Pain Of Salvation – BE
Reviewed by Tom Hirschboeck
“…for I am every forest
I am every tree
I am everything…”
Here we come to it: the most staggering, ambitious, and mind-boggling concept album of them all. One can debate that statement, sure, but what would be the point? The concept is what defines this album (which was also made into a stage production), and it is the concept that makes it equally brilliant and frustrating.
So I suppose I should begin by talking about the concept… Essentially, BE plays out like a thesis on the nature of being (I told you it was ambitious). Frontman Daniel Gildenlöw was inspired to create such an album after doing extensive research on a certain theory that he found quite interesting (the website detailing the reading list and research process behind the album can be found here). Essentially (I’ll keep it simple for the sake of brevity, but the theory itself is fascinating), the idea is that all of Being can be visualized as a fractal; “God,” or the principle of Being, is the central part, and creates humanity (the smaller bits on the side) as a way to understand itself (Himself/Herself). So it’s a fascinating story, anyway, and it’s shot through with philosophical intrigue; I’m spotting hints of the Bhagavad Gita, Heidegger, typical Gildenlöwian anti-commercialism, etc…
Such a universal concept, of course, deserves a universal soundtrack. We’re treated here to what is certainly Pain of Salvation’s most diverse album (which is saying something), and one that rarely covers the same ground twice (in fact, it can rarely be considered “metal”). Songs like “Iter Impius” point to the album’s ambitious, symphonic scope, while “Imago” brings an Eastern aesthetic to the forefront and “Dea Pecuniae” takes us on a trip through the dark alleys behind Broadway. This is only the beginning of it; “Vocari Dei,” for example, features real Pain of Salvation fans leaving messages on “God’s answering machine.” So there’s an amazing mix of material here, but it’s a bit unwieldy on the whole.
And really, what holds the album back as a piece of music are the dialogue tracks – the little segments thrown in here and there to establish setting and convey information. On the stage I’m sure this would be fine, but without a firm sense of pacing, the album tends to be a bit slow-moving on the whole. There are good songs here, but they’re hard to separate from the context; unfortunately, the context can only be supported with the use of things that are not songs.
I suppose I’m grateful on the whole that Gildenlöw chose to make an album of this. As much as I enjoy reading about ontology, it’s nice to find it presented in a novel format, and it did leave us with a handful of great songs. But as an album, as a work of music that you would go out and buy as a work of music, I’m not sure if I would recommend it. If you’re a dedicated Pain of Salvation fan or a devotee of philosophical literature or film, look into it for completion or novelty. Otherwise, don’t bother.
3.0 // 5