Thursday 14 May 2015

Paradise Lost - 'The Plague Within' (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 01/06/2015
Label: Century Media Records

‘The Plague Within’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. No Hope In Sight (4:54)
2. Terminal (4:28)
3. An Eternity Of Lies (5:58)
4. Punishment Through Time (5:13)
5. Beneath Broken Earth (6:09)
6. Sacrifice The Flame (4:42)
7. Victim Of The Past (4:29)
8. Flesh From Bone (4:19)
9. Cry Out (4:31)
10. Return To The Sun (5:44)

Paradise Lost is

Nick Holmes | vocals
Greg Mackintosh | lead guitar
Aaron Aedy | rhythm guitar
Steve Edmondson | bass guitar
Adrian Erlandsson | drums


I was very much looking forward to this record coming through for review. Paradise Lost is a classic band. They are also an underappreciated band. I reviewed their rarities collection”Tragic Illusion” a couple of years back and noted similarly then. Well, this album follows the last studio album proper, “Tragic Idol”, which was (I repeat) a superb album. PL has gone from strength to strength in the last decade. They were one of those bands that were going to be massive (Therapy?) but never did it and instead just did what they wanted. Kudos to them, I say, even if I still find “Host” to be very odd indeed. There is of course the matter of “Draconian Times” as well; a real influence on me growing up and to this day up there as one of my favourite records.

I suppose I could sum up by saying that Paradise Lost has always been there- but I haven't. They just lost me in the late 90's. These days, I rate them very highly indeed. Does this album deliver?! Yes. Absolutely it does. With Nick Holmes moonlighting in Bloodbath, the word was that death vocals would once again feature in the recorded output of his day job. They do; but there is much more to this album than just revisionism. The band has always ploughed a singular furrow and it continues to do so here. The opener “No Hope In Sight” is bleak and weighty. The production is fantastic- majestic and sweeping but with a real punch too. It is a little more expansive than the sound on “Tragic Idol” (as a point of reference). There are guitar melodies aplenty... and riffs. What riffs! The vibe took me right back to “Draconian Times” and it pleased me hugely when I stuck this on for the first time yesterday.

“Terminal” is massive- big riffs, big drums and big vocals from Holmes- in a very old school style. From there you get classical instruments on “An Eternity of Lies”, harmony guitars and a looping groove on “Punishment Through Time” (fantastic track) and the album really comes into focus. It is a distillation of all that has been good about Paradise Lost all these years- the heaviness, the bleakness, the experimentation. All of it is here in a very metal package. No synth-pop here. You won't mistake it for Depeche Mode, that's for sure.

When the band do doom, such as on “Beneath Broken Earth”, they do it very well. Over six minutes of downcast morbidity. It will remind you of why Paradise Lost were revered in the early years, and why they should be now. Heavy, heavy stuff. “Sacrifice The flame” brings strings with it and a lilting melody, showing how versatile the band can be. A note here: if the ingredients sound disparate, don't be fooled. The album hangs together very well indeed and each track compliments the next. It sounds like an album- as “Tragic Idol” did. The band also play to their strengths in putting out ten tracks- it makes the release focussed and holds the attention. Most albums really don't need to be any longer than that- most really need to be shorter. Even though I love “Draconian Times”, I always thought it could have lost a track or two.

“Victims of The Past” continues the high standards with an excellent (clean) vocal and slow build to a very dramatic song. “Flesh From Bone” Ups the tempo and is heavy with it- super bleak stuff for sure- and makes use of tempo changes. It is arguable that this is the heaviest track that the band have put out for well over twenty years.

“Cry Out” throws a grooving curve ball into the mix with a great head nodding pace and excellent Priest-esque musical arrangement- basic chords for the verses, riffs to fill the gaps. The lead work of Mackintosh is stellar as it always is (check out his side project Vallenfyre if you haven't already) while Aedy holds that rhythm down. Again, on first listen, this track leapt out of the speakers at me. Fantastic.

The excellent “Return to the Sun” closes the record  in style. Once again, the riffs are gargantuan as is the lead work. Paradise Lost, at their best, kind of sound like a cross between Type O Negative and Bolt Thrower and that is how they sound on this one.

For me, this record is a contender for the album of the year list for sure. It is certainly one of Paradise Lost's best records, which is saying something considering the length and breadth of their discography. It is oh-so-satisfying when you look forward to an album and it exceeds your expectations. I had “Tragic Idol” on several times in preparation for this album to see if there was a connection or a noticeable foundation on which “The Plague Within” was to be built.

As usual, I cannot categorize them- there are elements of doom, death, goth, even classical- and once again I have been reminded that they are one of the best bands that the British Isles has to offer. You will miss them when they are gone, so get on board with their career now. Whether you be a prodigal son or a new convert, you won't be disappointed as this album is superb.

Words by: Richard Maw

‘The Plague Within’ is available for pre order now and will out everywhere June 1st 2015

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