A few years ago I stumbled across Pain Of Salvation’s 2002 album, Remedy Lane, after reading several glowing reviews out of the prog-rock community. They were not wrong — the album is remarkable. Soon thereafter, I picked up the previous album, The Perfect Element I, and was equally impressed. This is the type of music that grows on you slowly, always revealing something new that you didn’t hear before and keeping you coming back for more.
When news of the new album, BE, hit the streets, I was eager to sample what was surely destined to be a masterpiece. So what happened? Well, POS mastermind Daniel Gildenlöw decided to create the concept album to end all concept albums is what happened. It is a rock opera to challenge Tommy and The Wall and to take on the heaviest subject matter of them all — God. Lyrically, BE is essentially Gildenlöw’s incredible thesis on the origin of God — how he/she came to exist; came to BE.
I was perfectly willing to sit through Gildenlöw’s one hour plus theology/philosophy sermon, as long as the music was still the same caliber I came to expect from this band. But it just wasn’t. I could not even get through half of the album on my first few attempts, having to abandon each one with cries of mercy. There are a couple of brilliant pieces scattered throughout the thing, the last few songs really, but as a whole it is mostly a ponderous, self-indulgent, borefest. BE makes Tales From Topographic Oceans sound like 90125.
I decided to give BE Live a chance anyways. Maybe I could get into the concept a bit more seeing it acted out live on stage alongside this ten-member Orchestra Of Eternity. Prior to even releasing the album, the band holed up in a theater in their hometown of Eskilstuna, Sweden, and proceeded to run through the entire show twice a day, five days a week, to hone their chops. This DVD was recorded on September 12, 2003, one of the last nights of that long and unusual home stand.
The performance begins with the recorded spoken-word piece, “Animus Partus”, which switches between child and adult male voices to begin the story, “I am. I am. I am. I was not then. I came to be. I cannot remember NOT being. But I may have traveled far very far to get here.” This is the stuff we are dealing with here. For the next song, “Deus Nova,” the band and orchestra are revealed and most are wearing a whitish face makeup which gives them all a ghostly appearance. The stage is made up of multiple layers, providing each member with a unique vantage point and is centered by a large, arrowhead shaped pool of water, which Gildenlöw eventually baptizes himself in.
The audience was unusually composed so as not to disturb the performance unraveling before them — much like an actual theater play or opera. Although the music being performed this night was far from their best work, the performances of it were exceptional. This is a very theatrical show, and lots of film footage, slow motion, and various digital effects were interwoven among the performances. Gildenlöw changes costumes often, beginning with a Jesus-like, long, white robe during “Imago,” to the designer pin-stripped suite and dark sunglasses wearing Mr. Money character who first appears on “Dea Pecuniae,” and then again as a completely drenched Gildenlöw climbs out of the pool during the end of “Omni.”
The orchestration was much more prominent here than on the studio album, and some of the songs went over better live. “Pluvius Aestivus” is a beautiful, short, piano and strings instrumental which was even more haunting here and “Lilium Cruentus” was far superior to the original. The two best songs from BE, “Iter Impius” and “Martius/Nauticus II,” were easily the two best of this performance as well. “Iter Impius” is one of the few shining lights from BE, and may well be one of the band’s best songs yet.
A Dolby Digital 4.1 surround mix was provided, which was missing the center channel that comes with the more standard 5.1 surround mix. It wasn’t really missed here because the rear surrounds were used to brilliant effect to completely immerse you in the performance. The spoken word sections were particularly effective. My only complaint was the rather thin sounding bass mix. The picture was only presented in full frame, but the video looked sharp and handled the bright white and blue stage lighting well.
A ton of bonus material is included with this package highlighted by a CD of the entire show. A rugged cardboard slip case houses the plastic DVD case which contains a 48-page color booklet and the two disks. The booklet includes all of the lyrics, numerous photos from the show, as well as a long introduction by Gildenlöw. Other highlights include a commentary track and a “Soundtrack for Religious Fanatics,” which is the whole damn thing, video and all, played backwards for those of you looking for satanic backwards masking.
Watching this was not nearly as painful as the first time I popped the BE album into my poor stereo. I enjoyed some of it, yet couldn’t wait for other songs to end. Daniel Gildenlöw is an immense talent who went for a home run with BE Live, and I can respect him for that. Along with fronting Pain Of Salvation, he has also played an essential role on the last couple of Flower Kings and Transatlantic tours, due to his incredible vocal range and virtuosity on multiple instruments. If you enjoyed BE, then you will be blown away byBE Live. As for me, I eagerly await the next Pain Of Salvation album.
01. Animae Partus
02. Deus Nova
05. Lilium Cruentus
07. Dea Pecuniae
08. Vocari Dei
10. Nihil Morari
11. Latericius Valete
13. Iter Impius
14. Martius/Nauticus II
15. Animae Partus II