Pain of Salvation & Cryptex live in Oslo

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Pain of Salvation live@John Dee, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

With two 'Road salt' albums released until September 2011, Pain of Salvation has embarqued on an European tour with the support of the Germans from Cryptex. The stop in Oslo was in the small 'John Dee' venue, which led to a rather compact crowd in front of the stage and a nice atmosphere altogether. I got inside during the Cryptex show, not having any idea what the opening band is about and didn't even know their name at the time. I remember crossing the hall, quickly grabbing a drink and then after few seconds of staring at the stage, I felt like dancing and trying to catch the rhythm. Because what Cryptex was doing on stage was really catchy.

First, I noticed their stage placement and the fact that they were only 3. A blonde big bloke on the right side, surrounded by all sort of keyboards and also doing the vocals, reminding me somehow of Jon Oliva's way and even voice. Then one piece guitarist on the left of the stage, wearing a tuxedo and having an outburst of energy manifesting in excessive head movements. Then, in the back, a drummer wearing a white shirt with black braces and being amazingly groovy on his kit. I was sold by the end of the first song I heard. The guys had everything needed for a cool performance and show: a singer with a versatile voice who also knew how to entertain the crowd, even if he sometimes used clichés. But as long as you have the personality to use them and they don't feel over rated, that's your gain. It was a loss for the Norwegian crowd though who, despite cheering really loud between songs, are very hard to be convinced to even clap if they don't know the band.

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Cryptex live@John Dee, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

Anyways, besides the singer (who, by the way, was wearing a kilt I believe), the music was so…simple, constantly growing into advanced and intense stuff, old, yet new, I don't even know how to describe it with as few words as possible. I was either thinking that 'hmm, maybe Pink Floyd might have had a song like that' 'No wait, it was maybe Zeppelin' 'Oh, here it sounds like they're about to start a Maiden cover'. There were many bands coming into my mind, each time the Germans changed their sound. And they did it quite often in their songs. Plus, they changed instruments constantly, being quite a big surprise to see that a support band bothered to bring on stage a didgeridoo, harmonicas, hand drum (or drums) and some sound making devices that I couldn't recognise. All of them completing some sort of journey through rock'n'roll, jazz, pure rock, heavy metal, hard rock, blues, folk. The guitars were distorted at times, clean and cozy at others, there were songs growing so cool from a drumline kept by hand drumming to a furious and loud stick smashing of the snare drum and toms.

Did I mention the good mood? It didn't leave the band for one second and I am pretty sure it overwhelmed the crowd in the end. They did offer a lot of cheers and I am sure I wasn't the only one feeling sorry that the band ended their performance. Having a quick look at their nicely displayed merch stand (another rare thing for a support band, to have their own stand), I noticed that the cover of the CD and all presentation materials don't let you get your mind off the idea of a band who works intensively behind the music, being careful with their dramatical image that is guaranteed to offer you a good time when you see them live. Plus, they have the decency to greet you with the title of their release 'Good morning, how did you live?'

The usual instruments break change and Pain of Salvation start their show after the 20th Century Fox tune plays in the speakers. I must confess from the very beginning that half of their show my mind wandered back to the first concert, hence I might not be completely objective in my review, since I really wished Pain of Salvation would leave the stage and let the first band come back. But this doesn't mean they had a bad performance. Far from that. I just didn't get so inspired by their music that was less daring and more standard.

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Daniel Gildenlöw of Pain of Salvation
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / studiorock.ro

One can obviously note the stage experience and the professionalism of the band and its crew. Lights very well synchronised with the sound, meant to create anything from incendiary to dramatic atmosphere. Overall decent clean sound, except a song or two when someone mistakenly pushed the volume too high, and then quickly lowered it too much. It felt like the guitars were changed after almost each song and the band's vocalist, Daniel Gildenlöw, alternated between softly strumming the chords and going nuts on them, plus headbanging like crazy, using each mic on stage or each spot available for sitting or standing on it, making plenty of dialogue between songs and just looking good overall.

It was my second concert within 5 days or so when the drums are placed on the right side of the stage and the crowd gets to see the drummer in action pr study the funny mini cymbals placed on top of the regular wide ones. I really love that placement for drums and would be cool if it became a trend. A bit risky with stage diving though. With the drums in that position, the keyboard was mainly hidden to my view, somewhere in the back. This doesn't mean I didn't see anything of the keyboardist, since he ended up in front of the stage several times, especially for the KISS cover in the encore when almost everyone changed role in the band: the singer played drums, guitarist sang and played guitar, bass played another guitar and keyboardist played the bass. It worked pretty well actually. It was quite a cozy moment when they played 'Healing now' and everyone was brought some sort of banjo, or mandolin or lutes which added to the worldwide/folk feeling of the evening. I also bet the singer enjoyed the moment when he had to introduce the song 'No Way' for the crowd in Norway.

Overall a very good energy on stage, too bad that it seemed pulled back by the softer parts in the band's music. Yet, these parts outlined beautiful vocal skills. Pain of Salvation is a nice live experience, I'm glad I got to see them, and probably if I hadn't been so much under the spell of the opening band, I might have been way more enthusiast.