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Paradise Lost + Lucifer | Live Review, Belfast


There’s a phrase “tough room”. It might well have been invented for a Monday night metal gig in Belfast.

Firstly, turnout was surprisingly low for this – what should really have been a packed house.

Add to that the usual post-work knackeredness, the caution of older heads towards midweek booze, and it was all what you could call quite polite.

So Paradise Lost had a bit of a battle on their hands, which famously dour singer Nick Holmes didn’t even try to hide.

Lucifer

First however to Lucifer. It’s Gaz Jennings’ new project since the demise of Cathedral.

His doom credentials might be beyond dispute, but sadly Lucifer are 100% style over substance.

Blues doom with occult-hippy trappings and old style screen printed visuals is now a very over done thing, and nothing Lucifer do adds anything to the party.

Worst of all, I’m not sure that singer Johanna was singing real words. Their set sounded like a lot of ‘wooooaaaah’ and ‘ooooohs’ from her, and I couldn’t once make out a lyric.

And sorry, but no amount of billowing around in a kids halloween witch suit makes it any more convicing at all. They are just an incredibly dull band blessed with the right connections to get a bit of hype. Nothing more.

Paradise Lost

And so to Paradise Lost, returning to Belfast for only the third time in sixteen years.

It’s funny how the wheel of fortune spins.

In 1999 I stood in the same venue as tonight, watching an almost insufferably poor show by them on the ‘Host’ tour. It was worse because it was even minus Gregor Mackintosh who had injured his arm – their roadie filled in. I all but wanted my money back.

Fastforward a few years , and they than made up for it with their barnstorming performance at Mandela Hall.

Tonight, with a roundly applauded new album under their belt and the promise of old classics into the bargin, they should have brought the house down.

And indeed on balance it was great, albeit with a few niggles.

Gregor Where?

The biggest was the appalling sound: drum heavy, guitar light, vocals intermittent and with the fundamental Gregor Mackintosh lead – the very essence of Paradise Lost – absolutely nowhere to be found unless you were straight in front of his amp.

It was a problem suffered also in Dublin the night before.

I honestly had to screw my eyes closed and concentrate with every fibre to pick it out of the dreadul mix.

It helps when you know them all, that’s all I’ll say.

Plagued Within

The new material stands up incredibly well: ‘Terminal’ and ‘No Hope In Sight’ are both easy pleasers, but it’s the gargantuan olde doom of ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ that’s a late-set gem.

‘Victims Of The Past’, with that brilliant shuffle drum beat is another clear winner once they hit their stride.

Strangely there was no ‘Punishment Through Time’, which does seem an odd omission for the live arena.

Overall though these were huge validations of what is clearly great material built to last.

Old Treaures

Of course it’s the old treasures we’re there for, and they dont disappoint: a huge surprise as ‘Widow’ from ‘Icon’ is kicked out as the second song.

Even more surprising is a rendition of ‘Gothic’, done wonderfully with the full orchestral and choral works.

By contrast ‘As I Die’ sounds a little hollow, for some reason that’s hard to place. Probably the lack of Gregor in the mix once more.

As a highlight though, hearing the piano opener for ‘Enchantment’ is hard to match. A spine tingling moment from a spine tingling album, performed well, with Nick going for it. The audience surely would have frenzied for ‘The Last Time’ or ‘Forever Failure’, but it wasn’t to be.

Say Just Words

And then the strangest thing, once again indicative of changing times and fashions. The band return for an encore of their pop-tastic ‘Say Just Words’ and get the best crowd reaction of the night. Who’d have predicted that when it came out?

But both band and crowd are energized by it like no other track of the evening.

So overall it was good, verging on great – but never quite getting there.

We were robbed of Gregor and therefore the quintessence of the Paradise Lost atmosphere; without him leading prominently it sounded at times like a covers band trying the same material but without the dejection in their bones.

Still, when he was allowed his room in the mix, it was untouchable: the ‘Gothic’ solo was hair raising, right down to that authentic old tone.

I dont blame Nick for not being 100% into it, and Steve Edmondson has always looked a little distant any time I’ve seen them.

But good on Aaron Aedy for still giving it loads. It’s clear he cares and appreciates the feedback from the crowd.

Risky Business

It would’ve been nice to have been more thoroughly raving about it – and yes, it really was good, especially hearing how impressive the new stuff stands up. Bathed in alien greens and purples, ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ especially was a dark metal doom masterclass.

