Review Summary: The veterans of doom and gloom are resisting decay with style.
When nearly all is said and done by the elder generations of artists, it becomes a bit more difficult for both them and their biological/mental offsprings to conceive and materialize truly different and equally important, future projects. As far as gothic/death/doom metal goes, Paradise Lost have been on both sides of the fence. In the early ‘90s, they developed and deployed their trademark sound in times where the said combination of genres was still poorly documented. However, since their full return in 2005, the English (by four fifths, that is) outfit is constantly called to prove its proficiency in a time where the margins for innovation are constantly being narrowed, and circling “back to the roots” is the safe solution. Paradise Lost do not see themselves operating in such a way. In setting the character for their 14th album The Plague Within
, the band gathered together and the first –many– hours of silence gave way to a handful of direction setters that in first sight, lay within recently realized works, both in and out of the premises.
To the cynic that will come in session with the new album, the true belief (sic) that the band is going through the motions, endures even at the point where each song has been fully absorbed and appreciated. While Paradise Lost haven’t given up their bag of old tricks, the said handful of directions differentiates the new songs in a satisfactory manor. Sites of old school and “stoner/doom” metal groove (“Cry Out”, “Punishment Through Time”) that surfaced during the releases of the previous album and Tragic Illusion 25
respectively, are readily evident. These sites are cleverly alloyed to an atmosphere of gloom that branches out to funeral doom (“Beneath Broken Earth”), to gothic metal (“No Hope in Sight”, “Cry Out”), and from there to some rather unexpected up-tempo outbursts (“Terminal”, “Flesh from Bone”). In addition, elements from classical music, first introduced on older material during live concerts, grant songs like “Eternity of Lies”, a different colour.
While the rhythm section is fairly elaborate in general, the guitars carry a good portion of early ‘90s death metal vibes, which have mutated almost every other bit of style the band has been responsible for. The lyrics, abstract in design, kill the last light at the end of a dark world (and that’s an understatement), as they are expertly narrated by Holmes’ much discussed and anticipated growls. The latter complement nicely the portfolio of his other singing styles, whereas their reference to the first few Paradise Lost albums is understandable but mostly nominal. Holmes is certainly not growling as fiercely as in the early days, but the tracts of darkness from which highlights like “Beneath Broken Earth” was unearthed, are considered as such, also because of his great work.
As previously mentioned, Paradise Lost do not refrain from revisiting their legacy, and this time around, that sort of detracts some points of merit. Despite the great replay value overall, also thanks to the superb sound production (the deep physical pitch of Erlandson’s drums slays!!), some tracks may not sound as impressive as others. In addition, while the album is diverse in terms of arrangements (“Cry Out”, “Flesh from Bone”), the overall flow feels discontinuous, even though it seems to enhance the sense of isolation and melancholy that Paradise Lost have always strived for. As for the elements of classical music, they certainly add points wherever they have been implemented, but the result pales in comparison to more accomplished efforts in that respect. While the marriage of classical music and metal certainly brings forth the intrigue, it does not come without caveats, namely the mutual cancellation of the spite of both genres; in that light, it’s not surprising that for “An Eternity of Lies”, the band had a really tough time selecting the “right” take out of 15 alternate versions.
In conclusion, fan opinions and tastes regarding the pros and cons of an album, are nothing but highly subjective. However, it should be stressed that with the The Plague Within
album, the veterans of doom and gloom are resisting decay with style, not falling off the high standards they have set over the years.