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Paradise Lost | ‘Medusa’

Do Paradise Lost know what they’re for in 2017?

I ask not out of cynicism but out of a genuine, head scratching confusion of my own.

They are far from alone in having bravely journeyed out of metal only to rebound back, like a twenty something returning to lodge with resigned but caring parents.

In their own words, they’re so far down the line into this, they’re fundamentally unemployable otherwise.

And after albums that have threatened to for about a decade now, this is the one that really sounds like the musical realisation of that none too fine point.

Gothic Revival

We know better at this point than to compare heritage bands’ new works to the icons of their past, so I wont do it too much here. We accept they continue on their journey.

Yet at the same time, they’re the ones making that rod, because they’re now trying to make that comparison themselves.

The sludgy, crusty early 90s guitar sound is the first thing that hits you about this album. Are we finally to be treated to a feast of ‘Gothic’ revivalism, hinted at but unrealised on the past few albums?

Well no, not really. Well, sort of. A bit.

Paradise Lost dont entirely know, so neither do I.

The description they gave was of an album that’s Doom laden, slow and mournful, perhaps even their most so.

But part of what made PL so awesome was their fervent metallic hookiness, so I’m not certain its a recommendation.

Phoned In

Opener ‘Fearless Sky’ is absolutely underwhelming. It just… happens. Its eight minutes – an unbelievable stretch in PL’s terms – pass without impact or conclusive momemtum.

Yes, it was doom laden, slow and mournful. Perhaps amongst their most so. But was it any good? Some days I think yes. Some no. And that is in large part the story of this album.

‘Gods Of Ancient’ is clunky, but rescued by the gorgeous steely harmonies of the epic ‘Icon’ and ‘DT’-era.

At this early stage though, a rot starts.

Among the album’s larger flaws is Nick Holmes’ utterly phoned in vocal performance.

This is not growling, I dont think. It’s more like you know when you’re walking round town roaring the vocals in your head, except you’re wearing headphones, so you’re kind of hissing them quietly so people dont phone social services.

Or when you’re sixteen and with your mates going through death metal songs and all doing that same quiet not-growling-but-hissing thing for the big vocal line.

It sounds a lot like that. A lot like he doesnt quite want to wreck his throat anymore, which is fair enough – it’s his throat – but it sounds powerless.

Hashed Out

Yet for all that, this is the venerable Paradise Lost, whom we’ve loved through countless albums and gigs, and they are not to be dismissed so churlishly.

“From The Gallows’ really is ‘Gothic’ allover, with its ‘Dead Emotion’ pounds; so too the sublime untune and groove of ‘No Passage For The Dead’, with a lick that only, only Gregor Mackintosh could pen or play.

Those two are fantastic tracks.

The rest is a smattering of moods and feelings from throughout their discography. ‘The Longest Winter’ is their modern sound through and through (well, mordern old sound, post ‘In Requiem’, if you catch me) – doomy and ‘atmospheric’ after a fashion, but somehow sterile in the telling.

Yes, it’s heavy and doleful, but give me the wide eyed, ash-faced terror of ‘Jaded’ or the agnostic’s sorry lament of ‘True Belief’ for real searing home truths.

‘Medusa’ is strong; a proud sound, regal in the way that defines the band. A sure high point.

But all the same, ‘Blood and Chaos’ is a meaningless, hashed out non-track that could have sat with any of the other identikit mix ‘n’ match verse-chorus-verse tracks on the self titled album. And that’s a good album: this sham Sisters Of Mercy floor filler wouldnt have cut it there.

And in the same way that opener ‘Fearless Sky’ passes by without significant note, there’s a sad unity to the album in that closer ‘Until The Grave’ barely happens.

It wants to be elegiac, but the phoned in vocals deny it that. It finally shuffles off, as if embarassed to have been there.

I feel grim writing about one of my most perennially important and meaningful bands in these terms. It flinches.

But the truth must be told.

And that truth is that there is some masterful, heavy, dark and tuneful metal in here in their classic mould, of course – but the majority is a water treading collection of slightly indentity-challenged tracks that remind a lot of My Dying Bride’s predicament around ‘The Light…’; of wanting to dive back into death metal but of not quite having the passion that made it truly heavy way back in time.

