Three years on from the monolithic slab of filth-encrusted doom that was Medusa and Paradise Lost have returned with album number 16! Having released some of their heaviest work over the last few years, the news that Obsidian was set to contain some of their most ‘eclectic’ music was cause for certain sections of their fanbase to involuntarily void their bowels, with the fear of a return to the sounds of the much maligned Host ringing in their ears. Well, let us assure you that your underwear will remain resolutely unsoiled as Paradise Lost have, fortunately, not gone all electro-rock on our collective asses!
However, they’re not as down and dirty as on recent releases either. Gone are the earthy, sludgy sounds found on The Plague Within and Medusa and, in their place, is a crisp, clear album, with everything sounding suitably huge. They’re still resolutely death doom but that gothic grandeur – an attribute that has always marked PL out as champions – has returned. And with it, Paradise Lost are back to operating at the absolute peak of their collective powers.
“Darker Thoughts” may start gently – with the addition of a string section and a plaintive vocal from the ever-impressive Nick Holmes – but it’s not long until the growled vocals and earth-shaking riffs kick in and the album is up and running in fine style. Pre-release single Fall From Grace already feels like an old friend so it’s left to the gothic melodrama of “Ghosts” to offer Obsidian‘s first jaw-gaping moment. A full-on post/punk (almost The Cure-esque at times) meets goth rock extravaganza, this is probably the track that will upset a few people. However, rest assured, it’s an outstanding song; one custom built for the stage and brings to mind One Second‘s “Say Just Words” (if comparison is required).
At just nine songs long, this album is refreshingly succinct and bereft of flab, with Paradise Lost honing in on every aspect of their sound that has made them so formidable over the years. “Forsaken” has the mid-paced chug of classic Paradise Lost (think Draconian Times) along with one of those wah-infused spiralling solos that Gregor Mackintosh does so well while “Ravenghast” finishes the album on a considerable high, and could easily have been found on Medusa. With crunching, slow-motion riffs and death growls combining effortlessly – again backed up with subtle use of a string section – the joy of hearing Nick Holmes growl the refrain of “Your infernal kingdom wept” is as doom as doom can be.
Anyone who was remotely concerned about where Paradise Lost were going with this album can rest easy, there are nods to the past (their entire career in fact) but Obsidian amalgamates all of Paradise Lost’s many facets into a satisfying, coherent whole…..and we can offer no greater compliment than that!
Paradise Lost’s second wind seems to show no signs of abating. Masters of their craft. 9/10
Obsidian is scheduled for release on May 15th, 2020 via Nuclear Blast.