Review: Paradise Lost – ‘Obsidian’

Paradise LostSpawned from the gloomy hills of West Yorkshire in 1988, the guardians of gothic doom metal, Paradise Lost, return with their 15th album. The fact that any band can enjoy such longevity is testament to their enduring work ethic. Traversing many styles under the aforementioned genre, the last two albums saw a heavier side to the band in the form of “Plague Within” (2015) and the highly acclaimed “Medusa” (2019).

Their recent renaissance has added a new tribe of fans to the existing loyal fanbase. Always a formidable live act, their strength lies in their friendship and camaraderie. Despite some changes in drumming personnel over the years, Nick Holmes (vocals), Gregor Mackintosh (lead guitar), Aaron Aedy (rhythm guitar) and Stephen Edmondson (bass) have steered themselves through the often choppy seas of the music industry and the changes it has seen in the digital age. With drummer Waltteri Vayrynen, who has been on sticks duty since 2015, the release of their latest monolith has been much anticipated.

Never has a band been more qualified to deliver an album that reflects the gloom we all currently face living under a pandemic, but with it comes the catharsis that so many music fans rely on to see them through.

Introducing proceedings, ‘Darker Thoughts’ acoustically leads into powerful riffs building into a crushing climax that ends the song where it begins, setting the album up handsomely. In ‘Fall From Grace’ stinging guitar pierces the doom-laden backdrop of thundering bass and rhythm. The repeated cry of, “We’re all alone“, never sounded so poignant.

One of the standout tracks on the album is ‘Ghosts’ where the influence of gothic stalwarts Sisters Of Mercy, and The Fields Of The Nephilim runs through the very sinews of the track, pulsating through an imaginary curtain of dry ice amid flashes of light and darkness. ‘The Devil Embraced’ stomps melodically into ‘Forsaken’, where a choral intro takes us into a rolling spiral of classic Paradise Lost storytelling declaring that ”We are all forsaken”.

‘Serenity’ is anything but serene. In the beginning, pounding along nicely into a brief tranquil interlude, before once again stomping into vicious guitar riffs. ‘Ending Days’ is a more mellow affair, with strings and some wonderfully discordant guitar play.

‘Obsidian’ is not a concept album per se, but there is a sense of connection between the songs, for they are laden with warnings of threatening mortality and malevolence; themes often explored throughout the band’s extensive back catalogue.

The standard album (bonus tracks are available on deluxe formats) concludes with ‘Ravenghast’, Sabbath-like in its delivery, rounding off what is a strong, confident collection of songs that showcase elements from the band’s previous works, without feeling tired or pedestrian. I’m confident ‘Obsidian’ will be nestled in the end of year ‘best album’ lists on the most prominent platforms.

The godfathers of doom metal once again deliver, and show us just why they hold that title!

In case you didn’t know, Obsidian is a naturally occurring black glass that forms from rapidly cooling lava, but on the strength of this release, Paradise Lost’s volcanic flow is far from cooling.

Available now on Nuclear Blast.

Review – Dave Blizzard Shaw

Band image – Anne C. Swallow

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