September 24, 2015 Paradise Lost – The Plague Within (Album Review)
England’s Paradise Lost has been a fixture in the Rock/Metal world for nearly three decades. Beginning as a Doomish Death Metal band while only teenagers, the band quickly released their self-titled debut in 1990, followed by Gothic in 1991. Looking to distinguish themselves among others on the scene, the band showed progress by the time 1992’s Shades of God came around, which featured standout tracks like “As I Die.” Simply looking to create music and not looking to start a revolution, the band became the founding fathers of the Gothic Metal genre.
While other bands in the genre bear distant resemblance to Paradise Lost, many look to their early works such as 1995’s Draconian Times as their bible for what a perfect Gothic Metal album should be. Throwing audiences for many twists and turns along the way, 1997’s One Second showed the more Electronic side of the band prior to the full-blown experimental Host in 1999. While to their own admission, 2001’s Believe in Nothing lacked the production they hoped for, Paradise Lost bounced back quickly with the well-received Symbol of Life in 2002.
Marrying all their experiments along their musical journey, each of the albums to follow would only add to the legacy Paradise Lost has created. Amidst the milestones, awards, and accolades, Paradise Lost do not rest on their laurels and went back to the drawing board and began recording their fourteenth album in Summer of 2014, to be titled The Plague Within. Releasing the anticipated new effort in 2015, on June 1st in Europe and 2nd in North America, via Century Media Records, Paradise Lost keep true to form, which is lack that thereof, and that is a compliment. Enlisting Colombian Jaime Gomez Arellano for the production, the veteran guard of Nick Holmes (vocals), Greg Mackintosh (lead guitar), Aaron Aedy (rhythm guitar), Steve Edmondson (bass guitar), and prolific Adrian Erlandsson (drums) are ready to wow followers once again.
Opening with a doomish guitar melody on “No Hope In Sight,” Paradise Lost immediately open eyes when Holmes begins with a more Death Metal tone to his voice. Quickly turning to his cleaner style, Holmes is matched by a beautiful mix of guitar riffs and an atmosphere only Paradise Lost can create. Taking the audience back in time, “Terminal” reflects some of the band’s early work while Erlandsson provides a perfect double bass beat and Holmes shows off more of his Death growls. Quite an intense piece, the melodic heavy nature only leaves the listener pondering, “Where does the band go from here with eight tracks left?” That question is answered with a beautiful assortment of strings and piano which opens “An Eternity of Lies.” Layering in the guitars and drums, the song kicks in with a heavy riff, followed by an ear-tingling melody, and finally, Holmes comes in with crystal clear vocalization. Complemented by wonderful backing vocals of Heather Thompson from Tapping The Vein, Holmes sprinkles in bellows that are fitting and right for the song, which is filled with a plethora of changes.
Bringing on more doom-like riffs, “Punishment Through Time” quickly bursts into more Thrash styled riffs after a minute, providing a groove that will have fans headbanging along. Continuing along with intense guitar work, the song will leave a sensation of tension in the listener’s chest at times. That breathtaking tension remains with “Beneath Broken Earth,” which is a straight-up Doom Metal track at its finest. With distant resonant throaty Death vocals of Holmes, the song paints a mental picture of a dark and desolate world. Flowing right into “Sacrifice The Flame,” strings shimmer through the air before Edmondson’s bass adds depth. Here, Holmes showcases past and present vocal styles in one package, first with his clean haunting delivery before releasing the beast with more growls. Giving plenty of space between the music and vocal lines, the spares approach works wonderfully, giving the listener time to soak in the beautifully composed piece of art.
Continuing the very bleak theme of The Plague Within, “Victim Of The Past” features tucked under symphonic elements for added atmosphere as Mackintosh’s guitar leads highlight the track. Amidst the heaviness blanketing the song, Holmes voice offers a glimmer of light within the darkness just at the right times. Continuing on with one of the most haunting instrumental openings of the record, “Flesh From Bone” quickly turns raw with more growls and speedy drumming. Holding it all together, eerie church-like choruses fill the space in the backdrop, officially transporting the listener into a dark underworld.
With a more straight-ahead approach, “Cry Out” is opened with a guitar riff that remains the backbone through a sea of wonderful melodic changes throughout the song. With a chant along chorus line of “Cry out!,” the cut is more like Paradise Lost’s take on a Classic Rock song, and it is a perfect yin to the rest of The Plague Within’s yang. This is followed by the closing to the band’s latest saga with more ambient, yet terrifying choruses in the distance, for “Return To The Sun.” Setting up for an epic track, the guitars come in with Holmes vocals following with more striking lyrics. Giving the audience a soundscape that creates a visual imagery of struggle, and perhaps self-reflection, it is a fitting way to end the record that ties together seamlessly.
As always, Paradise Lost do not stick to a formula and put together a collection of songs that is vastly different than 2012’s Tragic Idol. With that said, The Plague Within is an album which is dark, very dark, and for Paradise Lost, there is beauty in the darkness. The songs individually stand alone with strong composition and overall structure, but must be listened to as a cohesive piece to truly grasp the vision behind this latest creation. Almost thirty years in, Paradise Lost are still managing to create songs that are riveting without pigeonholing themselves into what critics or the Metal world think they should be. CrypticRock gives The Plague Within 5 out of 5 stars.