Massive Mega Review: Obsidian – Paradise Lost

PL

Mr Swine.

So, Paradise Lost Have a new album out.

Oh, you need to know more? Ugh….

Ok, so it may be a little hasty to assume that everyone knows and loves the legendary Gothic-Doom chameleons of Britain. Over their 30+ year career they’ve reinvented themselves numerous times, stylistically ranging from Death/Doom, to Electronic Synth Pop, and everywhere in between. Ever since their 2015 album “The Plague Within” revitalized their career on the strength of the Doom Metal masterpiece “Beneath Broken Earth,” the band has been on a roll. They followed that up by going balls deep into Doom Metal with 2017’s “Medusa,” an album that seemed inconsistent to me at first, as it lacked the diversity of “The Plague Within,” but has grown on me considerably since then. So what does Paradise Lost have in store for us this time around?

The short answer to that is, the band have delivered an album that recaptures the spirit of “The Plague Within” by flexing their Gothic muscle. First single “Fall From Grace” could easily fit right in on the aforementioned album, sounding like a close cousin to “No Hope In Sight.” Not that I’m complaining about that, since the latter is one of my favourite PL songs ever. “Ghosts” is pure 80’s Gothic-Rock atmosphere, complete with a danceable beat and low monotone vocals, like a beefed up doom version of Sisters of Mercy. Album opener “Darker Thoughts” brings back the orchestration that was utilized to great effect on “Plague Within,” but also breaks new ground with beautifully played classical guitar.  

Forsaken” keeps the gothic vibes going and seems reminiscent of the band’s sound on “Draconian Times,” though goes much darker and heavier than that album. “Ending Days” should also satisfy fans of PL’s mid-90’s era, while “Serenity” shows off Nick Holmes’ formidable growling skills. “Obsidian” has something for almost everyone; clean vocals, harsh growls, abundant guitar melodies, and plenty of the band’s patented brand of Gothic Doomy-ness. If Paradise Lost is a band you’ve been sleeping on for all these years, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with them! DO IT!!!! Next time around, I just want to say “New Paradise Lost” and hear everyone say “Indeed!” 

Rating -5/5

VUK (The Magnificent).

“Drifting through loss
We escape from the cost of the pain
The healing through years
So obscured by the tears, and the strain
But this one-way street you’re on
You’ll never be fulfilled
And this one-way street you’re on
Is gonna get you killed”

I did not come into listening to “Obsidian” as a Paradise Lost fan. Only vaguely familiar with “The Plague Within” and “Medusa,” the band sort of just slipped through my radar. Now, you can look at that one of two ways: 

1) A real bummer, having missed so much great music over the past thirty years.

2) A massively exciting opportunity to experience thirty years worth of music all at once. 

I choose number two.

From the very first notes of album opener “Darker Thoughts,” I was enthralled with Paradise Lost. The lyrics spoke to me in a profound way, for one thing. That was the hook, I suppose. The sound of Nick Holmes’ voice, so sincere and comforting, then turning into a desperate growl, just blew my mind. 

This album has everything. It’s emotional, it’s heavy, it’s dynamic and shadowy. It’s atmospheric and doomy. There are elements of at least a half dozen seemingly unrelated genres present in nearly every tune. Above all, these are just excellent songs. They are exceptionally well-written masterpieces of sound that would be as effective on an acoustic guitar or piano as they are laden with effects and slick production.  

A five-star album if there ever was one, “Obsidian” has made me a Paradise Lost fan for life. 

Rating – 5/5

Your Grouchy Friend.

There is an ease with which Paradise Lost express their Gothic Rock identity. It is this ease which will forever place them ahead of many of their past and present contemporaries for whom a concerted effort to mine the darkness breeds an inauthentic air. The band’s seminal credentials are undisputed and place them at the forefront of a dark crossroads of Death Metal and pure Gothic sensibilities, forging in the flames the molten birth of the doom genre. Normally such a horrific mixing of metaphors – I count three at least – is to be avoided in the written form but in describing a band that have thrived as an evolving concoction anything goes.  

