Paradise Lost have always been about quality albums, through all the shifts and transitions in their sound. Some will undoubtedly disagree with me, but I can’t name a single Paradise Lost album that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. From the death-doom roots of their early works, through to their seminal goth-metal masterpiece, ‘Draconian Times’, and into their late-90s/early-00s period, where the goth started to outweigh the metal, which culminated in the ever-divisive ‘Host’. Then there was their Century Media era, with 2007’s ‘In Requiem’ heralding more of a return to their heavier sound of yore, which continued over three more albums for said label. 2017 saw them switch homes to Nuclear Blast for the release of ‘Medusa’, an album that was even doomier and heavier. Now, we have ‘Obsidian’, which is kind of its natural successor, but more polished, with more variety and a finely crafted balance between the downbeat metal and the downbeat goth.
Less hairy, still melancholic, and as darkly potent as they’ve ever been, the original, core lineup of this perennial Yorkshire mob remains intact, with vocalist Nick Holmes; guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy; and bassist Steve Edmondson. However, as if some goth metal iteration of Spinal Tap, the guy that occupies the drum stool has been the only ever-changing member of the band. Waltteri Väyrynen has been the man behind the kit for the past four or so years (keep that man away from lawnmowers!), and he’s done a fine job here, adding pacing variety and riding the time signatures with a nice fluency, with a few inventive fills thrown in for good measure. And the established quartet of Yorkshiremen? On form, as ever. Holmes’ vocals are nicely varied, from his low-toned, clean delivery, to his gruff/rasped vocals, and some death growls. Mackintosh and Aedy’s guitar work is impressive and everything sounds incredible, in terms of their tone and sound. Some serious work has evidently been put into this. From clean guitar parts, to crunching, palm-muted rhythms and resonantly ringing chords, to some succulent-toned leads, it all sounds magnificent.
‘Obsidian’, as the title would suggest, continues their doomy, dark and melancholic journey with all the night and day shading that’s characterised their music for many years. With obsidian being a dark volcanic glass which is predominantly jet black in appearance, but can also have shades of brown, tan, green or grey, it seems an apt name for the different colours within Paradise Lost’s compositions. And, depending on the mood I’ve been in when I’ve engaged with the music, I have, at times, found it a tad too depressing, to be honest… particularly within the context of these current tumultuous times. But, at other times, it’s been quite the contrary, where I’ve found myself more elated by the whole experience; where songs’ subtly different colours become more apparent , and the doom has fed my mood to the point where, paradoxically, ‘Obsidian’ has proven to be an uplifting experience.
Paradise Lost have always been masters at exercising their doomy aesthetic across a variety of tempos, so even pacier numbers like ‘Ghosts’ maintain a melancholy and downbeat atmosphere. Press blurb claims said track “is a guaranteed dancefloor-filler at any discerning goth nightclub”. It’s gothed-up, for sure, but it doesn’t really have anywhere near as much dancefloor potential as the likes of ‘Erased’ or ‘Say Just Words’; rather it’s a more introspective, mature and, dare I say, middle-aged version of that. In fact, the entire album is a masterfully refined exercise in Paradise Lost’s modus operandi, with songs embellished in all the right places, from the dark folk, acoustic and strings intro of ‘Darker Thoughts’, right through to the delicate and atmospheric keys at the beginning of album closer ‘Ravenghast’.
Refreshingly, the band’s doom and melancholically artistic palette remains wide and varied, rather than a monolithically conceived sense of what a doomed-up band should be. In 2020, they’re still Inimitable and seminal, one could say. It’s been a fantastic year for metal, thus far, from some of the scene’s stalwarts - Testament, Sepultura, Katatonia, Nightwish, and now this beauty. It’s just a shame no one will be able to experience any of this stuff live for many, many months.
Review by Mark Holmes
15th May 2020
1) Darker Thoughts
2) Fall From Grace
4) The Devil Embraced
7) Ending Days
8) Hope Dies Young
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Less hairy, still melancholic, and as darkly potent as they’ve ever been..."