We all should know about Paradise Lost – their fifth album, Draconian Times, is a classic of the metal genre and the musical progression to get to that release was a hell of a ride.
One Second introduced some electronic influences to the sound; Host (a personal favourite album) went further with that influence and then Believe In Nothing arrived and was a massive missed opportunity to get back to a rockier sound, spawning an infamous review from Kerrang’s Dave Everley.
Symbol of Life restored some faith but there was a fear that it was too late. Then four further albums each brought with them elements of the classic Paradise Lost sound, and kept that faith in there. All along there has been a hope that it would just click perfectly together again.
When Bloodbath announced Nick Holmes as their new vocalist, it made perfect sense. It gave Nick a chance to try out his old sound from way back on 1990’s debut Lost Paradise. But did I think I’d hear that again in a Paradise Lost album? Did I fuck.
As well as that collaboration, Vallenfyre has allowed Gregor Mackintosh to delve into his much more metallic roots and produce material that I would love to have heard if it had been used to follow up on Draconian Times. Did I think this would influence the sound of Paradise Lost? Did I fuck.
So, here we are with The Plague Within.
Opener “No hope in sight” appeared as a lyric video a few weeks back and it took me totally by surprise then; an excellent opening lead riff, with bass and drums jumping on top to bring the doom. And then you hear this gruff growling voice – I did stop the song back then to check that I had opened the right video, because I didn’t actually believe that it was Nick Holmes. But there it was; the voice from Bloodbath was on a Paradise Lost track – along with clean singing, and what a mix it is. This one is pretty much a complete blend of the Paradise Lost sound over the years.
But did I think there would be more of this on the album? Did I fuck.
A few days ago, the video for “Beneath Broken Earth” was released. Easily the slowest & ‘doomiest’ song the band have recorded, I was again taken by surprise by how good it was and how good Nick’s voice sounded. So that was 2 songs out of the way before the whole album in its entirety was available, and I’ve been eagerly waiting to hear more.
And in no way does the complete package let me down. I can’t pick out a weak link at all; each song is strong and some even sound like they would have fit perfectly on those first 5 albums up to and including Draconian Times (“Punishment through time” has a galloping mid-section reminiscent of “Once Solemn”, while “Terminal” and “Victims of the past” may not have sounded out of place on Shades of God)
On such a strong album, it can sometimes seem like no single track stands out from the others. But, for me, there are two standouts on The Plague Within.
“An Eternity of Lies” begins with a soft piano/string intro, lulling you into thinking it’s going to be less heavy than the two preceding tracks, and the clean vocal adds to this. But there’s that gruff vocal again to snap you out of it and then….oh my word. The change in this song half-way through, along with the guitar solo, is fantastic and will hopefully become a fixture in future setlists.
The other standout is “Cry Out” – a galloping, bombastic, Cathedral-esque beaut of a song, which might just have you punching the air. It definitely had me nodding my head along.
I’m absolutely gobsmacked with The Plague Within. If you’d asked me before tonight what my favourite PL album was then the answer would have immediately been Draconian Times.
But ask me again tomorrow and it might take a little longer to give you an answer.