Paradise Lost – Obsidian


Paradise Lost have nothing to prove after more than thirty years in the game. Few metal acts can claim such a distinct sound and influential legacy like these Yorkshiremen. And how many bands can boast four out of five musicians as original members after thirty years? 

The good news is Obsidian will please all fans across the Paradise Lost spectrum, including the extreme metal fanbase and the followers who enjoyed their Depeche Mode and industrial era at the turn of the century. So, the main question is how do they manage to produce such superb music in their third decade of existence?

Like all Paradise Lost records, this one starts all guns blazing with three of the finest songs you’ll hear all year. ‘Darker Thoughts’ demonstrates the smooth delicacy of Nick Holmes’ voice and the band’s ability to merge heavy guitars with a pensive face; ‘Fall From Grace’ is the signature illuminating doom sound of The Plague Within; and ‘Ghosts’ gives a nod to Sisters of Mercy’s Temple of Love, but wraps the melodies in the trademark darkness of Gregor Mackintosh’s creative mind. 

As illustrated in our SBR Guide to Paradise Lost, the band sometimes struggled to maintain the momentum of their vision on previous albums, but not here. ‘Serenity’ boasts the most illustrious guitar melody of 2020, with Gregor’s leads invoking the heroic gallop of a medieval jousting contest.  You want something heavy? Try ‘Hope Dies Young’ or the magnificent closer, ‘Defiled’. This last song is a bonus track yet is as good as anything from their last two decades. Imagine Candlemass hosting Celtic Frost with The Mission’s Wayne Hussey providing the lead melodies. Simply stunning in its execution.

Obsidian would be a clear 9 out of 10 if not for the slight fall in standards on tracks nine and ten, but these are still worthy songs. The only weaknesses on ‘Ravenghast’ and ‘Hear the Night’ are their promises to deliver and failure to follow through. The genesis of the ideas behind these compositions are possible to glimpse, which makes it all the more frustrating. And we’re not exonerating ‘Hear the Night’ just because it’s another bonus track.

Special mention should go to the distinguished partnership of Holmes and Mackintosh as chief songwriters. Any guitarist knows the hardest part of a song is double-tracking instruments in the studio, yet Gregor makes it look so easy despite the incredible amount of thought and precision that goes into his distinctive gothic/ post-punk style. As for Holmes, we already know his range is breath-taking, but is there a better singer in metal who can achieve such solemn elocution in his harsh vocals and such sorrow in his clean baritones?

Once again, the boys from Halifax pull off a triumphant compromise between the extreme and the maudlin, and appeal to the death metal crowd and the goths in one masterstroke. Buy this album!

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/05/2020

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Darker Thoughts, Serenity, Defiler

Suggested Further Listening: Paradise lost are peerless. So, check out these three albums from their illustrious back catalogue: 1. Draconian Times (1995). 2. In Requiem (2007). 3. The Plague Within (2015).