Mar 172023

(What you’ll find below is Axel Stormbreaker‘s review of the debut album by Host (the duo of Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes), out now on Nuclear Blast.)

My connection to Paradise Lost’s music resembles the terms of a permanent relationship. Its integral qualities may revitalize your body and thought, to a degree you feel capable of achieving nearly everything. While, on different occasions, it can turn out as an ordinary mess that’s so fucking disappointing.

Before you feel the need to educate me, lemme state here I am fully aware the album in question belongs to a side-project, a work put together by its core members mostly for their personal fun. But since the main people are present in an endeavor named after their most “infamous” album, what’s to expect? Plus, the music itself strongly reminds of their alt-metal era. Do we need further boxes to check?

So, anyway, I’ve read and heard all kinds of opinions these days, to a point I feel nothing like contributing further to pointless descriptions you are already aware of. I even wrote an earlier review that lies in my recycle bin, just ‘cos I found out I was too bored to read it myself. We’ve all known how the album sounds from the first moment it was announced. We also know there’s a certain quality subjective to people’s tastes. My question is: why do YOU believe it’s a great, or even shit record in any regard? Forget sloppy bashing, or glowing press declarations for a while. It’s Paradise Lost we’re talking about, not a newcoming artist. Doesn’t it speak to your soul in any manner?

That being said, you shouldn’t trust any AI writer, or even me in that regard. Trust the properly constructed argument. Yes, the music is influenced by Depeche Mode, in a way the original Host album never really was. IX is, in fact, much truer to a grayish ’80s feeling, even if direct comparisons may showcase obvious late ’90s / early ‘00s influences. It’s why I can’t get certain B-sides such as “Gone” out of my mind, you know, especially since they did attempt similar experiments since 1998 (f.i. “Slave”, “The Hour”). Even if some people may think they “betrayed metal” (rofl) in Host, old farts like me and some of you are aware their mutation dates a long way back, possibly even since the Draconian Times era.

One could well state here IX stands as the missing link between Host and Believe in Nothing. But it’s too simplistic, or even straightforward to fit under that umbrella. It just offers a short trip down the past lane, a reminder of the different avenues the band could have explored had they named its predecessor as a “Nick Holmes” solo record. Personally, I find such matters trivial, but that’s not how the public thinks, so let’s not dwell on it further. It’s good enough to indicate a reason why IX does bear value of its own, as no shit record will ever lead your mind astray between a youth long lost and its countless possibilities.

IX‘s additional strengths solidify its appeal even further in two separate aspects. Firstly, taking into account that Holmes‘s “clean” vocals result as progressively colorless the more years go by, IX‘s pale aesthetics assist his performance to a favorable extent. We all know he’s not the same young man any more, plus he’s bound to preserve his qualities for extensive touring. Yet, even if such an attempt strikes as partially unconventional, IX manages to achieve an underlying subtlety without the risk of ending up sterile. Its structures may indicate a certain calibration of its climaxing moments, yet the design’s aligned in perfect harmony with each and all of its vocal interpretations.

Secondly, IX consists of a thoroughly cinematic experience meant to flow uninterrupted from start to finish. Even if examples such as “A Troubled Mind” and “Instinct” stand alone as solid contenders of its brightest highlights, Host’s entire perspective deals with an outpouring stream that only thickens the atmosphere of a sole, undivided unit. Which also fuels my sole complaint here, since such an album better serves the visual narration of an extended storyline, instead of separate videoclips, no matter how elegantly made. I could be wrong, of course, but when pondering that gorgeous fan-made video of “Last Regret”, mixed with scenes from the Angel-A movie, I can’t help but think of how other budget-friendly solutions can be explored in the service of mutual benefit.

But then again, I’m just a tired old man, mumbling flat-out nonsense. The only thing you need to know is IX may not stand as the best album you’ll hear all year, or even a groundbreaking monument meant to stay forever. But its enjoyment is genuine, even if it creepily awaits to come out only at night, right when you’re laying on your couch, holding a glass of your favorite bourbon. It may not appeal upon first impression, or second, or even third, but its continued stream is bound to intrigue your interest, making you steadily admit none but the sheer obvious: “this record, it’s good, yes, and it is just worth having”.

  3 Responses to “HOST: “IX””

  1. Right Now Hide’s ‘My Only Escape’ Made Our Night….Sometimes Slow Tempo Also Works Well For Men At Metal…

  2. I think it is great. Clearly, Greg and Nick were back in a heavy nostalgic mindset – and it has really spun me into one as well. But I think its power is in lightly evoking that melancholic, spartan, groovy 80s feel without completely aping it. And, notwithstanding what Greg and Nick say, I think IX is a logical successor to the album Host. I have them on one playlist, and they play seamlessly together. The reaction to the original Host album clearly knocked the off course and sent them down a dark path that took at least three albums and half a decade for them to begin recovering from, but, it was always a genius album in my book, and so is IX. (One of the great run of albums – Icon – Draconian Times – One Second – Host.)

    Easily one of my very favorite releases of the new year! Thanks for reviewing it. Greg has been on absolute fire since Faith Divides Us – along Paradise Lost, Vallenfyre, Strigoi, and now Host.

  3. For fans of Depeche Mode’s “Ultra” for sure. I have mixed feelings about this album, some song are pretty good, but most tracks are a bit too slow paced to my liking (just like “Ultra”…).

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