(2020) Paradise Lost: Obsidian

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Artist: Paradise Lost
Album: Obsidian
Release: 15.05.2020
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

 

Classic Gothic metal legends Paradise Lost are back on the scene once again, celebrating their sixteenth studio album in their impressive 30-year career! I’ve been a fan of the band for a long time, but have been a little out of the loop in recent times. Just over three years ago, the band released their last album, Medusa, Let’s see how this new release shapes up to nostalgia!

1. Darker Thoughts
The opening track showcases Holmes’ clean vocals beautifully and begins with a light picked guitar and some quiet strings in the background which swell into a melody that weaves itself into the gaps between the words. After a couple of minutes, the song kicks in in earnest, bringing in a more the more familiar heavy sound. The track has a good sense of dynamics, picking out a story in quieter parts and heavier parts in good measure.

2. Fall from Grace
“Fall from Grace” is the first track they released from the album as a single. It has an accompanying video beginning with a man waking up with a head wound in front of a block of flats, the assumption is that he has just thrown himself off the roof (as he has rather nasty head wound). This song brings us to even heavier territory. Dare I mention their legendary track “Gothic” (from 1991’s Gothic)? Certainly, there are parts of this track that remind me of it. The guitar solo is certainly reminiscent.

3. Ghosts
In the accompanying press release that came with the album, there was mention of a musical connection to the 1980s Goth scene. I have been a fan of Paradise Lost since I first heard “One Second” in the late 1990s, however, I hadn’t been a follower of the Goth scene outside of a few classics by the Sisters of Mercy. Now, despite being new information for me, this makes total sense and this track screams of it. After the heavy distorted bass intro comes a picked guitar tone that would not be out of place on a track of that vintage. I could even imagine Holmes singing on any of those tracks, especially as he sings “for Jesus Christ…” The track is a big stomper and one that I think will be popular at shows.

4. The Devil Embraced
Here we have another track with a good mix of dynamics, starting off with clean picked guitar synchronised with a staccato piano. This builds slowly, bringing back in the trademark melody and heavy chugs. This track takes me back to the days when I first discovered Paradise Lost.

5. Forsaken
“Forsaken” begins with short-lived 80s Goth -style choir, which reminded me of the solo vocals at the beginning of “The Enemy” (from 2007’s In Requiem). We’re soon into the signature distorted bass which leads the song into the main parts. The chorus of “we’re all forsaken” is another part that will sound epic when sung by a room full of fans at a show.

6. Serenity
The breakdown at 1:38 is the first break in this stomp-fest of a song, but at 2:44 there is a real change of pace in the interlude proper. I feel the guitar solo is comparable to something by At the Gates – intricate but not overly flashy. Holmes only does growls in this song, but this works well and is especially well counterpointed by the choir-like synth in the interlude.

7. Ending Days
“Ending Days” has more of that 80s twang that is so obvious now that it has been pointed out to me. There’s also a somewhat Celtic vibe that was also present in the opening track. This is most obvious in the string arrangements but is also present in both the cleaner tones and the guitar melodies.

8. Hope Dies Young
Here we get more of the 80s Goth trip in the pre-chorus. In contrast to the previous track, we’re getting only clean vocals on this one. This adds to the sense of dynamics of the album, breaking up the purely heavy material with material that is more heavy in content than timbre.

9. Ravenghast
The album closer is by and far the most “doom” -sounding of all the tracks, especially in the beginning. There is also a lot of the sound of their old tune, “Gothic,” buried in here too and keeps a slow and sludgy pace.

Thanks to a good friend of mine, I once saw Paradise Lost at the legendary Koko Club in Camden, London. Having sat in the VIP bar pre-gig, I made my way to the front row and these guys did not disappoint and even managed to kill off a headache that had been gnawing at me earlier. Outside the venue we were fortunate to meet Holmes. He commented that Gothic singing had become difficult, especially with the amount of clean singing he had started doing, hence playing this at the end of the gig. On this album, he certainly doesn’t shy away from the growls and puts a in good mix of them in with the clean parts.

 

When Medusa was released, 3 years ago, my journalistic predecessor was not bowled over by it, giving it just 5/10. I can see where he was coming from, though I did enjoy that one more than he did. As much as I enjoyed listening to Medusa, I do think Obsidian has caught hold of me much more strongly.

The album art is a really interesting piece that draws you in as you look at it, to try to find all the details. Stylistically it is reminiscent of a print on a page of an old book. Various parts of it are put to good use in the lyric video for “Ghosts,” where you can get a good look at it in all its high-res glory.

While I don’t think this album will be on the top of my playlist indefinitely, I feel that they have created a solid collection of songs that they can be proud of. Sound wise, this is absolutely a Paradise Lost album and that is assuredly a good thing. I have enjoyed listening to it very much and it will definitely be one that I will be very happy to return to from time to time. Stand-out tracks for me are “Darker Thoughts,” “Fall from Grace,” “Ghosts,” and “Ravenghast.”

In fact, I’m off for another listen now.

Rating: 9/10, 4.5 stars

Tracklist:
1. Darker Thoughts
2. Fall from Grace
3. Ghosts
4. The Devil Embraced
5. Forsaken
6. Serenity
7. Ending Days
8. Hope Dies Young
9. Ravenghast

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