Album review: Paradise Lost – Obsidian

Paradise Lost make their mark and give everything they’ve got on ‘Obsidian’, and it’s easily one of the best in their wonderful discography

It’s amazing to think that Paradise Lost have been lashing their dark art on the world for 32 years as of 2020. As one of the informal UK triumvirate that brought the doom/death genre to public consciousness back in the 80s (the other two being Anathema and My Dying Bride – if we’re splitting hairs outside of the British Isles, you would throw Sweden’s Katatonia in there too), they made a huge impression with their first five albums, from the deathly and morose ‘Lost Paradise’ in 1990 to the well-received ‘Draconian Times’ in 1995, which was tight, riff-heavy, and classic in a Metallica circa-1991 kind of way. The latter half of the 90s and early 2000s saw them move away from the more extreme side of metal, experimenting with electronic elements and a Depeche Mode-esque introspection.

With their 2005 self-titled record, they seemed to head back into the less commercial direction in which they originally started, and by the time they released 2007’s ‘In Requiem’, we finally had the ‘Lost back in the fold. The four albums released since then have been solid and exciting, with varying degrees of extremity and adrenaline. This brings us to their new album through Nuclear Blast Records, the towering ‘Obsidian’. With this new collection of songs, the band give off a nostalgic vibe, showcasing a variety of Paradise Lost-isms from all over their back-catalogue that work within the framework of the meticulously written and performed music on display.

The album opens with Darker Thoughts which is gentle and lush, built with strings and guitars, and evolves into a picturesque, very Paradise Lost song. This is followed by Fall From Grace, a well-considered, strong single off the record. Almost a lost track from ‘Draconian Times’, it’s heavy and swings with groove, and it has an earworm chorus that will make for prime live fodder. Other highlights include the pumping, death/doomy Serenity, epic album-closer Ravenghast (which hands you carefully back to the real world with care), and Forsaken, which is dressed elegantly in latter 90s Paradise Lost finery. 

Nick Holmes has given his growl a firm workout with his time in Sweden’s Bloodbath and it’s so great to hear that enormous bark get back to where it was all those years ago in the band’s ‘Gothic’ period. Elsewhere, his singing voice is strong and mature, and he has really come into his own with age and experience. Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy give everything they’ve got in the guitar department: heavy, tasty riffs; mournful and also inspirational leads and solos; and a string partnership that simply shines like well-oiled clockwork. Stephen Edmondson and Waltteri Väyrynen are a fine example of a meaty doom rhythm section, and the refinements that they both throw into these songs absolutely bring them to life. The production is crisp and wide open, with just enough simplicity to allow the deathly weight to burst through on the heavier numbers, and it makes for a glorious listen.

As godfathers of this genre, Paradise Lost make their mark and give everything they’ve got on ‘Obsidian’, and it’s easily one of the best in their wonderful discography. For long-time fans, it’s like a greatest hits made up of all new songs, and whatever your preferred era or sound from the band, it’s all in here and more. Here’s hoping that they will continue with great success because, if nothing else, ‘Obsidian’ proves once again that Paradise Lost still have a hell of a lot more to say, and we’re the lucky buggers that get to savour it all.        

FFO: My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Anathema

Obsidian is out May 15 via Nuclear Blast


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