After such enthusiasm please let the records show that Your Grouchy Friend is not strictly speaking a Paradise Lost fan: like so many in the vast Metal pantheon, for nebulous and indefinable reasons they have never attained high rotation for me which is odd for an individual who (full disclosure) has a musical past rooted in both the Death Metal and Goth sub-cultures. Which answers the question of what I can possibly bring to my first Metal Wanderlust group review: I am to some extent the target market of this genre, which may afford some functional insight (or at least the delusion of).   

Obsidian” features accomplished song writing that flourishes with occasional technicality, its embrace of the sombre cadence of space and sparseness allows Nick Holmes to drudge unhurried and free in his explorations of the mire.  He is in absolutely fine form here: effortless whether delivering the dark über-gothic clean that consistently grounds the tension laden verse structures, or grating and grinding his dark growl into your very soul. The sound palette, although agreeably predictable is beautiful to put it mildly. The guitar tones ring and pierce in equal measure and are a perfect example of an authentic use of pure gothic-rock elements that make the band leaders in their craft – the surrounding rhythmic elements are incredibly present sonically, but unobtrusive and well arranged to construct an enormous vessel for the star attractions.   

Stand out tracks – and there are many – include the opener “Darker Thoughts” which ought to be confronted at high volume for the full transitional experience: haunting acoustic ambience… to strings… to vocal harmony… to… you get the picture.  The lead-up single “Ghosts” absolutely nails Gothic-Rock sensibility to the cross and slakes its thirst on the spill from its lacerated belly. The opening kick drum and bass sound had me pining for The Sisters of Mercy’s “Alice,” an undisputed bastion of the Gothic Rock genre (particularly when re-released as” Alice – 1993“).  “Serenity” is arguably the most satisfying piece of song writing on the entire album – the sense of anxiety brooding away within its colossal structure is one that, along with the simply gargantuan “Ending Days” would be perfection experienced live in a cavernous indoor venue. “Ravenghast” is classic ‘Old Nick’ and brings the dark procession to its riveting, atmospheric conclusion… the weeping essence of the departing piano is a textural refrain that sees Paradise Lost ride out on the undead steed on which they rode in.   

For the new listener this album has a bold and arresting quality that could make it a solid place to begin a very deep dive into the blackened depths the band has to offer, and I suspect for the long-time listener “Obsidian” will scarcely disappoint – something at least one of my fellow Wanderers will have expressed. Paradise Lost still possess that ‘malveillant je ne sais quoi’ seemingly on an increasingly epic and confident level and I urge anyone who has, like Your Grouchy Friend sat on the side-lines for a casual view to get some skin in the “Obsidian” game.

…and hey, they covered “Small Town Boy” by Bronski Beat just after the turn of the century, which irrespective of one’s view of its delivery was an essential statement in a world of Metal that brands itself a brotherhood.  

A massive album that grows with each listen.

Rating – 5/5

George.

I’m not one for sugar-coating things, so I’ll be the first to say that (in my opinion) Paradise Lost have had an up-and-down career. There have been some really good albums, and then some great songs in really mediocre albums. As this is a group review, others are going to give you well-researched and well-thought-out expositions of every facet of this album. I’m not! You’ll have to take my word for it: This a great Paradise Lost album.

Rating – 4.5 / 5

ProgCaveOgier

When you think of it, the three things that make Paradise Lost an exceptional entity are the compact, but highly emotional song writing, lyrics that can actually reach under your skin with their harshly straightforward, but poetic ways and the amorphous, mercury-like gloom that can bend to different shapes and sounds, but still be what it is by the end of the day: A unusual mix of pessimism and beauty combined. All of their classic albums are enriched by these three elements. The ones who did not quite reach that desirable status had one or two of them, but never all the three. 

In my books Paradise Lost have always stood for quality and versatility. They have not stuck to one thing for too long, rather found a new angle and viewpoint on the same thing instead. From their Death Doom pioneering early works, to monolithic Gothic Metal, to depressive Synth Pop and back again, everything they have released so far has been still undeniably Paradise Lost, no matter the accessories. Even the albums that have not hit the metaphorical bull’s eye, have been highly enjoyable. And the classics… Well, mate… They have been the best music ever recorded on this side of Black Sabbath albums. The best of the best. 

