Death/doom pioneers Paradise Lost return with their sixteenth studio album, Obsidian. Long time fans will be “happy” to know Obsidian continues their return to the death/doom of their last two albums The Plague Within and Medusa. It’s somewhat ironic to say happy since this recording is so gloomy and morbid. “Fall From Grace,” “Hope Dies Young” and “Ending Days” are moribund song titles, for sure.
Nick Holmes repeats phrases such as “we’re all alone” from “Fall From Grace” throughout the album, activating dark thoughts. Of course, the deliberate pace, wickedly bending and ringing guitar chords are a major facet to the despondent mood that casts over the album. The track mentioned above and “Ravenghast” are two songs containing some of the best doom riffs on the album.
Describing Obsidian only in terms of doom metal doesn’t even come close to relating what the U.K. band is doing. The album doesn’t fully rely on down-tempos. While a slow pace may dictate part of a song, there are other upbeat parts to fill in the whole. It’s not just a doom album, either. Some tracks show only slight traces of doom and are stylistically goth metal. “Ghosts” could be a goth club dance floor hit with its catchy chorus. Whether it’s a gothic section or a death/doom section, each style resonates exceptionally well with major hooks.
The way Paradise Lost mesh these styles is brilliant and the stylistic and tempo changes create massive dynamics like those heard on “Ending Days.” This track in particular works because of the collision between soft and hard chord changes. Obsidian works on opposites, harsh death metal growls and gothy clean vocals, clean and distorted guitar tones, acoustic and electric instrumentation, atmospheric keys and piano to create undulating moods and rhythms. For a good example, listen to the bonus track “Hear The Night.” Here are parts where Holmes alternates clean singing with harsh growling.
Whether it’s the crooning voice of Holmes or guitar harmonies of Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, Obsidian is a melodic album. Each song is made up layers of composition. Steve Edmondson creates churning, ringing, sometimes flickering rhythms, which are accented by Mackintosh’s lead harmonies. The guitars come together in twin harmonization in some parts. Mackintosh’s solos rip. Just check out the bluesy solos on bonus track “Defiler.”
Other forms of instrumentation provide melody such as the violin, piano and cello that initiate the album on “Darker Thoughts.” The softness of these parts collides with a big guitar to kick start the album. Paradise Lost and Nuclear Blast label mate My Dying Bride are often compared in style, and the violin is certainly an instrument of comparison, although Paradise Lost use theirs sparingly and create different sounds.
Whether it’s a death/doom dirge or goth rock hip shaker, Paradise Lost are accessible on so many levels. Obsidian has something to offer fans from all eras of the band. Paradise Lost know how to turn a phrase or melody and master the control of action. It’s unusual for a band thirty-plus years into their career keep getting better, but that is the case with Paradise Lost. They succeeded in creating an unforgettable album from beginning to the end of Obsidian.
(released May 15, 2020 on Nuclear Blast)
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Watch Paradise Lost – “Fall From Grace” Video