Review Summary: Maturing like a fine wine bursting with flavours of doom, gloom and melancholy.
What's to be said about doom that hasn't been said yet? The genre has crawled out from the darkness and the popularity of it has sparked numerous respectable bands and plenty of forgettable ones. Nevertheless, there are always those few bands rooted so deep into the genre that the appearance they settle with in doom metal appears to be their natural state. Releasing their 15th album since their formation in 1988, Halifax, England's Paradise Lost is one of the godfathers of the genre, fluctuating between doom, gothic and synth rock throughout their almost 30-year career.
The band’s previous album, ”The Plague Within”
, featured loads of twisting and turning riffs in each song to keep the momentum going; “Medusa”
reveals Paradise Lost focusing on extracting as much emotion out of a certain aspect as possible, such as elongating a riff or stretching a note or holding a scream just a few crucial seconds longer. Due to these extended aspects, at multiple occasions over the course of “Medusa”
, Paradise Lost does tend to drag you along with the ebbing melancholic lethargy- like being turned to stone as the album’s namesake suggests. The slow title track particularly feels longer than it is or should be, as it pulls you into the dense depression. Luckily, the band always unleashes a new rhythm or hook to snap you out this fatigue.
That’s not to say this album isn’t dynamic. One of the core features of “Medusa”
are the riffs it contains and Gregor Mackintosh frequently injects adrenalized riffing and sinking grooves into the murky bloodstream of Paradise Lost. They dictate the feel of each song, the direction in which the rhythm follows and the pace in which it travels. Moreover, describing the tone of the guitars on this album as ‘clear’ or ‘pristine’ would degrade the forlorn aura that they produce. However, there is that sense of crispness in this album’s production that amplifies how lively the band can make the grimmer songs like the trampling “Gods of Ancient” or the domineering “From the Gallows” sound. As well as enhancing Nick Holmes’s imposing vocal presence through torturously sluggish riffs, animated songs such as “Blood and Chaos” and “Until the Grave” have a more rock-infused touch to them, establishing Paradise Lost’s grim, dominant attitude through both slow rhythms and faster bursts or energy. If you’re a fan of anything Gaz Jennings (Cathedral, Death Penalty) has ever laid hands on then this is an album for you.
Additionally, the melodies that Paradise Lost churn out also assist in shaping the atmosphere of “Medusa”
. Simply put: the whole album sounds grim- as if someone has painted various shades of grey over a black canvas to try and lighten it up a bit. “Fearless Sky” -the first track- instantly establishes this overcast tone by creating a bewitching atmosphere through paranoid melodies, slothful riffs and churchlike organ. As the longest track on the album, it also features Nick Holmes’ clean vocals, which emerge regularly on the album, to expand the band’s melancholic, gothic (melangothic?) characteristics. Clean, high-spirited vocals emerge through the blizzard of trudging bass, blanketed by biting melodies and wearisome riffs during “The Longest Winter” that create a lonesome, sorrowful tone. This cleaner atmosphere reappears prominently on “Shrines”, where downcast vocals, chiming melodies and undulating bass calmly washes away feelings of cheerlessness that “Medusa”
so effortlessly projects.
Ordinarily, when a seasoned band releases an album which is of the same calibre as their more youthful days, the go-to closing quote is: ‘this band show no signs of slowing down’. However, given the sluggish tempo of this album, on this occasion, it would be more prudent to rather say that after fifteen albums, Paradise Lost shows absolutely no signs of stopping. “Medusa”
is yet another album that continues to carry the doom-laden titans onwards and upwards, just in their own deliberate time.