Written by: The Voiceless Apparition
32 years?! It's crazy to say that Paradise Lost have been a band for 32 years. The masters of doom and melancholy have been going steady ever since then with no break-ups or hiatuses in between. After a brief wait, Paradise Lost return with their 16th opus Obsidian, the follow-up to the masterful Medusa. Said album was a slight return to their original death/doom roots although within a modern context...but enough about the past.
Obsidian is split into three different and distinct styles. You have the more death/doom-leaning tracks, the more gothic rock/metal-based tracks, and a subtler bridging between the two styles. It feels like a natural progression from the last album, with many of the trademarks we all love and adore about Paradise Lost, but with many twists and turns along the way. Welcome to the world of Obsidian.
The album begins on the perfect note with "Darker Thoughts." You're lulled into a sense of tranquility with the gorgeous acoustic guitars, violins, and the soft, serene voice of Nick Holmes, before a switch to down-trodden and crushing doom metal riffs, and, of course, Mr. Holmes' decrepit growl. I love the grandness of this tune, the atmosphere is quite epic in scale. I also have to point out that strangely, this song gave me a small chuckle too. During the beginning, Nick Holmes utters the lines: "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." While not necessarily a funny line, I can't help but chuckle because this definitely shows the more darkly humorous side of the band, coupled with the fact that Mr. Holmes delivers it in a crooning voice, accompanied by the acoustic guitars and violin. "Fall From Grace" continues the doom and gloom, but with more emphasis on melody and that ever-so depressing atmosphere. The guitar melody blanketed overtop everything is gorgeous. It's weeping and painful, but so damn catchy. Notably, drummer Waltteri Vayrynen steals the show on this track. His performance on this song and album are fantastic. He grooves when he needs to, and adds more technicality and flair when it is called for. The groove in this song, particularly in the verses, is such a headbanger.
"Ghosts" and "The Devil Embraced" continue the grand trajectory and take it into more melodic and goth directions. "Ghosts" is a straight-up gothic rocker done in the Paradise Lost style of yore. Bands like Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim come to mind while I ponder this tune. The clean guitar melody is sooo fucking catchy. Downright infectious. If you don't sing along to this chorus, you're missing out. And, as if it wasn't good enough thusfar, followup "Forsaken" is a highlight on the album. Nick Holmes deserves extra mention on this song because he's fantastic on it. The way he delivers his lines is so passionate and memorable. The riffs on this are fantastic, switching between crushing heaviness and beautiful melodies.
"Serenity" marks a return to the death/doom style, but done in a different way. Far more groovy than most of their doom songs, but still keeping it noticeably "them." It's kind of...bouncy, in a strange way. I absolutely adore "Ending Days." The clean guitars are gorgeous, but the star of this song is definitely Walterri's drum work. It was absolutely genius of him to do that military-style snare roll instead of just sitting there and doing nothing. And, last but not least, the album ends on a great note with "Ravenghast." A sinister, utterly dark, and atmospheric death/doom song that will crush your face in. The piano line in the beginning is haunting, lending well to the vibe of the song. The riffs in this song are vile. They are dripping with sludge and an ominous malice to it. You can feel the fright within every aspect of this tune. A fantastic way to close out another Paradise Lost opus.
The production on this album is fantastic, and corrects the mistakes that I felt the last album had. That includes the drums. Everything is crisp and clear. You can hear every note the band plays. The guitar tones of Gregor Mackintoch and Aaron Aedy crush--so refined and clean, but with beef. Even bassist Steven Edmondson is heard clearly throughout the mix. It has the sound of a high budget production team, but keeps the purity and human feel of a band. Double thumbs up on the mix. Thank you, Jaimie Gomez Arellano.
It's crazy that 16 albums deep, 32 years together, and 30 years since their debut album, Paradise Lost feel as inspired and vital as ever. While to some people this may not live up to the accolades of their first five albums, I feel Paradise Lost are at the top of their game. They don't sound their age, they play with such passion, and they STILL know how to write a catchy barn-burner of a tune/album. Does Obsidian succeed in surpassing their early albums? For some, it will be a no. But do they succeed in writing highly original, unique, and grand music STILL to this day, all the while surpassing the last 2 albums? YES!
Obsidian whets my appetite for more new music from Paradise Lost in the future. I truly can't wait to see where the British metal gods go next. I have a feeling it's going to be great. For fans old and new alike, you will love this album. And for anyone just getting into these styles of death/doom and gothic metal, you will love it too. Highly recommended!
Paradise Lost - Obsidian was released May 15th from Nuclear Blast Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!