Lifesigns – ‘Altitude’ Review

Certain prog bands have a tendency to make me feel wonderful, and Lifesigns have just been added to my list.

Lifesigns – Altitude

In 2016 Oxford Dictionaries conducted a worldwide survey to find out what was the worst word in the English language. That word was ‘moist’. Other frontrunners were ‘Hello’, ‘no’, ‘panties’, and ‘hate’. Is it pure coincidence then that this is most hated sentence in the world….’I hate moist panties?’ Anyway, what I’m getting to is the word ‘Prog’ when describing music. In most instances it covers a band that the PR companies and labels don’t know where to pigeonhole the band in question. Progressive rock is based on fusions and styles, approaches and genres involving a continuous move between formalism and eclecticism. Steven Wilson hates the term, and I’m not far behind him.

One thing I do know is that certain prog bands have a tendency to make me feel wonderful, there’s a calmness and emotion that sweeps over me whilst I enjoy the various facets of the music. That is what Lifesigns ‘Altitude’ has given me on the very first listen. Not many bands do that to me. In fact Lifesigns is in great company – Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Spocks Beard, Ostura and Tilt are such bands of the club that Lifesigns have just acquired a lifetime membership to.

Opening number ‘Altitude’ is a 15 minute piece that sweeps by in a matter of moments. Time is irrelevant, quality is utmost. From the opening few bars the feeling is one of soaring through the clouds, the quality of musicianship is second to none. It’s the first time I have heard John Young, and similarly to Wilson, he doesn’t have a soaring range, but what he does, he does ever so well and the tone fits the piece perfectly. There’s a string midsection that could accompany a Chinese ancient history movie, before the song drifts with some wonderful backing vocals and amazing guitar playing from Dave Bainbridge (who again is new to me, but won’t be for much longer!). The final act of ‘Altitude’ again pulls you back to the soaring atmosphere of the beginning. All in all it is a wonderful opening and an introduction to Lifesigns that I’ll not forget in a long time. ‘Gregarious’ draws on influences like ELO and Supertramp, and is a close to a pop song as Lifesigns get, I suspect. It’s built around Young’s keyboard and Poole’s base and features another fine solo from Bainbridge. I feel as if I could be repeating myself for the rest of the album here!

‘Ivory Tower’ is one of two Young songs given a reboot and a place within the Lifesigns catalogue. Robin Boult plays a guest role playing acoustic guitar. Midway the rhythm section is again impeccable and closes with ‘I fall….’. I can see this being a particularly great live moment with the crowd yelling….’DOWN!’

Three songs in and there is nothing to criticise. ‘Shoreline’ starts with a jazzy feel, making you wonder where the song is going next. With the highlight being Czorsz’s drumming. Young’s delivery on Shoreline evokes early Genesis and his phrasing is very Gabriel with a touch of Neal Morse. I also am a fan of the female ‘choir’ that’s been adopted on here. I’m running out of superlatives, so I’ll just settle on it being great. ‘Fortitude’ is yet another highlight, especially the sounds and textures being built from keyboards, and Taurus pedal and Moog. They are as important as Young’s vocals. More importantly every member gets their chance to shine, without anyone jockeying for position or domination. The counterbalance between keyboard and guitar is really something else. Played live, this will be a stunning piece to be expanded upon. ‘Arkhangel’ is a short keyboard appetite whetter before entering into ‘Last One Home’. It’s the second Young song that been give a new like. It’s a ballad where Youngs vulnerable vocals come to the fore, before Bainbridge’s guitar solo is one to behold and bow down to. I’ve found a new guitar hero to add to my list! There is a final reprise of ‘Altitude’ and its just enough to wind down and reflect on the majesty of the last 50-odd minutes.

I also have to give kudos to Steve Rispin (sound and production) as he really is the bonafide fifth member as the whole album sounds fantastic.

I love it when a band I’ve not heard before sweeps me off my feet. Its one of the reasons I still like reviewing for the opportunities like Lifesigns and John Young have given me in listening to this today. For that I will certainly be digging out the other albums and count me in as a fan!

This is a wonderful, wonderful album.

