Album Review – Paradise Lost / Obsidian (2020)

The overlords of doom return with another majestic album, exploring the unknown and opening new horizons with their awe-inspiring music.

Still reigning supreme as the overlords of doom after over three decades on the road, Halifax, England-based Doom Metal act Paradise Lost never gets tired of stunning us all with their refined hybrid of old school Doom and Death Metal with 80’s and contemporary Gothic Metal and Rock, proving why they’ve maintained their relevance in the world of heavy music without disappointing their loyal fans not even once in their vast career. Now in 2020 it’s time for frontman Nick Holmes, guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, bassist Steve Edmondson and drummer Waltteri Väyrynen to darken the skies once again with Obsidian, their sixteenth studio album and the follow-up to their latest releases Medusa, from 2017, and The Plague Within, released in 2015. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Orgone Studios, with additional recordings done at Black Planet, and featuring a cryptic artwork by British artist Adrian Baxter, Obsidian might not be considered a classic yet like Gothic, Icon or Draconian Times, but I’m sure the album will reach its deserved cult status soon based on the amazing quality of the music found throughout its 47 astonishing minutes (plus the extra 10 minutes from the deluxe edition).

The gorgeous guest violin by Spanish musician Alicia Nurho adds a touch of finesse to the opening track Darker Thoughts, led by the always enfolding, deep vocals by Nick, sounding utterly grandiose, epic and doomed, and with Waltteri displaying all his refined skills behind his drum set. Then in Fall from Grace the band keeps slamming our heads mercilessly with their crushing riffage and damned beats, all led by Nick’s obscure roars while Steve makes the earth rumble with his bass (not to mention Greg’s hypnotizing solo), whereas Steve kicks off the 80’s-inspired dark tune titled Ghosts, enhanced by a brilliant performance by Nick with his Stygian vocals while his bandmates bring endless groove and electricity to the song from start to finish. And bringing forward contemplative lyrics that reek of modern-day poetry (“I’m tired of dreams, I’m tired of almost everything / Dreams deceive and living never lasts. / Too tired to sleep, denial of grief awakes my sins / Too weak to breathe, from living in deaths hands”), The Devil Embraced is another lesson in Gothic and Doom Metal spearheaded by Waltteri’s classic drums and the strident riffs by both Greg and Aaron.

Ominous sounds embellish the ambience in the also somber and heavy-as-hell Forsaken, where Nick is once again flawless on vocals supported by the slashing guitars by Greg and Aaron, while Steve and Waltteri sound absolutely thunderous with their respective instruments. After such dense tune, it’s time to bang our heads in darkness to the sound of Serenity, a hammering fusion of Doom and Death Metal tailored for admirers of the genre, also presenting some welcome breaks and variations, tons of progressiveness and the always macabre roars by Nick, followed by Ending Days, where Alicia returns with her gentle violin while the band gets back to a more serene and melancholic vibe, showcasing all their versatility and talent. Furthermore, the impact of the guitars and drums combined to the overall result is majestic, which can also be said about Hope Dies Young, featuring backing vocals by American singer Heather Mackintosh (Tapping the Vein), a very pleasant and enfolding sonority, and another round of their unique and stylish lyrics (“How could you know? / As pure as driven snow / Through a winter of descent / The splintered argument / Such a withering lament / Hopes will die young / Hopes will die young now”). The last song of the regular version of Obsidian, titled Ravenghast, brings to our ears a classic Paradise Lost sound, reminding me of some of their old school compositions from Draconian Times, with the level of heaviness and melancholy being beautifully insane while Waltteri blasts his drums in the best Doom Metal way possible and Nick fires his deep, demonic growls. If you decide to purchase the deluxe edition of Obsidian you’ll face the bonus tracks Hear the Night and Defiler, both very solid and classy Doom Metal compositions presenting all the elements we learned to love form the band’s distinguished music, making it totally worth the investment.

I guess I don’t need to ask you to take a good listen at Obsidian in its entirety on YouTube and on Spotify, especially if you’re a diehard fan of the band, and of course don’t forget to keep the fires of doom burning by purchasing your copy of the album by clicking HERE, and to follow Paradise Lost on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you search for the meaning of “obsidian” online, you’ll find out it’s a volcanic glass that’s supposed to be truth-enhancing, a strongly protective stone which forms a shield against negativity, blocking psychic attack and absorbing negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension, stimulating growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. There couldn’t be a better representation of the new album by Paradise Lost, as their brand new opus is indeed a work-of-art perfect for heightening our senses and opening our minds and hearts for the glory of doom.

