Opinions may vary on the progressive metal/rock/what-have-you of PAIN OF SALVATION, but few would deny the copious amounts of creativity involved, not to mention that a POS album at the very least is guaranteed to raise eyebrows and cause a few synapses to misfire. Through all the experimentation with the musical form we call progressive music and a never-play-it-safe attitude has come brilliant melodies, superb musical performances, and a great deal of entertainment value. Now comes "Scarsick", and the reaction from a vast array of metal/rock fans will once again be a strong one, whether positive or negative. Though I would struggle to understand a negative view of this phenomenal album, the array of opinions and puzzled expressions are old hat to the POS camp.Although the styles employed are varied, there is an all-consuming quality to "Scarsick" that dwarfs the majority of progressive acts, primarily because of expert song construction and a sense that everything fits. Of course, the album does indeed flow from a thematic standpoint, as Director of Blown Minds, Daniel Gildenlöw points out: "The concept is about comparing problems and symptoms in modern society with problems and symptoms in individuals formed by the society." It is a complex idea for a complex piece of musical craftsmanship. In fact, the full-on disc beat of "Disco Queen" (trust me, this baby grooves) belies the intense subject matter addressed in the song lyrics. The track happens to be one of the album's highlights, the song having far more involved in it than a danceable beat and catchy chorus. To some the inclusion of a non-traditional style on the track will not be nearly as unsettling as the (basically) rapped vocals on "Spitfall", which happen to be done very well; the tune sports another strong melody as well. A bit of the same occurs on the title track; here the riffs and grooves are especially strong. Just as the band deserves plaudits for a willingness to spread its wings to grand effect, so is its ability to convey passion in its purest form to be commended. A case in point is the melancholic beauty of "Cribcaged". A juxtaposition of sorts is at work here too, considering the serene piano work and magnificent tunefulness combining with lyrics that are so intensely disgusted, as the sounds of an innocent infant are heard. And if it is the band's soulful side that you worship, then look no further than "Mrs. Modern Mother Mary". Much will be made of the lyrics to "America" as well (e.g., "Sick of America"), as it should be; that the upbeat, '70s progginess and stellar melody make it arguably the album's most memorable track is even better. Shades of PINK FLOYD lushness are heard periodically as well, "Kingdom of Loss" one such example. "Enter Rain" closes the album with yet another heartfelt performance and alluring chorus melody. On "Scarsick" PAIN OF SALVATION have created another album for the ages, skillfully combining cerebral stimulation, musical experimentation, rich instrumentation, and hooky songwriting. Few do it as well as this Swedish sensation. Be thankful they continue to deliver such a quality product.
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