(All Album Reviews by doh)
You have to give credit to Pain of Salvation for one thing - they are not sellouts. Their fan base continues to grow from album to album, yet instead of sticking with a formulaic approach to writing, they instead reinvent themselves with each release. Be is no exception to this and is, in fact, their farthest departure. I have heard it called challenging, inaccessible, too artsy, wonderfully beautiful, and a masterpiece by fans and new listeners alike. I even heard it called "Daniel Gildenlöw's first solo album" and, in a way, that might be the most accurate description for his artistic influence is very evident from start to finish.
Be is a concept album exploring the persona of God, sometimes from close, often from afar. The first thing that fans will notice is that not every track is a "song". In fact, many of them are artistic interludes leading from one song to another. It is these interludes that are often hard to grasp on a first listen, but eventually they serve as the framework for a moving, emotional experience. Even if you don't notice the lyrics of the main tracks, you are never allowed to forget that what you are listening to is only one piece of the whole epic. One of these interludes in particular, "Vocari Dei", is composed of several people talking to God over a phone. Their attitudes and emotions are diverse and the piece only becomes more moving once you realize that none of this scripted. Instead, Pain of Salvation set up a phone number and invited their fans to call and leave messages for God. The results are dramatic and emotions range from gratitude to anger to outright scary.
The main songs on Be are great -- some of their best work. Every one is a highlight. They tend to have a different feel than their other albums, and many of the early tracks have distinct medieval influences. Still, there is no doubt that Pain of Salvation is a rock band and "Diffidentia", "Iter Impius" and "Martius/Nauticus II" close out the album with a bang.
My biggest complaint has to be with "Nauticus". Although it starts out with a highly innovative dirge-like chant reminiscent of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", it ends with a strange scene called the "car scene". It is basically a little skit about a guy trying to pick up on a girl. I fail to see how it fits in with the rest of the album and detracts from the atmosphere that had been formed. I'm sure there is some reason why it was included, but it doesn't work for me at all and I often hit the fast-forward button to reach the next song.
In summary, this is a must buy for all prog metal fans, whether fans of Pain of Salvation or not. It is distinct enough that it may inspire new fans and it will remain a part of your rotation for many years. Overall rating: 9/10. I would love to give it a 10 (something I have yet to do), but the car scene is bad enough to detract a little.