Best moments of the album: Darker Thoughts, Ghosts, Serenity and Ravenghast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Darker Thoughts 5:46
2. Fall from Grace 5:42
3. Ghosts 4:35
4. The Devil Embraced 6:08
5. Forsaken 4:30
6. Serenity 4:46
7. Ending Days 4:36
8. Hope Dies Young 4:02
9. Ravenghast 5:30

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
10. Hear the Night 5:34
11. Defiler 4:45

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead & rhythm guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass
Waltteri Väyrynen – drums

Guest musicians
Alicia Nurho – violin on “Darker Thoughts” and “Ending Days”
Heather Mackintosh – backing vocals on “Hopes Die Young”

Album Review – Paradise Lost / Draconian Times (1995)

The best, darkest and most detailed album by one of the pioneers of Gothic and Doom Metal.

paradise_lost-draconian_times-frontI remember when I was a teenager that there was a stupid “urban legend” about the album Icon, by British Gothic/Doom Metal band Paradise Lost, selling more copies worldwide than Metallica’s Black Album. We all know that was pure bullshit, but one thing was true: with the albums Icon and especially Draconian Times, Paradise Lost became one of the most respected bands of the 90’s, being recognized as one of the pioneers of Gothic/Doom Metal and appearing as one of the main attractions in many festivals all over the world, something not seen very often taking into account the dark and sluggish music played by the band.

Draconian Times, as any other album from a similar genre and/or style, is not an easy product to be assimilated, mainly due to its obscure and depressive themes, and of course, its slow pace (you shall never expect to hear some fast drums in a Gothic song, my friend). However, it’s a brilliant Heavy Metal album with several amazing moments, even if you’re not a big fan of this type of music. The first track of the album, Enchantment, is an excellent summary of the band’s music, with a beautiful piano intro and excellent riffs throughout the whole song. It’s a great mix of Gothic and Doom Metal, with particular highlights to Nick Holmes’ powerful voice and the song’s somber lyrics (“In depth grasp the chains / Struggle as the waters gain but I… / All I need is a simple reminder) and eerie atmosphere.

The second track, Hallowed Land, is what we can call pure Doom Metal,  while The Last Time became an instant hit with its faster than usual rhythm and lyrics and chorus tailored for being sung loud by all fans at their shows (“It’s a cruel misfortune / Forbidding us to see / When stories may collide / It’s a sad state of mind / Heart’s beating… / Heart’s beating for the last time”). This might be considered their biggest hit, despite its a more commercial approach not being well digested by their diehard fans. Then we have Forever Failure and its lyrics that deal with the constant losses in our lives, a very depressive and slow song not recommended for people who have some kind of suicidal tendencies. Once Solemn closes the first part of the album in a brilliant way, being a fast tune with a very good rhythm, and more Heavy Metal than any of the other songs (sometimes even sounding like Metallica).

Paradise LostIf Draconian Times was comprised of only its first five tracks, it would have deserved a flawless 5.0. However, after that the album loses a little its energy and creativity, but nothing that makes it less compelling. Shadowkings has nice riffs and its pace is good, albeit not enough to outdo the previous songs, while Elusive Cure, sounds extremely Gothic, eerie and deep. The following track, called Yearn for Change, showcases an obscure but pleasant rhythm, while Shades of God goes back to the more melancholic approach of “Elusive Cure”, despite not being as solid and entertaining. Finally, we have Hands of Reason, with a very beautiful guitar solo embellishing its overall result, followed by the sluggish and damned I See Your Face, and the final track, Jaded, which is extremely melancholic and another good example of how slow and somber the union of Gothic and Doom Metal can be.

Many different special editions of Draconian Times have been released since the original version in 1995, all of them with some bonus songs, videos and other shenanigans. In addition, there’s a live album called Draconian Times MMXI, where the band plays the album in its entirety. If you cannot find any of the fancier versions of it, I suggest you at least search for the one that comes with The Sisters of Mercy cover Walk Away. It’s an amazing version for this classic song that’s worth the extra investment without a shadow of a doubt.

The front cover is beautiful and makes a great connection with the music in the album, representing all the sadness and sorrow found in the lyrics and rhythm. Another important thing is that despite being considered a Gothic band by many, very few songs have over 5 minutes in Draconian Times, making the album more “commercial” or at least easier for the radio stations at that time and MTV to play some of the songs during any of their daily programs. Those were good times when Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal were respected and admired, with Paradise Lost being competent (and lucky enough) to enjoy some fame in the world of mainstream music even playing mournful and unhappy sounds.

Best moments of the album: Enchantment, The Last TimeOnce Solemn and Walk Away.

Worst moments of the album: Shades of God.

Released in 1995 Music For Nations

Track listing
1. Enchantment 6:04
2. Hallowed Land 5:02
3. The Last Time 3:27
4. Forever Failure 4:18
5. Once Solemn 3:03
6. Shadowkings 4:41
7. Elusive Cure 3:21
8. Yearn for Change 4:19
9. Shades of God 3:54
10. Hands of Reason 3:58
11. I See Your Face 3:17
12. Jaded 3:26

Japanese Edition bonus tracks
13. Walk Away (The Sisters of Mercy cover) 3:24
14. Laid to Waste 3:16
15. Master of Misrule 3:07

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm and acoustic guitars
Steve Edmonson – bass guitar
Lee Morris – drums

Album Review – Paradise Lost / The Plague Within (2015)

They’re the most amazing plague within the world of Doom and Gothic Metal, and they’re back with more of their unique dark music.