On the verge of the release of their new album, “Obsidian,” the hopes are high again, quite naturally. Their previous work and their heaviest album to date, “Medusa,” pleased the Death Doom community globally, but felt to me still a bit one-dimensional. Like it was showcasing only one side of the multi-sided beast. Focusing only one thing alone and therefore lacking something. Yes, I understand it was exactly the right album for the right time, when Death Doom was maybe a bigger a phenomenon than ever, but still the crude slugging of it alone felt a bit limited a method of self-expression for a band this capable. Fortunately, “Obsidian” has more to it. Actually, it could be the most versatile album they have EVER recorded. 

If you look for the closest resemblance to it from their wide discography, their 2015 album “The Plaque Within” might be the closest one. Like that one, “Obsidian” too has the melodic, accessible sides of their works like In Requiem” (2007) to it, moulded together with the harsh Death Doom grunts and explosive power chords for a mind-blowing effect. Still, “Obsidian has even more to it. “Serenity” soars like a re-recorded work from “Icon” -era and the second single “Ghosts” and stand-out anthem “Hope Dies Young” stomps in that unstoppable Sisters of Mercy type-of catchiness made famous on their album “One Second” (1997). “Ending Days” takes the refined Goth of “Draconian Times” (1995) and as the album fades out with keyboards and gentle guitars, but also with grim growls of “Ravenghast,” a Paradise Lost fan grins like a bloody idiot. The Gods of doom have done it again! Delivered, like only they can. 

Obsidian” is their best album since the magnificent, Goth Metal pinnacle “Draconian Times,” but it is not simply a direct copy of the thing alone, like “Tragic Idol (2012) was. “Obsidian” has the same key elements, though. Song writing, atmosphere and yes – them harsh, poetic type of lyrics that I personally have felt being the element missing the most often with their previous works. Or what do you think of the ultimate metaphor for life: “This one way street you are on, is going to get you killed” on album opening “Darker Thoughts,” huh? For me personally, that line was like a big welcome home and it only gets better as the album goes on. 

This album has a variety of musical ideas and approaches, but they are being held perfectly together by the wailing leads of Greg Mackintosh and vocalist Nick Holmes, who probably delivers his best work to date here. Paradise Lost have also always worked as a unified team, with only drummers coming and going. When the core of the band has been together for ever, basically, I bet Aaron Aedy and Stephen Edmondson (guitars and bass respectively) could deliver a classic backbone to a Paradise Lost record in their sleep. 

So, to cut the long story short: “Obsidian” is THE record I’ve hoped them to record for years. It has all the key elements of the band to it, but not reworked, rather, re-arranged. A healthy look back to their legacy, but with eyes still set firmly in the future. When a band has such an array of methods to express their selves, it feels that they can keep the thing fresh for years and years still, with no fear of becoming a jukebox of past glories. There is simply no need for one-eyed, rehashed versions of their past alone, when they can pull up an album like this from their sleeves with quite obvious ease.

Rating – 5/5

 The Great Mackintosh.

I have sat on this since release. How can one beat the words of my fellow TMW staff, how can one explain the utter magnificence of this band. My writing name is an homage to Gregor Mackintosh, we had a discussion one day with a non Metal head who overheard a friend and I discussing his guitar work, and he asked us who “The Great Mackintosh” was, and it stuck, after we laughed at him and made him feel like a piece of shit. Do I feel bad about that? Uber Metal snob right here? Not at all, it just sounded funny, and has stuck ever since.

This release, as do most when you are covering one of your all time favourite bands left me with the usual heart burn, sleepless nights, and I thought of many ways to cover it. One was to interview my alter ego, Andrew. Here are some excerpts. I tried to make it sound like some stupid chat show you may cop if home feeling sick. The Great Mackintosh is playing Devils advocate, you will see.

Andrew  “Hi. my name is Andrew, and I am a Paradise Lostaholic.”

Cue applause.

TGM “ Fucking why? They lost there shit years ago according to many, they all say they haven’t been a fan since “Gothic.”

Cue Applause and some booing.

