A Metal band, playing live with an orchestra? It’ll never work. Well, Metallica proved that wrong when they became the first ones to do it with the S & M album in 1999. Tongue in cheek with that last comment, as I know Metallica weren’t the first to do it. Deep Purple got there a good 30 years earlier, and even then they might not have been the first either but it’s the first one I’m aware of.
And Paradise Lost won’t be the last ones to do it either – and the reason is that it’s something that shouldn’t really work on paper but it really fucking works when it’s done…and done right.
Symphony for the Lost is the result of a gig played last year in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) at the Ancient Roman Theatre of Philippopolis – an ancient theatre, constructed in the 2nd century. Bringing the house down is something that you probably don’t want to do in this venue. Made up of two sets, the first alongside the Plovdiv Philarmonic conducted by Levon Manukyan consisting of eight songs, and the second a nine song set with just the band.
Paradise Lost’s music over the years has frequently included orchestral parts so to take this leap to this was a no-brainer. While I probably would have picked a totally different set of songs to play (“Enchantment” & “Forever Failure” would be amongst them, plus at least one song from Host), the eight that make up the orchestral set are a great choice and cover eight different albums including 2015’s The Plague Within, and ranging back to their second album, the genre-defining Gothic
Overall, the orchestra/choir work really well – especially on “Over the Madness”, where Gregor Mackintosh’s guitar solo is lifted to another level. There are songs, however, where it doesn’t quite fit – for me, Icon’s “Joys of the Emptiness” doesn’t benefit from the choral accompaniment at all, and some of the orchestral flourishes seem really out of place. Oh for it to have been “Embers Fire”….but that’s just me being a bit too picky.
As mentioned, The Plague Within is represented here even though the concert was filmed a year ago – “Victim of the Past”, referred to as a ‘blueprint’ by Nick Holmes, is a highlight on the first half of this release and does make me wonder what the audience thought when Nick launched in to his rough vocals.
Now, one of my least favourite Paradise Lost songs is on here. One Second‘s “Soul Courageous” never sat right with me, with its swaggering chorus tempting you to start boogieing along. But fuck me, does it come to life on here.
Closing off the first half, “Gothic” also sees Nick using his rough vocal to great effect and goosebumps arrive with the choir perfectly handling the Sarah Marrion vocals from the original version. What a song and arrangement to have as the closer to this – good work fellas.
Returning to the stage for the second set of the night, the band launch straight into “The Enemy”, from 2007’s In Requiem and it’s back to business. Heading into “Erased” & “Isolate” from Symbol of Life, there’s a sudden feeling of ‘I wonder what this would have sounded like if it was in the first half’ and that doesn’t let up with “Faith divides us, Death unites us” which has an orchestral backing of its own provided via backing track. It’s a minor quibble but it’s a shame that the whole night didn’t incorporate the orchestra. But fuck it – here’s “AS I DIE!!!!” to cheer me up with its utter sadness. Love this song, always have and always will, ever since first hearing on Headbanger’s Ball all the way back in 1992.
The rest of the set is closed out by four songs from the Icon/Draconian Times/One Second period – “One Second” & “Say Just Words” are the obvious choices for inclusion in a live set ever since their release, along with “True Belief” & “The last time” which brings things to a close in fine fashion.
As I said, there is still that feeling of ‘what if?’ for the second half of the night – maybe the band will think about doing this again at a later point? I’m sure it would be greeted well. But in the meantime Symphony for the Lost is a more than suitable alternative.