PAIN – Coming Home

pain-coming-homeMy first encounter with Peter Tägtgren’s side project Pain came back in 1999 when he/they had a bit of a hit with the song “End Of The Line” from their / his then new album Rebirth and I loved it instantly. I wasn’t familiar with Tägtgren at all prior to that song – Tägtgren’s then day job was as band leader / singer for the death metal band Hypocrisy and since death metal isn’t even on my musical map, neither Hypocrisy or Pain’s 1997  self-titled debut album caught my interest one bit. But “End Of The Line” made me buy that second album and I really dug the way Pain mixed melodic death metal with pop, Eurotechno and industrial – the songs were both aggressive and pop enough for main stream radio. I also found the follow-up Nothing Remains The Same (2002) a really great album. Hell, the band even used a song written by Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Bon Jovi) on the song “Just Hate Me” and a cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”, which proved that there were no musical rules for Tägtgren & co. But since then I have lost interest in Pain more and more. Not that the records – Dancing With The Dead (2005), Psalms Of Extinction (2007), Cynic Paradise (2008), You Only Live Twice (2011) – were bad, they weren’t, but it just felt that the albums were too much of the same thing. Here’s the deal, every time I listen to them I think: “Well, this is actually really good”, but afterwards I really have no desire to listen to them again anytime soon. Well, the five-year gap between Pain’s last album and this newly released album has resulted in a new-found interest in the band for me and I was really looking forward to listening to this one. During Pain’s hiatus, Tägtgren has made a new record with Hypocrisy, one album with the project Lindemann (with Rammstein singer Till Lindemann) and he has also been running his own studio, The Abyss, where he have been producing bands such as Dynazty, Sabaton and Children Of Bodom, so he has been keeping himself busy. But a five-year gap is a pretty long time even in this day and age, so Tägtgren and his boys had a lot to prove with this new record – will Pain still be relevant in 2016?

Opener “Designed To Piss You Off” starts with a sleazy blues lick – a bit unexpected – but the song turns into a furious, but still very melody laden punk-metal rocker. The bluesier licks are peaking through throughout the whole song which sounds really cool in an otherwise very Pain sounding song. First single “Call Me” is both heavy, a bit symphonic and very catchy and could very well turn into a radio hit. The lyrics come with some dirty sleaze that are more what you had expected from a Warrant or a Poison, but they fit right in there. The song is also guested by one Joakim Brodén, lead singer of Sabaton and as a none Sabaton fan myself, it’s great to hear Brodén finally sing on a really great song. Hit potential also lies within “A Wannabe”. It’s a slower paced track where the synthesizer brings a symphonic vibe that makes me think of modern-day Nightwish and a melody with a big pop feel on it. The acoustic guitars that starts the song is a bit unexpected as well. “Pain In The Ass” is a song more in the vein of how Pain usually sounds. It’s metal, it’s hard, it’s aggressive with an angry in-your-face punch. It’s a good song but it kinda passes by without really lifting. “Black Knight Satellite” begins with a very cinematic atmosphere that sounds like a movie soundtrack of some kind. The song goes from that into a more melodic metal track with a refrain that is a bit on the commercial and even sing-along-ish side.

The title track that follows is certainly one of my favorite tracks on the album, if not even the actual winner. It lies somewhere between a ballad and some kind of pop-metal tune with symphonic vibes. The softer verses are all balladry, the Pain way, and the chorus has catchy punch that really goes for a home run – and makes it! This one must be a single at some point – the hit potential is endless here. With its blues-metal groove and rock ‘n’ roll melodies, “Absinthe Phoenix Rising” is the oddity of the album. It still has the recognizable Pain industrial undertones so it’s not completely out there, but it sounds different enough – a damn good song. “Final Crusade” is more Pain like we usually know them – a faster, uptempo rocker with a danceable beat and a kick-ass groove. A good song even though it feels a bit too obvious, like I have heard the song before. “Natural Born Idiot” has some really catchy riffs, a both symphonic and industrial metal-techno sound – poppy, yet aggressive, a song that nails itself to the brain. The album ends with another ballad, complete with strings and a Beatles vibe, called “Starseed” , an amazingly  memorable and atmospheric tune with more symphonic undertones – and another favorite of mine.

Peter Tägtgren might disagree but to me this is a come back album and I think Pain’s come back shows that they still are relevant today and that there’s still life left in the band. Sure, there are times when the album is a bit uneven but for the most part. Coming Home is a really good record. Overall, I think that everybody will feel right at home with both melodies, arrangements and production but I really like that there are some cool twists here and there. One reason that this is the best Pain album in many years is that there are some unexpected moments which makes for variation, something that I think the later albums have lacked. There’s also a new-found spark here and that’s another thing that I haven’t heard on the later Pain records – the spark! – even though there has always been good songs involved I have had the feeling that Pain ran a little on empty before the hiatus. This album made me glad that You Only Live Twice wasn’t – pardon the pun – the end of the line for Pain. Welcome back.

7/10

Tracklist:

1. Designed To Piss You Off
2. Call Me
3. A Wannabe
4. Pain In The Ass
5. Black Knight Satellite
6. Coming Home
7. Absinthe Phoenix Rising
8. Final Crusade
9. Natural Born Idiot
10. Starseed

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