(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Paradise Lost, which will be released on September 1 by Nuclear Blast.)
Not that long ago, the idea that Paradise Lost would, twenty years into their existence, be undergoing a well-deserved critical and commercial renaissance, would have been seen as… well, if not outright laughable, then certainly a little far-fetched.
That’s not to say that the band’s foray into the realms of dark, synth-heavy electro-rock was a complete failure (I’ll gladly go to bat for Host any day of the week) but, even so, there was a time when the band’s star seemed very much on the wane, and unlikely to ever ignite in the same way again.
And yet, ever since the release of 2007’s In Requiem the grim Northerners have been on a steady upswing, one which has seen them growing ever darker, ever heavier, and ever doomier over time, ultimately culminating in the utterly monstrous Medusa, one of the darkest, heaviest, and doomiest albums of their career.
Of course the passage of time makes it difficult to draw a direct comparison between this album (or its similarly stunning predecessor The Plague Within) and seminal classics like Gothic or Draconian Times, but thankfully this isn’t a competition, and surely there’s more than enough room in the band’s back-catalogue for a few more iconic releases?
After all, it’s hard to deny the sheer power and potency of tracks like the humongous “Fearless Sky” and “The Longest Winter” (two of the album’s many highlights), or the morbid beauty of spine-tingling closer “Until the Grave”, all of which contain some of the most gloriously gritty riffs, cruelly catchy melodies, and heart-stopping vocals (both harsh and clean) which the band have ever put to tape.
Speaking of vocals, this may well be Nick Holmes’ best performance of the modern era (check out the phenomenal title track for just one example), his reinvigorated voice switching effortlessly between a verbose-yet-visceral growl and a gloomy gothic croon with all the confidence and clarity of a man very much in his prime.
As a matter of fact, every member of the band appears to be on top form here. Mackintosh and Aedy match muscle and melody on tracks like “Gods of Ancient” and “No Passage For The Dead” in a way that most guitarists half their age would struggle to emulate, while the rhythm section of Edmonson and Väyrynen (making his first appearance on record with the band here) keep everything locked down tight, displaying an enviable grasp of groove and dynamic that only comes from years of patient learning and practice.
Of course it’s not all sunshine and roses – the surprisingly generic “Blood and Chaos” fails to rise to the same exquisite heights of the rest of the album, and feels a little too “by-the-numbers” overall.
It’s not a bad song by any means, it just comes across as a little bland and uninspired when compared to the tracks which surround it.
Minor missteps aside, however, it’s shocking to realise that somehow, almost thirty years on since the release of their debut, Paradise Lost are right back at the very top of their game.