I wont be playing this in a year, and ‘The Plague Within’ seems far better. And yet for all that it remains Paradise Lost, for which it wins listening and respect that other bands still will never equal.

2.9 / 5 -Earl Grey ::: 13/09/17

  1. i much rathered their stuff when they were doing symbol of life and host and stuff like that. at least it was honest. the last few albums have been plain dull.

  2. Strongly disagree with the review. It’s a great grower. Love the vocals. Production is a bit odd initially but it works. Repeated listens are the key here.

  3. I don’t think the critic goes far enough in this review. They were obviously a profound influence and that’s reflected in the score, all the flaws are alluded to but I don’t think he’s gone far enough in what was needed to be said.

    Paradise Lost have not known what to do with themselves for the guts of 10 years. If you look at their creative journey, it can be compared to the likes of Katatonia, Anathema etc. They never repeated themselves, always looking to move on and expand their influences and sound and as a result they released records that were at least interesting. I include Host and Believe in Nothing in that respect, the former being up their with their best and the latter, although a mess you could at least try and appreciate what they were trying to achieve.

    I remember seeing them in Whelan’s around the time Symbol Of Life was released (Their last great record in my opinion) and their stock was at an all time low. Released on a third division record label they played to a half empty venue, and from what I believe was a common occurrence on that tour.

    Since then, there’s been a concerted effort to revert to the bands original sound. Make no mistake, they’ve no love for that style, and on this record, perhaps even more than the last few the boredom shines through. The band are obviously skilled enough to craft the material but without any true inspiration and drive to do it you’re left with a bunch of songs that meander along with no real purpose.

    You’ve correctly pointed out that Nick must shoulder the blame for much of it. Remember, this is a man that proclaimed he was bored of it all 20 years ago when they initially stepped out of their comfort zone to make One Second and he sounds beyond jaded on this record.

    Although the band played to fuck all people back in 2003, the band seemed energized and happy to play their current material. Now they seem content to mine old ground and perform the likes of Draconian Times in full all in the name of a steady paycheck. I don’t hold that against them, it’s their material and they’ve earned that right but lets call a spade a spade. This record is a cold and calculated product to sell and as such won’t be listened to in 6 weeks time never mind a year. 1.5/5

  4. Nail on head there Martin Wyer.
    I’ve been a huge fan of this band for years but this new one is just completely dialed in and devoid of anything memorable.

  5. Brilliant album !! Real grower, if you don’t like it don’t buy it

  6. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it”

    Christ, brilliant life advice. I’m a big PL fan, that’s obvious from my post. That goes for the critic and anyone else who’s chipped in. Expressing disappointment is not a crime.

  7. If you don’t like anything since SOL then how would you consider yourself still a fan ??? Fan of the old stuff , yes but if you didn’t like anything since then how/why are you still listening to them? Or is it just something to whinge about

  8. Generally if you’re a fan of a band you’ll be interested when they release a new record no? Even if they have delivered a few duds. So fuck off with your “Whining for the sake of Whining” argument.

    And I never said I didn’t like anything after SOL, I said I consider it to be their last great record.

  9. brianwilliams82 Says:

    Long-time fan of the band writes a detailed comment about what he thinks has gone wrong with the band and all some snowflake can come out with is “if you don’t like it don’t buy it.”

    Fucking hell, is any negative review of an established band going to be met with this kind of can’t-accept-an-opinion-that-doesn’t-match-my-own codology? Same thing with the latest Anathema. Get over yerselves. If you think the album is great then feel free to tell us why. That’s what the comments are for.

  10. The comments are for opinions not grievances

  11. We’ll give us your opinion Anonymous?

  12. Your missing the point !! Your man above says it’s a cynical/contrived attempt for cash !!! How does he know ? Is he friends with the band ? This from a man who says Host is one of their best !!!!!! Well I’ll take any song from this over anything from Host

  13. Host in my opinion is as important as Gothic, Shades of God or Draconian Times. Nothing wrong with that.

    How do I know? It’s simple really, the band said it themselves that they’d moved on over 20 years ago, sure they dropped any pre-Icon material from their live sets for well over a decade. I’ve seen them on many tours, it used to kill them to play As I Die etc, Nick used to talk his way through that.

