly, singer Diego Marchesi sounds like Saga’s Michael Sadler. Overall they don’t come across as well live as they do on their studio recordings. They are missing something, a dynamic, and less volume for their subtlety to shine through, and there is far too much bass in the mix, the resulting sound is at times as flat as a pancake. Their new album is well worth checking out though.
With a rich and varied back catalogue from which to pluck a fruitful setlist, Pain of Salvation eschewed a diversity which was at times schizophrenic and confusing and at others accutely effective. Here in our city on the back of a release, in 2017's In The Passing Light of Day, which had compelled the prog world with its musical and emotional complexity, it was no surprise to see them dig out the Slipknot-gone-prog riffwork of On A Tuesday for their opening salvo. Yet instead of hurtling into its jagged abrasiveness like you'd expect they seemed to come in half baked and, for much of their set here, that was a common theme.
No criticisms can be made of their performance, they delivered their songs with cool clinicalness and, with guitarist/vocalist Daniel Gildenlöw's charm and magnetism they have an engaging frontman, yet something feels a little flat. It's true that the room is only half full tonight which can make an atmosphere a little stale, but by the same measure tonight's more humble audience met the end of each song with a welcoming warmth. So the finger of blame cannot be pointed at that factor alone.
One other factor to account for was the band's decision to plug straight into the PA, ommitting the use of any cabs which so often add the presence and earthiness that helps define the magic of live music. It made things quiter and more polished, almost robotic in its similarities to the studio recordings which is one man's poison to another's honey. But one thing this did influence was the impact of the drums, which as a result cut through the mix with a thump you could really feel and the vocals which too swept out into the crowd to the same effect. It made their four and five part vocal harmonies, sung masterfully on early highlight Reasons, stand out with grace and glory.
Elsewhere their set staple Disco Queen - which, musically stands as the polar opposite to the dark and brooding compositions on their lastest relase - feels insanely out of place, a technicolour light show adding a further aesthetic difference to the rest of the set. And yet, as the days after the gigs passed by, here was the song that impeded upon my memory like no other. It provided, as someone still new to the heritage of the band, a bizarre left turn, flipping my expectations on their head. I didn't get it at the time. The Genesis dipped disco track, completed with Bee Gees vocals and a 70s pop pomp seemed the antithesis of progressive music yet for some reason it haunts me in half mockey and half (very) belated enjoyment, like laughing at a joke much too late.
Pilgrim was a gorgeous and sedate interlude where Gildenlöw, whose voice was excellent throughout, really excelled whilst draped in blue lights which added an eerieness to the fog which crawled across the stage and up over his shoulders.
They end with the title track from the album which begun the night. Across that final 16 minutes they have the crowd in a stony silence. It all comes together, gripping. On a night where something didn't seem quite right, like a cold and weary traveller returning home to find the hearth is never quite hot enough despite the flames that dance and flicker inside it, here, in this moment, everything else falls away to leave you transcending into their frontman's troubles. It sways and swoons, its reflective lyrics and bruised musicality reminding me why I wanted to be here tonight in the first place.