Andrew “Well, “Gothic” was great, and let’s not forget that “Lost Paradise” was a fantastic effort as well.”

Cue a little applause and a lot of people with stupid looks on their faces.

TGM ” Well what first attracted you to them then, what got you so hooked.”

Intense silence.

Andrew  “Well, you know how that word unique gets thrown around like a rag doll full of bullshite these days, back then, no one sounded quite like them, they had a very different approach to things, and the guitar sound that Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy came up with together was just, well, outstanding. Eerie, complicated, off kilter, these guys had some sort of bizarre way to approach a riff. A lot of people these days may call it dissonance, and brag about how awesome their so called ‘Unique’ bands are, but these guy’s really embraced the odd in so many ways. Listen to some of the solos, are they off key, are they being arseholes, CAN they play? I don’t know I’m not a fucking musician, all I can say is that they just decided to write their own rules.”

A small amount of applause, then more silence.

TGM  “Enough of that shit, we get your point.  So what about “Icon” and forward from there, how did that keep you addicted, why the fuck didn’t you just walk away after such a massive change in song structure and vocal delivery?”

The crowd is keen for the answer.

Andrew  “Well, “Icon” would probably be one of most played albums of all time from these guys, simply because the whole thing was so vastly different, and yet so much Paradise Lost that it was perfect. Yeah the whole thing became almost Iron Maidenish but far more gruff. Nick upped the ante by starting to sing a little more than growl and it was way more polished than “Shades of God,” but it still seemed to grab my imagination by the throat and not let go.”

Draconian times” was also great, but just didn’t seem much of anything other than an attempt to follow suit from “Icon,” They where getting noticed, but was it enough? It certainly gained them more of a following that’s for sure, and had some sort of magnificence about it that was hard to beat.”

Crowd mumbles, a bit of a stir going on.

TGM ”So you must have liked their spiral into the more keyboard layered sound of “One Second”  then.”

Andrew “ Look, to be honest, if they had delivered an album full of Gregorian chants with keyboard backing and a baboon barking in the background I would not have cared. Some of the songs on this one resonated so well with my life so much that it was like a fucking soundtrack to my bullshit, it felt like something I could relate to, and yet they still had that SOUND, you knew who it was, and nobody could touch their magnificence for mine.”

Crowd has a laugh, and yet serious faces are now becoming more evident, Some agree, some don’t..

TGM “And then I suppose you thought “Host” was a step in the right direction?”

The crowd new this was coming, feet shuffle, the silence is more awkward than ever.

Andrew ”How in the living fuck could anyone NOT like “Host.” As catchy as a bag of lice, lyrically as heavy as fuck, and still with their amazing twist to everything they do, and yet the standard fucktards out there that think they are so Metal just denied it’s existence. The same sort of jerks that now think the new Ulver shit is now “visionary”. Get the fuck out of my face, Paradise Lost went there first.” 

“Yes I love the new Ulver, and The Drowning, and Officuim Triste, The Maledict, The Crawling, Pulchre Morte and so on because they have picked up on the genius of Paradise Lost. All magnificent bands, and yet I don’t think ANY of them could say they were not influenced at least to some degree by PL.”

Crowd quiet again.

And then it occurred to me, or us. We are trying too hard to express the love for a band that we both agree on, and so we shut the divide down. What can I say about Paradise Lost? Everything they do has a touch of class as most of the long term fans will agree. Yes, they have changed every now and then, and I (or me and that Andrew dude) will agree, nothing can quite match them in terms of sheer excellence, sheer ability and sheer determination. The kind of band that instead of wincing when they are about to release a new album like many these days that I won’t mention (I only like their first three – that kind of shite), you look forward too to see what the bloody hell they have come up with this time. After so long, they just never disappoint.

Name a band with such quality. Name a band with such creativity, and a band that has somehow managed to walk their own path, and still delivers the goods. Yes, I am a Paradise Lostaholic, as is the other guy, and this is one of the finest releases ever. Take our words for that.

Rating – 5/5.

https://paradiselostofficial.bandcamp.com/album/obsidian

https://www.facebook.com/paradiselostofficial/

https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastrecords/

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