After a series of more commercial airings, Paradise Lost returns to their gothic/doom roots with their 2015 LP release, The Plague.
Doom metal is one of those metal subgenres that should stand higher amongst the metal community. Black Sabbath basically coined its inception in Master of Reality: slowed, downtuned tempo, and lyrics exploring melancholic subjects, i.e. “Into the Void.” However, the genre remains a backdrop to the waves upon waves of hardcore/metalcore/posthardcore/whatever-core outfits. But, that’s okay. Over here at Reviews From the Other Side, that’s just the way we like it. At least the doom movement produced some of the heaviest sounds in existence, if not in sound, then attitude. Even HIM — or more specifically, Ville Valo — tries, every now and then, to mention their “doomy” sound. To which Electric Wizard comes out, and with three earth shattering notes, sends the Hot Topic fiends back to their holes. I guess it’s an understatement to say the entire doom genre is respected, but popular? Okay, that’s enough ramblings with the word doom. Well, maybe a couple more times.
Out of the doom movement came a trifecta of sad sacks, who aspired for melody atop the mother genre’s head lowering riffs: Paradise Lost, Anathema, and My Dying Bride. Coining “gothic metal,” Paradise Lost stands as one of the most inspirational doom metal outfits of the 90’s. The band always walked the lines of gothic metal in albums Icon and, you guessed it, Gothic. They solidified that desire with Draconian Times. As their songwriting matured, the band then explored more commercial territories, leaving behind the slow, plodding death/doom riffs and growling vocals of their namesake. Even vocalist, Nicholas Holmes, started to stagnate, his performances uninspired and directionless. He’s always been too Hetfield for my taste, so it’s not like I listened to Paradise Lost for their powerful, soaring vocals. 2015, however, saw a return to form. With The Plague Within, Paradise Lost crushed metaldom with lead single, “Beneath Broken Earth,” a straight, doom metal track serving as a memento to the despair of the 90’s death/doom movement. The single promised slow, heavy, dark. And, boy did they follow up.
The Plague Within is a record blessed with an ear for its fanbase. Straight from the get go, “No Hope In Sight” alludes to Draconian Times, with poison-laced guitar melodies and an overarching doom riff. Short, sweet, hopeless. That’s the Paradise Lost fans were screaming for. That’s the record they got, well, with a little — and by that, I mean a lot — of exploration and experimentation. Now, for a band as experienced as Paradise Lost, I originally expected more evolution, something fresh separating The Plague Within from its predecessors. Sure, there’s the return of Holme’s growls, even some double bass and plodding tracks throughout, but the album doesn’t progress musically. The band promised a return album years ago. Perhaps, the band discovered, four albums later, they were alienating their fanbase. Or, probably the easiest guess, perhaps the record label was tired of their shit. Either way, all I can say is: welcome home.
By the time “Eternity of Lies” hit its climactic, catchy midsection, I remembered why I listened to Paradise Lost in the first place. Paradise Lost embodies the romanticism of goth and buries it behind layers death. This binary of musical emotions, complete with powerful drums and the occasional piano melody, returns in The Plague Within, ultimately sounding more Paradise Lost than, say Believe In Nothing. You get every metal influence in this album, from the brutality of “Flesh From Bone,” to, as previously stated, pure, unadulterated doom in “Beneath Broken Bone.” “Eternity of Lies” is a future Paradise Lost classic, embodying the band’s trademark descent into beauty. For the first time, I actually enjoyed Nick Holmes’ studio performance. Throughout the album, the veteran vocalist tackles multiple styles, showing versatility not seen since pre-Icon. Yes, his growls have aged, but what can you expect from an aged growler.
Axemen Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy are the unsung heroes of Paradise Lost. “No Hope In Sight,” for instance, exploits the band’s mastering of the acid riff, a “less is more” approach. They play off each other seamlessly, and when they find that “sweet” progression, they attack until the music bursts with catharsis. Go back and listen to “Yearn For Change,” from Draconian Times — I apologize for the frequent mentions — and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. It’s only fitting that closer, “Return to the Sun,” pushes the album to its creative heights, highlighted by Holmes’ emotional clean/harsh vocal combo. Oh, and I guess the choir and symphony helps. All around, a complete, metal performance.
Overall, Paradise Lost’s The Plague Within succeeds in its nostalgic quality, a worthy return to form after a set of directionless releases. Although the album lacks musical progression, the band continues to remind listeners of their influence on the metal community. A solid production, through and through.
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