    They’ve a choice, make interesting music that’s creatively fulfilling to them and play to nobody or churn stuff like this out for people like yourself that can’t get enough of the early sound and earn a living.

  14. Jesus, why do people get so ruddy precious when someone makes a well-reasoned, rational and thought-through yet negative criticism of a band that clearly means a lot to them? Do people REALLY invest that much of their own sense of self-identity in association with metal bands? Pathetic.

    For the record – PL up to (and including) Draconian Times were an absolute cornerstone band for me, no question. Never quite got on board with their 1998 reinvention, though they were clearly into it so all credit to them. The latest one however, I must agree with Martin above – water-treading paycheck stuff, whichever way you slice it. Competent yet passionless – like a well-delivered work powerpoint presentation.

  15. Must say I find the review to be a bit harsh. It’s essentially a doom record, it’s hardly going to be a toe tapping, hummable 45 minutes. I’m still getting into it, but I can’t see my self arriving to your opinions on it, especially the phoned in jibes, that is certainly not the case. Watching them speak about the record and Holmes in particular they seem to be as excited as ever about releasing new music. Yeah we would all love to hear that youthful force of the first couple of records but he was a teenager / 20 then so it’s a bit much to expect that imo and just because he isn’t making your ears bleed is hardly a cause for essentially saying he isn’t arsed and is basically ripping you off. Voices change. Anyway it’s not an lp that I have on repeat and it’s something that I’m listening to every few days in full and just letting it soak in.

    I suppose the comments that I would disagree with most are Martin’s. Believe in Nothing was the low point for the band in regards touring, reviews etc, the SOL tour did quite well, when to the launch in Germany. Not that you should really judge Irish dates as the show in the SFX in 1996 was half full and that was the bloody Draconian Times tour.

    I really don’t know where you are going with saying “there’s been a concerted effort to revert to the bands original sound. Make no mistake, they’ve no love for that style, and on this record, perhaps even more than the last few the boredom shines through. The band are obviously skilled enough to craft the material but without any true inspiration and drive to do it you’re left with a bunch of songs that meander along with no real purpose”. You are basically saying they are a bunch or rip of merchants, lying to me, taking my money, delivering bullshit music just to pay some bills. What you are saying is beyond ridiculous. How do you quantify real purpose? As for the Holmes quote from 20 years ago, that was 20 years ago. Just because he said that didn’t mean he had to stay on an endless journey of discovery and should be how heading into his bee bob jazz phase.

    I’ve seen them many times since that Whelans show, some great shows some okay ones and at no time did I see Holmes doing a Chuck Berry and tearing out the door with a suitcase full of cash after playing his allotted time. I saw them in the Academy on the Plague tour and they were as energized as they were in 2003.

    “Now they seem content to mine old ground and perform the likes of Draconian Times in full all in the name of a steady paycheck” You mean the 7 shows they did in 2011? You make it sound as if they are dragging it out every 6 months.

    You don’t like it, grand, but basically calling them a bunch of cynical money grabbing so and so’s is wrong, just plane wrong.

  16. I don’t think it’s phoned in. I think it’s better than the last. Think vocals are good. Their not Anathema and I think they are way better than that. Sedge and Wyer are correct. Yeah it’s growing on me still. Enjoying it. It had me dipping back into tunes from Icon, Drac and Shades (all cd) Corner stone band for me that gig in the SFX on Drac tour wow! Icon as a kid in school same. I remember fear factory and soul of new machine was the rage – these lads smoked it! They have head me back for quite a while! Grey? What tune! Yeah on the new one I got the box set!!!!

  17. Dunno about the rest of it but enjoyed ‘The Longest Winter’. Nick is doin a good job here. I always thought he struggled to sing since Icon. I remember Greg teasing me to growl the then old stuff at Nick after a gig one time and I genuinely thought Greg was still interested in Lost Paradise/Gothic but I don’t hear a desperate attempt to do that. I’ll be buying it anyway.

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