With the passing of time some initially heavy bands make their sound softer. Frequently such experiments end unsuccessfully, while there are some surprisingly good exceptions. Paradise Lost experimented with electronic samples and soft sound something like 20 years ago but to the joy of fans the band got back to their initially heavy sound; The Plague Within (2015) and Medusa (2017) were a very good surprise. The band’s 16th album Obsidian will surprise either.
Obsidian became much more diverse than its predecessor: there are lots of recognizable and bright moments from the previous albums and numerous other elements. “When we came to write this record, we just sat down, had a think about it and said ‘Let’s see what comes out!’” says Greg Mackintosh. “We never went through that thing of signing to big labels and being under constant pressure. The pressure always came from ourselves anyway. I just wanted it to sound a little more polished than the last one and a little less caveman-like in the rhythm section! (laughs) I suppose that was the only brief, really. On Medusa we did the whole fuzzed-out slow thing, throughout the entire record, so if it was that again it would bore me as much as anyone else. So there’s a bit more variety on this one.”
The first notes of the opening “Darker Thoughts” are making you to look on the cover one more time and ensure that it is really Paradise Lost: a quite guitar finger-picking and clean, melancholic vocal with sad violin and cello are not quite what was expected. But after a minute or two everything get back to normal: solid guitar sound falls on the listener, Nick Holmes starts to growl and the song becomes a real Doom/Death with some great string instruments on the background and recognizable Greg’s solo.
The slow pace and the atmosphere of total despair in the first single “Far From Grace” would fit the previous album perfectly. Nick’s vocal here is magnificent, you really believe him. You believe that we fall from grace and we’re all alone. But the next one, “Ghost” changes the mood sharply: it’s dark, Gothic and quite “danceable” piece (if we’re talking about goth club, of course) with good Stephen Edmondson’s bass. Almost the same happens with “Hope Dies Young”, while this one is less “danceable” but very rhythmical.
“Over the last ten years Greg’s really been into the death and doom stuff,” notes frontman and co-founder Nick Holmes. “But when he does write that goth stuff he’s really good at it, so I encouraged him to do more of it! He’s got a knack for it, and it’s just nice to break the album up a bit. You can fit all these different styles under one roof and it all still works together. I do prefer to mix the styles up a bit, do the subtle stuff as well as the full-on stuff!”
Probably the fastest song in this album is “Forsaken”, an obvious return to my favorite album Draconian Times. This song is very melodic and has a great, catchy chorus. Next after it, “Serenity” has nothing common with its name: solid Doom/Death with heavy guitar riff and awesome growl from Nick.
But the most impressive song here is the ending “Ravenghast”: infinitely dark and morose, it creates an atmosphere of something inevitable
“Greg came up with that title,” Nick explains. “I kept it because I like it, the feel of that word. That song’s about a battle, how do they know who’s won when it’s over? You see these great battles and then at the end, people are still fighting and getting killed, even though it’s technically over. When does someone say, ‘Hang on a minute, we’ve won!’ It’s such a shit death, to get killed in the last throes of a battle. It’s a little bit Monty Python, I suppose! Also, that song is a raging, riding-a-horse sort of song. You couldn’t really go down any other route.”
With this, as for me this is the most diverse and multilayered song in the album. Starting slow and mournful, “Ravenghast” changes pace and emphasis several times becoming a great Doom/Death. The band’s relatively new drummer Waltteri Väyrynen really shines here with his drumming and great patterns.
I can talk about this diverse and endlessly dark album for a long time, but the most important thing here as for me is the incredible atmosphere, which Obsidian creates. It captures the listener, immersing him fully into boundless darkness and timelessness, from which you don’t want to get out.
Obsidian will be released on May, 15th via Nuclear Blast.
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