British Gothic metal pioneers, Paradise Lost, are no stranger to Finland, having played in Helsinki for the first time on the Shades of God tour back in 1992. Almost a year after performing at HIM’s Helldone Festival, the band returned to Helsinki on October 13th, 2015, to promote their latest opus, The Plague Within, at The Circus. Of additional interest was the fact that the group had the young Finnish drummer, Waltteri Väyrynen, filling in for Adrian Erlandsson, whose commitments with At the Gates prevented him from taking part in this tour.
The German/British stoner doom band Lucifer opened the show when the clock struck 8 p.m. This 70’s style metal with occult overtones has been a popular phenomenon in the past few years, ever since Ghost’s breakthrough. Lucifer is a decidedly old-school band as well – just look at their Rush-influenced logo or the title of the song “Sabbath.” However, frontwoman Johanna Sadonis’ uniquely ethereal voice and the riffing of veteran guitarist Gaz Jennings (Cathedral) save Lucifer from being just another retro band. Having listened to the songs on their setlist on Spotify only once before the show, I can’t say I was familiar with them, but “Purple Pyramid” stood out with its great guitar work and “Izrael” with its more melodic approach. Sadonis’ performance was captivating, and fill-in bassist Alasdair Mitchell even did a rock ’n’ roll jump off the drum riser at the end of one song. Lucifer’s music didn’t necessarily find its way to the hearts of the modest number of people that had gathered in front of the stage, but the band found at least one new fan in me.
After a long wait, Paradise Lost finally hit the stage to play “No Hope in Sight” from the new album, after which the band immediately dove into their early days with “Widow” and “Gothic.” At this point there were a lot of people in the venue, and several fists were raised in the air. Before the crushing “Terminal,” vocalist Nick Holmes said the band would play a lot of new stuff, and he kept true to his word, as The Plague Within was represented with seven songs in the setlist. For a band that has been around for over 25 years, this was a bold thing to do, but the audience reacted well to the fresh material, so the reintroduction of the death metal elements was evidently a move welcomed by the Finnish fans. Paradise Lost thoroughly enjoyed playing the new tunes as well: two of them were heard in the encore, and when Holmes asked the people if they wanted to hear another new song and the response was positive, he said: “Correct answer!” The diversity of The Plague Within was best demonstrated when the band played its fastest and slowest songs – “Flesh from Bone” and “Beneath Broken Earth,” respectively – back to back; the change of mood was radical, but it worked.
Unfortunately nearly all of the old material the band played were songs I’d already heard at my first Paradise Lost gig in Tampere 2 years ago. On top of that, Holmes’ clean vocals sounded rather weak, in contrast with his strong growls on “Gothic” and the new songs. The sound mix didn’t help either, as his voice was drowned out by the tape’s backing vocals on “Requiem” and “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us.” In the bridge of “Enchantment,” Holmes skipped the highest note altogether, and at the end of the song he forgot the lyrics. Seemingly angry at this, he changed the last line to “All I need is a fucking excuse.” Holmes has never been the most consistent live performer, but I remember him singing with more power and staying better in key at that other gig, especially on the classic “As I Die”. On the other hand, my judgment may have been clouded by my excitement seeing Paradise Lost for the first time back then, and to his credit he pulled off the dance-tinged anthem “Say Just Words” well.
The band’s playing was spot on, and substitute drummer Väyrynen did an admirable job filling Erlandsson’s role. For the most part he stayed true to the original songs, but he also added some jaw-dropping fills to “Gothic.” Playing on his native soil was clearly a big thing for him, which was visible in his energy. For better or worse, the old hands of the band were their usual selves – bassist Steve Edmondson was quietly doing his thing, rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy was bobbing his bald head, lead axeman Greg Mackintosh played his solos and melodies with precision while dreadbanging, and Nick Holmes gave glimpses of his dry British humor between the songs. For example, during the encore he tasted Lapin Kulta, and after making a so-so face declared it better than Swedish beer.
Paradise Lost proved itself to be a band that can proudly rely on their new material in a live environment, but I can’t help wondering why a group that has released 14 albums keeps sticking to such a narrow selection of songs from its back catalog. I found out that just two nights earlier in Gothenburg, the band had played “The Painless” for the first time in 23 years – these are the kind of surprises that would’ve made the gig in Helsinki more special and less routine. Hopefully next time Paradise Lost comes to Finland there’ll be some curveballs thrown in the set and Holmes will have a better day vocally.
4. Purple Pyramid
5. A Grave for Each One of Us
6. Morning Star
Paradise Lost setlist:
1. No Hope in Sight
6. Praise Lamented Shade
7. Victim of the Past
9. Flesh from Bone
10. Beneath Broken Earth
11. As I Die
13. Return to the Sun
14. Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us
15. An Eternity of Lies
16. Say Just Words
Text: Ville Karttunen | Ed: Amy Wiseman