Album Review: Pain of Salvation 'Falling Home'

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Falling Home, the new rarities and b-sides collection from Swedish Prog favorites Pain of Salvation, is totally worth owning because of -and not in spite of- the freakin' "Holy Diver" cover.

??If that doesn't collapse any standard, time-honed music criticism paradigms for you, how about this: Falling Home, if decontextualized from its necessary background of not being a "real" album, doesn't even feel like a by-the-numbers, money-grubbing, for-diehards-only release that account for 99.9% of all b-side and rarity collections.

??If one does choose to view Falling Home in context, the peak-and-valley nature of the album is absolutely excusable.

Yes, Falling Home is remarkably inconsistent, but that really doesn't matter too much under the circumstances and, overall, its more great with flashes of mediocrity rather than the other way around.

??It seems that vocalist/guitarist/band leader Daniel Gildenlow, an obviously prodigious talent who can comfortably cover a vast array of genres, is mostly restrained by his incredible ear for pop sensibility. This attribute makes Falling Home sound mostly like a cross between Porcupine Tree's more accessible material, Opeth's Damnation and Alice in Chains' Jar of Flies EP. But that, of course, is not rigidly true.

Opener "Stress," which first appeared on Pain of Salvation 1997 debut Entropia and trades in its clunky metallic riffs for a fresh doo-wap arrangement here, complete with a brief flourish of chicken-pickin' guitar, frankly sounds like nothing your reviewer has ever heard before.

"Stress" sets the bar pretty high, and is definitely better than the original. Unfortunately, none of the Falling Home's reimagined originals reach the same level.??

But then there's the aforementioned "Holy Diver" cover, which starts off with Gildenlow doing his best lounge act impressions on top of a bed of smooth jazz before it breaks into a reggae-styled bridge with some seriously flashy jazz guitar soloing. The reggae part is less cheap Bob Marley rip-off and more aligned with bands like RX Bandits, one of the few groups to take on the style without sounding derivative and completely boring.

Covering the Dio classic isn't without its dangers, as Killswitch Engage proved a couple years with their utterly pointless take on it, and sure, off-genre covers are a little schticky (especially with the YouTube generation) but hearing this band cut loose and have fun is genuinely refreshing, mainly because there's a tendency to want to hear Pain of Salvation a little more instrumentally masturbatory sometimes.

??There's some missteps here too; the most glaringly obvious being "Spitfall," which is a painfully typical anti-consumeristic screed over a faux-rap song and sounds every bit as bad as that description would lead you to believe.

"Spitfall" is actually addressed to "bro" and actually refers to a Mercedes as a "stiff old dull fart's Republican shit car." There are times when the listener even gets a hint of topical racism.

Like, did the lyric "And drink Cristal" really need to be followed by "like they all do?"

If one is willing to look past this though, they're in for a treat. Although every band that blends even two genres together usually gets the "something for everyone" tag from the music press, in Falling Home's case, that cliche is more true than normal.

At the very least, there's something to for everyone to appreciate here, whether its radio hard rock or odd time signatures that float your boat.