Whether a fan or not, there is no escaping or denying the impact Paradise Lost have had on the doom/gothic and indeed metal scene in general since emerging back in the late eighties. They have also shown and revelled in the seduction of melancholy and beauty of pain through propositions which emotionally and sonically have ravaged senses and devoured the rawest corners of themselves and listeners alike. The UK band has been one of the most pungent forces in dark metal across their thirteen studio albums and as an explosive live incitement; an unrelenting inspiration continuing to ignite ears and spark imaginations with no sign of diminishing as evidenced by new album The Plague Within. Where the album sits in the landscape of the band’s inventive history we will leave for others to discuss, but fair to say that Paradise Lost have unleashed one of their and metal’s most emotionally and physically dark, musically voracious and compelling recent proposals with their fourteenth protagonist.
The album is an evolving predator and seductress from start to finish with songs that provide the fiercest intimidation and warmest enticement within their own investigations of sound and human condition inspired turmoil. It is also startlingly diverse and unpredictable, not to say previous albums lacked such qualities but virtually every twist and narrative within The Plague Within throws a curve ball to certainly expectations and assumptions of the Paradise Lost sound.
It starts straight away with opener No Hope In Sight, its cloud of shadows enriched by immediately spicy guitar enterprise from lead guitarist Greg Mackintosh. Vocal scowls from Nick Holmes infuse the air soon after as the song eventually settles into its melancholic and predatory stroll, the thick rhythms of drummer Adrian Erlandsson and throaty lures cast by bassist Steve Edmondson aligning with the steady tempting of rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy and Mackintosh. A Type O Negative croon emerges as the always impressive clean delivery of Holmes entices over the jagged riffery nagging ears, though subsequently the early tempestuous air returns to immerse the enthralling nature and persuasion of warmer hues.
The riveting start leads to the far more caustic and ravenous presence of Terminal. There is a militant feel to the rhythms right away, their heavy swipes belligerent against the rasping vocals and sonically acrid air around them, whilst the guitars have a corrosive edge to their riffs and melodic entwining of ears. It is a solid and tightly gripping encounter, a blackened examination of emotions but does miss the spark of the first track and the following An Eternity Of Lies. The third song opens with keys and an instantly captivating orchestral caress, with a guitar quickly joining the tempting with its own melodic hues. Keys continue to brew and expel a gothic hug on the imagination as the song blossoms, an aural portrait invigorated by the drama of guitars and the diverse delivery of Holmes. It is a bewitching encounter, a melodic fascination infusing a heavier rapacious tempting across its rich and volatile dark dance, and quite irresistible.
Already the potent diversity of songs and album is apparent and highly persuasive, continuing in the contagion that is Punishment Through Time. The song is a thick and ferocious rocker of a track, but controlled in its assault and dirty in its rock ‘n’ roll. Fair to say it was a track not expected, the song almost welcoming even with its lyrical despair and predacious character, and almost arguing with the earlier claim that The Plague Within is one the band’s most intensive and darkly suffocating offerings yet. There is a black heart to it though that is emulated and shown in its fullest rancor in Beneath Broken Earth. The track prowls with emotionally leaden jaws and an oppressive animus of tone and intent led by the bitter guttural growls of Holmes. A tsunami of slow hate and erosive doom ferocity, the song almost draws a death rattle from the senses with its weight and enmity.
Both Sacrifice The Flame and Victim Of The Past enthral with individual uniqueness, the first a hymn of melodic and vocal beauty within a funereally paced and cancerous stalking of the senses whilst its successor with a similarly sedated energy, certainly initially, blossoms from a mellow seducing of vocal and melodic charm into a creative and emotional turbulence. With a storm bred atmosphere, the song ebbs and flows between the two climates as it reveals and explores its morose yet enticing landscape; again Paradise Lost crafting a sublime collusion of extreme and contrasting textures in one inescapable seducing.
The epic like heralding of Flesh From Bone at its start is one irresistible essence backed up swiftly by a saunter through blackened and cavernous symphonic terrain before exploding in a venomous spewing of rabid rhythms, scarring riffs, and voracity soaked vocal animosity. Fearsomely enchanting in its full hostility, the song makes way for another imposing slab of rock ‘n’ roll posing as Cry Out where blues rock grooves and acidic ingenuity infiltrates inventive bad blood. It is another, as so many encounters within The Plague Within, which has a host of turns and detours of sound that there are almost songs within songs. The blackest, ravenous anthem is soon a passing memory in that precise moment in time though as the colossal Return To The Sun brings the album to a mighty and climatic close. As brutal as it is melodically immersive, the track is an intensive exclamation mark to The Plague Within, a final creative swipe to emphasise what is one masterful and threateningly majestic proposal.
Fourteen albums in and into their third decade, we can safely say that Paradise Lost still provides one of the benchmarks for aspiring metal bands to contemplate, the proof is all there in The Plague Within.
The Plague Within is available now via https://www.bandstores.co.uk/shop/paradiselost/