Hearing classics is always a risky business. Tonight served to remind me of the gallons and gallons of red wine I’ve drunk over the years in the company of ‘Draconian Times’, and will do again, with even more craving need now I know it can never be truly, properly recreated.

They did well against bad odds. A tough room. But a very satisfying gig in adverse circumstances. I dont mean to be down on it. But some bands just mean so much… you know?

Earl Grey ::: 29/09/15


16 Comments
  1. I thought the sounds was generally good after the first track or 2, a bit light on vocal and guitars perhaps. However the low vocal mix could be to hide some of Holmes live inadequacies. As I Die was great to hear but now come to think of it – it did lack the punch it used to deliver. Lucifer are just the latest trend production line Rise Above vomit bag. Nice t-shirt though.

  2. good review. had to miss this one, going to try find a few youtube clips.

  3. …..returning for the forth time in 22 years (1 Dec 1993 Ulster hall ) ….

  4. Was the turnout that poor? The Academy show was packed, not sold out but very well attended.

  5. Seemed a healthy enough turn out – but I was in front of the mixing desk so no idea if it thinned out more behind me.

    I seem to be in the total minority in enjoying Lucifer as well.

    They had a great mix were as PL were a touch more muddy yet in my spot I could hear Gregor okay. Vocals dipped when Holmes switched from singing to growling – so he maybe doesn’t have the power to project that?

    Noticed Steve switched something on his bass about an hour in as if it was his fault his sound was poor?

  6. Yeah, Nick definitley wasnt throwing his full weight into the growls at all.

    Turnout – yes it was healthy, just not what you might expect for a band like PL.

  7. I wasn’t there but I’ve heard that their Dublin show for Draconian Times was poorly attended too. Maybe some of the heads that were there can confirm. Beggars belief that they wouldn’t have been a major draw back then.

  8. Returning for the fifth time

    Ulster Hall Dec 93
    Limelight March 96
    Limelight April 99
    Mandela Hall April 2009
    Limelight September 2015

  9. A mate of mine did sound for PL in London a few years back and the lack of power/projection that Holmes puts into his vocals was hugely apparent – when level indicators are peaking higher during between song ‘banter’ than actual growled/sung vox, it makes it a hell of a challenge to mix.

    And as for Lucifer, totally agree with you – saw them in London earlier this year and thought it was unadulterated bandwaggonry.

  10. I hear ya about the sound – it was similar in Dublin.
    I blame those Kemper profile amps they were using! 🙂
    I thoroughly enjoyed the gig none the less though – as you said, some bands really do mean so much and PL are one of those bands that I always thought so highly of as a mini rocker back in the day!
    Great show!

  11. reub the rocker Says:

    Really wish i had the cabbage for this, prolly be a long time before they come back (if ever). Hadn’t heard of Lucifer before but checked em out last night and think their mighty.

  12. ifihadafish Says:

    I must be missing the big bandwagon that Lucifer have jumped on – I thoroughly enjoy the album and first time seeing them live.

    So what others are doing this better that I have missed?

  13. Dublin had a good turnout but had similar issues with the sound. Vocals way too low along with lead, a very drum/bass heavy sound.

    Apart from this I thought the set was good, the new stuff stands out and gels well with the older songs. Enchantment was my highlight. ‘Say Just Words’ was a strange pick to end the night on. The band were on form and was great to see them for the first time!

  14. Never seen them live before but really love them when i was a teenager back in Chile 20 years ago…i think i’ll give them a try next november 2 here near Milan (it)… nice review
    thanks.

  15. I don’t recall the Mandela Hall gig as a barnstorming one. Holmes threw a few strops and I thought the sound was bad that night too. I actually thought the sound at the Dublin gig last week picked up after the opener. I do agree that As I Die sounded like it was missing something though.

  16. Lucifer. Not my bag. Shame to see Jennings reduced to this.

    Turnout? I thought it was very good, given their current stature, certainly a fairly similar turnout to the previous twice in the LL, though not like their Icon peak when they headlined the likes of Dynamo festival to 120,000 heads.

    Was a reasonable set list, good to hear Widow, but how could they leave out True Belief??
    New songs worked well tho the lack lustre Monday night audience and ex cradle of filth keyboard player on sound desk duties did nothing to add to the experience…..

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