Rating4

paradise lost-the plague withinWhen the band in question are British Gothic/Doom Metal icons Paradise Lost, we all must forget about that disposable Goth teen attitude that infests thousands of websites, TV programs, YouTube channels and alternative nightclubs. These guys don’t need all those shenanigans to craft the darkest and most melancholic sounding you can think of, and they’ve been doing that with their faces “clean” for decades, releasing masterpieces such as Draconian Times and Icon. This is Doom Metal for grown-ups, and a true pleasure to listen to anytime of the day.

Now once again Mr. Nick Holmes and his crew offer us all their doomed excellence in The Plague Within, the 14th studio album in their stupendous career. Everything in the album was meticulously put together, from the album art to its obscure lyrics, without losing that raw feeling that made them famous worldwide two decades ago. If you think their previous album, Tragic Idol (2012), was a strong release, you’ll probably enjoy this new one as well, as it keeps up with the same level of complexity and deepness, but of course always providing the listener some fresh and exquisite elements to differentiate it from their other albums.

No Hope in Sight is a great tune to open the album, where its first few seconds take us back to the 90’s when Paradise Lost were rising to stardom. I believe everyone, including myself, loves how Nick can deliver some growls and his deep dark clean vocals at the same time, and of course those superb heavy riffs accompanied by the slow beats which are exactly what diehard fans of the band wanted to hear. Speeding up things a bit we have the excellent Terminal, with highlights to its truly obscure lyrics (“I can hope as silence and torture grows / The violence we now condemn infests our inner souls”) and to the amazing guitar duo by Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, enhancing the musicality to Blackened Doom (with even the vocals by Nick getting darker than usual). In An Eternity of Lies, an orchestral intro turns into a beautiful display of melancholy and hate, and as much as I enjoy guttural vocals, in my opinion Nick’s clean voice sounds simply perfect in this song.

paradise lostThe lyrics from the following song, Punishment Through Time, are perfect for the sounding provided by the band (“Neglect afraid to say / Repentance awaits / Rejected jaded decayed / A vengeance awaits”), and it’s practically impossible not to get thrilled by this tune. I see it as a modern version of the music in Draconian Times, boosted by the awesome riffs and solos by Greg and Aaron. And if you love when Paradise Lost let their doomed side take control of the music you’ll go crazy with Beneath Broken Earth, where Nick’s vocals are so demonic you might even feel disturbed with them, with highlights to the low-tuned bass lines by Steve Edmondson and the constant and dark beats by Adrian Erlandsson. Furthermore, the lugubrious shadow doesn’t give any sign of going away with Sacrifice the Flame, another beautiful composition of sorrow and pain led by the powerful voice by Nick. Long story short, it’s slow and soulful, and that’s all we need from Paradise Lost to have a good time.

When Victim of the Past starts just as somber as the previous tunes, you will notice how dark the second half of the album is, with the atmosphere created by the keyboard notes being amazingly gruesome while the rest of band delivers some solid obscure lines. However, Paradise Lost get a lot faster and heavier in Flesh from Bone, an old school Doom Metal tune with imposing lyrics (“See the righteous fall at the rise of the damned, denied / See others crawl in the hour demand and fight”), and when a band has a superb musician like Adrian on drums they can range from the slowest Doom Metal to the most bestial Black Metal flawlessly. Letting their Stoner Rock/Metal vein arise, Cry Out is an awesome pub-fighting song which will make you headbang and raise your beer to the band for sure, with the addition of an 80’s Gothic touch to make the whole experience even better. And lastly, the masters of the genre deliver the most traditional Doom Metal in Return to the Sun, where its symphonic/choir intro is a work-of-art and every element contained in the entire song is thoroughly connected. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer the harsh vocals by Nick or the funereal drums by Adrian, if you don’t fall in love for this song forget about Doom Metal, because that’s definitely not your cup of tea.

The deluxe edition of this beautiful album comes with three interesting bonus tracks: Fear of Silence, Never Look Away and Victim of the Past (which is a live recording of an orchestral version of the original song, by the way), and you can also enjoy or even study all its lyrics HERE. As long as Paradise Lost keep releasing strong albums like this one, maintaining the fires of darkness alive, they will always be the awe-inspiring plague within the world of Doom and Gothic Metal.

Best moments of the album: Terminal, Punishment Through Time, Sacrifice the Flame and Return to the Sun.

Worst moments of the album: Victim of the Past.

Released in 2015 Century Media

Track listing
1. No Hope in Sight 4:54
2. Terminal 4:28
3. An Eternity of Lies 5:58
4. Punishment Through Time 5:13
5. Beneath Broken Earth 6:09
6. Sacrifice the Flame 4:42
7. Victim of the Past 4:29
8. Flesh from Bone 4:19
9. Cry Out 4:31
10. Return to the Sun 5:44

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
11. Fear of Silence 3:59
12. Never Look Away 5:17
13. Victim of the Past (Orchestral Version) 5:13

Band members
Nick Holmes – vocals
Greg Mackintosh – lead guitar
Aaron Aedy – rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson – bass guitar
Adrian Erlandsson – drums