While, yes, I said that with more than a pinch of sarcasm, today’s album is one I’ve genuinely been looking forward to all year, regardless of the events that have unfolded outside my front door, and that album is “Obsidian” by PARADISE LOST. The Halifax based godfathers of Gothic doom metal have had an illustrious and influential career that in my opinion, hasn’t been fairly applauded. From their 1990 debut, they helped lay the very foundations for the Gothic metal genre and have an incredible discography that easily cements their status. Don’t just take my word for it however, as the 30-year veterans seem to be aging like a fine wine, having released a series of stunning albums in succession from “Faith Divides Us…” all the way through to the most recent release “Medusa”…can they keep it up however? Let’s find out…
The album opens up with “Darker Thoughts” and it’s the perfect intro in all fairness…the gently plucked acoustic guitars allowing for a misleading direction in tone, with its softer vocals and emotive string elements; it borders on medieval folk, before it erupts with a barrage of visceral snarls and it balances out perfectly. The contrast here is ideal and while not necessarily brutal, the initial disparity in these tones within one track shows great character, and it’s a beautiful opener. “Fall From Grace” follows up and as the lead single from the album it ticks all the expected boxes; it’s got the guttural growls, the methodical chugging guitars and it’s textbook Paradise Lost; bridging the slower doom elements of recent releases with the darker, tortured sound of their early Peaceville years, highlighting the bands consistency.
What’s consistency though without quality right? Well the album has plenty of that, in particular the tracks “Ghosts” and “Forsaken”. The former, getting underway with a solid, yet simple, commanding drum beat over a groove-heavy bass riff. It builds on its layers wonderfully, gradually incorporating chilling guitar notes with Nick Holmes’ deep vocal drawl, before we burst into life with some slick, hook laden melodic metal; this is wonderful stuff. If you thought that was good however, the latter embraces a truly angelic, beautifully haunting opening; setting a rich tone that oozes Gothic splendour. Greg Mackintosh delivers the goods with an impassioned solo too, which coupled with the subtle backing piano, makes for top drawer Paradise Lost.
The remainder of the album does however hit a certain plateau, but the standards are already set impressively high. “Serenity” is a no-nonsense barrage of deep growls and Gothic-laced metal, “Endless Days” then is a slower, more sombre offering with more emphasis on mood, before we eventually finish up on “Ravenghast”, another slow burner of a track, allowing the album to naturally come to a close with a warm down; letting the listener catch their breath and unwind. Obsidian really is a perfect fit in regards to the album’s title…the mineral, a naturally forming dark, volcanic crystal, balancing the destructive force of the lava it’s formed out of, with its own fragile beauty, sums up this record perfectly. Scorching and intense where warranted, harmonious an elegant where it matters…Paradise Lost have delivered yet again.