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Progressive Rock DVD/Video Reviews

Pain of Salvation

Be

Review by Josh Turner

This is one of the coolest music videos since Michael Jackson's Thriller. It's one of the best concepts since Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime. Without hesitation, I'd put this in step with Pink Floyd's The Wall.

While most music DVD's get a single viewing before they're long forgotten like the 16th seed in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, this one has a lot of replay potential. Be is special and innovative in the sense that the material you see on the DVD came before the studio release. Let me repeat what I just said, this material actually comes before the studio release. What you see on this disc is where the concept all began.

The DVD features narration and genuine orchestral arrangements along the lines of Dream Theater's live enactment of Scenes from New York, but different in the sense that no fan could possibly be found singing along. Anybody who got a chance to see this material live was terribly lucky as this was truly a one-time event. I cannot think of any other concert where all the material could be so new and elaborate. Everyone in attendance must have found one of the few limited wrappers in their chocolate candy bar. This literally was the golden ticket.

One might imagine such material would have been rough and raw, but this is nowhere near the case. It sounds unusually prepared and surprisingly practiced. It is an amazing concert, and I suggest any real fan of the band (or progressive music that actually progresses for that matter) should ultimately see this concert. It is really the kind of material that not only deserves to be seen live, but begs it. Not only will the quality shock you, it has entertainment appeal that's quite high on the totem poll. What's also interesting is that it seems more like a play than a concert. Rather than stop, stretch their legs, and talk to the audience on occasion, they maintain focus from the get go all the way to the end. It is almost as if they are performing a long epic than the fifteen separate pieces that Be really represents.

The music sounds more like studio output than a live concert. Either they were really poised that evening or there has been a lot of work tweaking this product in the lab. The narration for example may have been overdubbed later on. I wasn't at the concert, so I cannot vouch for what's real-time and what's added later. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the quality is right up there. Their playing and the mix is done so well, it is difficult to distinguish this output from the studio release that was recorded later on (but, to make this clear, not previously unleashed onto the public). It does sound a little different so you know it is not the exact same material. It's not until the clapping before the last song let's you know it's live for the first time. Aside from that, the performance is so good it's unclear if this actually is a real live recording.

There's even a ton of bonus footage on top of this that reads like the jacket to Shaun of the Dead. The extra material consists of more of those witty answering machine messages, commentary and religious tracks to go along with the movie (or concert, however, you may look at it), photos, clues, five minutes to curtain, and even a few more freaky tidbits. Also, if you thought the car clip on the album was funny wait till you see the DVD. No more than a few seconds after powering up, something quite clever and extremely humorous comes onscreen. It's easy to miss so watch out for it.

For those of you not familiar with the material, you ought to be. It is truly progressive. It is a mix of metal, rock, ballads, and Broadway. It is a prime example of how to blend these different elements together and appropriately use sound bytes and orchestral instrumentation as well. In company with Neal Morse, Roine Stolt, Kevin Gilbert, and Arjen Lucassen, Daniel Gildenlow is one of the most innovative composers in progressive music today by combining complex melodies, concepts, and compositions into ambitious works of musical art.

Like the music, Daniel shows several shades of his personality. Early on, he is spooky and subdued. The spotlight gleams off his pearly whites. He appears to be a vampire. Then he is glamorous and chic like a movie star revving up to the red carpet. Later in the concert, he becomes more animated and jumps around the stage like a Lemur Monkey. In the end, he is a holy man portraying obvious religious symbolism. He cycles through a plethora of characters before reaching the finale. Also, I don't mean to just talk about Daniel. A cohesive group of instrumentalists back this charismatic frontman. The keyboardist, lead and bass guitarist, violinists, and cellists were all spectacular that night.

There is just one area that warrants constructive criticism. You'll want to watch the concert straight through. Like their web site, the chapter selection is really hard to navigate. It's a puzzle that will take some time to figure out. I'm sure it's not intentional, and it does look cool, but it's just not worth the effort. I used the pause button when I needed to take a break (I suggest you do the same) rather than traverse the menu system (sorry for nitpicking this minor flaw; if it is any consolation it is the "only" problem with the DVD). I had already seen every frame they had to offer by the time I finally mastered the menus.

The visuals are more than just watching the members noodle on stage. The movie (or concert) plays along with panoramic scenes. Some focus on a large metropolis like New York or Chicago. When we are watching the material being performed live on stage, the colors and angles are artistic and imaginative. It is interesting how some images like rain storms are superimposed on the stage footage to give the impression the musicians are playing through various seasons or locations. It's done quite nicely and sort of reminds me of The Flower Kings Meet the Flower Kings DVD. However, I assure you there is no ballet dancing intermingled with the concert footage.

Daniel tackles a huge concept, which literally encompasses the all-so-complicated meaning of life. It ponders some deep philosophical questions and even manages to answer some of them in its own way. He offers an intense and introspective look into a gargantuan topic and provides many thoughtful theories. It will leave you scratching your head, but considering the material, that is more than acceptable. I'd say it is even expected. Many groups have tried to tackle far simpler concepts and wind up failing miserably. Be, on the other hand, is a great concept with material that's highly organized. All the pieces fit together and never suffer once for their need to follow a certain template. While it may not give us all the answers to life, it is thought provoking and in the end, that is all that really matters.

Daniel Gildenlow must be a super-genius when it comes to innovation in music. Anybody who follows his music will know that just when you think you've got the guy gauged, he gives us something fresh and new. He did this with The Perfect Element, Remedy Lane, 12:5, and now Be. I have no clue what to expect from him next. He continues to change stride like an Olympic athlete working a field of runners. While the competition has gotten very stiff, he still manages to come out on top. Pain of Salvation is making some of the most interesting and exciting music of today and this DVD is by no means an exception.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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