Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Album Review: PAIN - "Coming Home"

Peter Tägtgren has had a long and storied career under the banner of a pile of different musical epithets, so his journey is best thought of as one continuous track, rather than a series of parallel adventures.  So, Hypocrisy and PAIN and Lindemann are all part of the same fabric for Tägtgren, each project feeding into the others for inspiration and creativity.

Still, there are certain distinct separations, especially as it relates to the dynamic of Hypocrisy, his main band, and PAIN, his…well, ‘fun’ band would be my words and not his, but you get the idea.  Hypocrisy albums are crafted and articulated, pillars of modern Swedish death metal in the pristine sense, where PAIN, in the vernacular of the youngsters, is just Tägtgren balling out (cross-genre reference! ‘Get Tägtgren on the court and he’s trouble / last week fucked around and got a triple double.)

Five years since the release of the excellent “You Only Live Twice,” and coming on the heels of the success with Lindemann, PAIN returns with “Coming Home,” which follows all of the usual PAIN blueprints, except that it incorporates some of Tägtgren’s usual experimentation with Hypocrisy.

First things first – Tägtgren, when writing for PAIN, excels specifically in one element, which colors all of the band’s records, which is that he knows how to write BIG.  Not just musical bombast big, like the full sound of Rob Zombie’s early work, or operatic big like the recent works of Turisas, but the kind of big that’s normally reserved for sporting events and award shows on American television.  Yeah sure, the album’s opener “Designed to Piss You Off,” starts simply enough, almost like KMFDM’s “WWIII,” but then absolutely explodes with a huge riff and an easy to follow vocal cadence.  It undulates through this pattern a few more times, knowing when to back off the gas and then to put the pedal back down for choruses.  This is the kind of thing that PAIN specializes in; mastery of pace and timing for maximum impact.

In early press, Tägtgren talked about “Coming Home” mixing in some elements that he hadn’t used much on PAIN records previous.  The album’s second cut “Call Me,” begins similarly to the some of the best work from countrymen Soilwork, but uses a little electronic manipulation and an orchestral backing to create a fast-paced and cinematic feel.  The liberal use of the dramatic backdrop certainly feels new.  At the risk of overselling the point, this is a ‘big’ song, equal to anything from “You Only Live Twice,” and showing just a hint of something new in the PAIN arsenal.

Of course, what makes “Call Me” intriguing on top of the music is the juxtaposition of this mammoth piece of dynamic songwriting with the utterly ridiculous lyrics, which center around booty calls and phone sex.  (This might be my only change to bring it up in context ever – speaking of songs about phone sex, if you’ve never seen the video for the Village People’s “Sex Over the Phone, go watch it now.  I’ll wait….)

Anyway, PAIN has always had a knack for writing a few lyrics that would make AC/DC proud, but “Coming Home” pushes that envelope even farther, between “Natural Born Idiot,” “Call Me” and “Pain in the Ass,” which concerns itself with…ahem…playing the back nine, shall we say?  By contrast, the album also mixes in some no-nonsense political dialog, and speaks very plainly about the nature of candidates (certain ones I’m sure you can think of) to posture and preen and speak well past their welcome.

But we’re getting off topic.  “Coming Home” sounds like a PAIN record, but turned up to eleven, if that seems possible.  “Final Crusade” would have been a fine song as it was, but the addition of the orchestral backing and the extra fuzz added to the guitar helps the riff sound like a real march, powerful and direct even if entirely misguided.

The title track though, is where this album will make its money.  “Coming Home” the song is an incredible journey of soft guitar, mood-setting atmosphere and lyrics, and an addictively anthemic chorus that ties the entire piece together.  That chorus, against the album, gets by without a big, metal riff and reminds greatly of the rallying theme from the “Avengers” films.  It’s one of the jewels of the record, and actually speaks to part of Tägtgren’s success with PAIN – he knows how to sneak pop constructions into his songs and make them sound aggressive, which is a fine line, especially when dealing with a pop-suspicious audience, but Tägtgren nails it on every part of “Coming Home.”

This is a great record.  There are no more superlatives to lavish on it without fawning.  It’s simply excellent, and deserves attention.

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