Track listing –
Ivory Tower
Last One Home
Altitude (Reprise)

John Young – Vocals and Keys
Dave Bainbridge – Guitars and Keys
Jon Poole – Bass and BVs
Zoltan Czoesz – Drums
Steve Rispin – Sound and production

Pain Of Salvation – ‘Panther’ Album Review

Pain Of Salvation do what they do best, being art the forefront of what ‘Progressive’ truly means.

To say that Pain Of Salvation are bit eclectic is like saying Ozzy used to like a beer. They can go from the sublime to the ridiculous sometimes even in one song. One thing they are, and that’s progressive metal pioneers. With Daniel Gildenlöw at the helm they have been pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and listenable for quite a number of years. At one end you have a potential Eurovision band, and at the other, in the middle a current Opeth style prog band, and at the other a full on metal fusion band.

I never know who is going to turn up, and they have already lost Gustaf Hielm before this release, although he did contribute to the album. If Gildenlöw is pulling the strings (quite literally) it will always be a Pain Of Salvation album.

‘Accelerator’ is a mish-mash of synth, drum beat and guitar, which becomes delicate and light before a jazzy chorus. The song expands over the second half that becomes a wall of sound. It doesn’t exactly become an instantly hummable or singalong track, but that’s POS in one song and needs more than just one listen. In POS terms it means we are off to a good start! ‘Unfuture’ draws you into a Country style guitar before it again becomes something very different very quickly. Theres a lot to absorb as the main instrument is Gildenlöw’s voice. POS have never been a singles band, and ‘Restless Boy’ comes as close to that as they can (well in terms of minutes anyway). Again it’s more electronica than prog or metal, I suppose that is what ‘progressive ‘really is as POS are shooting way past standard rock, and typical verse/bridge/chorus. 

‘Wait’ is built around classical guitar and a tubular bells sounding piano refrain, and its a fairly quick seven minutes and is my favourite song on the album so far. Theres a lot of emotion being transmitted by Gildenlöw and it makes for a very rewarding song. ‘Keen To A Fault’ keeps to a well trodden path of everything on the album so far, a very unusual rhythmic pattern, and some complex drumming from Léo Margarit. It’s the most accessible and melodic song on here. ‘Fur’ is a delightful instrumental piece that would fit well into a dark and melancholic animated film. It leads into the title track ‘Panther’ with Daniel ‘speak-singing’ and riffing/rapping away contentedly. It will probably be the most divisive song on the album, but once I accepted it for what it is, it was enjoyable.

‘Species’ is where I really like POS. It’s more in the centre of their repertoire, typical of Road Salt One & Two. It becomes a lot heavier for the second half and melds prog, grunge and shows that Gildenlöw is firing on all cylinders and is a man clearly on the top of his game as his vocals here are amazing, emotional, and on the edge.

Finally we are onto ‘Icon’ a thirteen minute epic where they throw everything at it. Tender and subtle piano introduces it, before bass and drums rumble in and builds its tension like a soundtrack. It then becomes a tender ballad that again shows Gildenlöw at his best, and has vocals for all occasions. Theres a dark and menacing undercurrent and its also haunting at the same time. A trait that few bands can present as well as this. Hallgren’s guitar solo is a joy to behold – something that has been sorely missing on the album so far. The darkness returns for the closing section of ‘Icon’ with another Hallgren guitar solo. It is the stand out song by a country mile and is a fine way to finish. Save the best to last has never been so true a saying. It’s also one of the best songs they have ever performed.

As POS albums go, it’s definitely one that needs a few listens, probably more than a few! Once again Daniel Gildenlöw is pushing the boundaries of Pain Of Salvation and there’s lots of new sounds and direction from him. It doesn’t sit at the top of their output for me and I hope it does after some more time to dwell on the songs. Existing fans will no doubt be drawn into the musical mixing pot, but whether it brings in new fans I’m not so sure. If you haven’t heard anything from them yet apart from this, then I truly envy you as you delve into their back catalogue. POS prove to be consistently different, and that’s why we love them.

Score 8/10

Tracklisting –



Restless Boy


Keen To A Fault





Pain Of Salvation

Daniel Gildenlöw – Vocals and a bit of everything

Johan Hallgren – guitar and vocals

Léo Margarit – drums and vocals

Daniel Karlsson – keyboards, guitar and vocals

Gustaf Hielm – bass and vocals