To be frank, I was completely unfamiliar with Cryptex before they burst into song at The Robin, hadn’t even heard of them before this gig was announced, but in the end they turned into a very interesting surprise. At first they set up with keys, guitar and drums, which all seemed very 70s, and that impression was strengthened when the first part of their set reminded me very much of lost prog heroes Atomic Rooster. However, in the middle of the set they played a couple of acoustic numbers, then singer Simon Moskon abandoned his keyboards in favour of a bass. With the band moving into a modern rock crossed with prog metal mode that was far more entertaining and interesting than what had gone before, made it a very enjoyable support slot.
Pain Of Salvation were at the beginning of a lengthy European tour in support of their new ‘Road Salt Two’ album and were also in the process of introducing two new members, Ragnar Zolberg on vocals and guitar and Meshuggah bassist Gustaf Hielm. After a brief intro tape of the ‘Road Salt’ theme, the band introduced themselves with ‘Softly She Cries’ a song that builds slowly. There aren’t many prog bands playing at the Robin who begin their set with a Eurovison Song Contest entry, not that I know of, anyway. It wasn’t the most dramatic of entrances, but a good representation of the way the band put the set together, building the drama and intensity carefully throughout the set. Another early highlight in the show was ‘1979’ from the new album that grew into something of an epic.
Pain of Salvation will usually be put into the box marked ‘Prog Metal’, and not only because of Daniel Gildenlow’s collaborations with acts like Transatlantic, Ayreon and the Flower Kings, but there is far more to the band’s sound than that. They’re certainly a prog band in that their music doesn’t follow any narrow definition, but takes its influences from a number of sources, all bound up in highly complex arrangements and occasionally some bewildering time signatures. You can probably find influences from blues, folk, early prog and even more modern bands like the Foo Fighters and Them Crooked Vultures. That’s not to say they’re derivative, it’s just that the whole is such a varied mix of sounds and styles, all bound up in the band’s overall sound.
The band have had some personnel issues in the last twelve months, three of the members of the band having only joined within the last year and during that time Daniel Karlsson has switched from bass to keyboards. At one point Gildenlow apologised if they weren’t quite as tight as they could be as they hadn’t had much time to practice. But anyone witnessing the spellbinding rendition of ‘Enter Rain’, which closed the main set, or a song like ‘The Politics of Gridlock’ would have found it hard to believe that such a tremendous performance of complex, epic music could have been achieved without putting in some serious rehearsal time.
Just over half of the set was drawn from the two ‘Road Salt’ albums, along with one or two cuts from each of the band’s other albums, with one notable exception, namely the somewhat controversial album ‘BE’. At one point Gildenlow asked for song suggestions from the crowd, at which point quite a few people called for ‘Disco Queen’, which were declined with a laugh, although I suspect it’s a song the band might be quite happy to wash their hands of. In the end we had over 90 minutes of intense, complex music, brilliantly played by a band, that for all it hasn’t been together that long, was as tight as the proverbial. It will be fascinating to find out where the band goes next, but for now we can be content with having seen a night of some seriously high quality music.
And you can see all of Rob’s pix from the show below: