Review Summary: "As pure as driven snow."
There’s a certain type of progressive ascension that’s so rare, only a select few of even the most prestigious bands manage to go through it. Bearing no similarities in terms of style or capability, DIR EN GREY achieved this very same archetypal journey six years ago. The ascension of which I speak comes to only the most hard-working of bands, hellbent on a crusade that pushes conventions – their own insatiable ideas abound, and a lack of fear for trying out new things. I don’t necessarily think it’s a plan where the band in question sits in a room and purposefully plots out their evolution for the next three decades, but it’s their daring lust for trying out new things that inevitably brings the fruits from their endeavours later in life. In the case of Paradise Lost, they have numerous accolades under their belt already and yet, they continue to hone in on that perfectly balanced sound. Venturing through the band’s expansive discography recently – in preparation for Obsidian
’s release – it brought this realisation to the forefront. Indeed, the body of their work is filled with little lulls, minor hiccups, and the obvious forages for musical identity, but in these moments of error lies a facet or two of brilliance which is then culled and nestled away for the future, should the time ever arise to use it again.
Basically what I’m getting at is, Paradise Lost wouldn’t have been able to produce their last few LPs – or indeed, this very album – to such a standard had it not been for those bold deviations in trial and error. The James Hetfield vocal imitations, the New Order/Depeche Mode electronic era, or even that awkward period which experimented with dodgy NU-metal riffs. It’s correlation and causation and it brings us to where we are now: Obsidian
– a record that’s inarguably tied to Paradise Lost’s illustrious past in a way that’s almost certainly celebratory; a broad cultivation of old ideas being pieced together with precision, to make a sound that’s uniformly balanced with melody, power and aggression. Say what you will about Medusa
being a myopic extension of the incredible The Plague Within
, but the take away from that record is you can clearly hear the band trying to further and perfect their indigenous death/doom sound with catchy, melodious riffs that have tangible substance and breadth to them.
takes its predecessor’s refinements and moves the playing pieces onto a board that displays the gamut of their evolution. It’s important to emphasise that the band are true veterans of their craft at this point, and for how introspective and reminiscent this LP gets at times, just know that it’s done with absolute ingenuity. One aspect in particular cannot be overlooked: Gregor’s guitar work has been incredibly articulate, versatile and a true focal point in recent works, but it’s here where Obsidian
doubles down on that strength to deliver, dare I say, the best guitar work of his career. The guy just knows how to lock you into a certain mood, possess your emotions and move you through a number of dour and poignant tales without missing a beat. Every note played is bewitching, every solo is empowering and intensely justified, but it’s Gregor’s attentive knack for accommodating the things around him – be it the string arrangements, or by giving the gnawing bass or drums some breathing room – that make these songs function so optimally. It would be a disservice to say Gregor carries the album, because everyone contributes their parts with unflinching professionalism and expertise, but the guitar work here is an undeniably obvious highlight, and a benchmark for the craft itself.
In regards to style and representation, Obsidian
caters to almost everybody. “Ghosts”, “Ending Days” and “Hope Dies Young” capture the zeitgeist of their mid-to-late-nineties efforts with a modern Paradise Lost flair to them. “Ghosts”, for example, has a tight-knit verse of punchy drum rolls, a grinding, fuzzed-out bassline, and some shimmering, wet reverb guitar notes that reinforce the goth-y hues and support Nick’s obedient cleans, but the track quickly detonates with Gregor’s screaming and cathartic guitar lead, which then transitions into a bulking, chugging breakdown. It’s a perfect example of how well the band marry their metal sensibilities with their goth ones here, and it’s sure to please fans of both styles. The integration of various eras is vast, but suffice it to say it doesn’t devalue the songs or have them feeling like the band are recycling old ideas. On the contrary, everything sounds contemporary and fresh. “Darker Thoughts” is quite possibly the most epic and effective opener to any of their records – starting out with the desolate twanging of an acoustic guitar before introducing these amazing symphonic swells over intertwining mood-based guitar notes and chubby riffs, with a classic Nick vocal hook to boot. “The Devil Embraced” nurtures the Draconian Times
era with pride – fuelled by giant melodies and even bigger riffs – while the album closer “Ravenghast” brings the curtain down on a landfill of unadulterated doom riffage. In short, Obsidian
does an exceptional job of balancing sounds that touch every fanbase’s desires, whilst having the entire album come across effortlessly accessible and seamless in the process.
Being in a band and getting to know your strengths and weaknesses can be a hardship that may well make or break you in the long run, if you aren’t willing to be open about it. For Paradise Lost Obsidian
is yet another creative pasture explored, but it’s the album’s penchant for internalisation, as well as the band’s competency in merging these styles together with such vigour that have created the equilibrium here. Like DIR EN GREY, Paradise Lost have created the quintessential sound that celebrates all of their expansive styles in just one record. Obsidian
is the go-to album – the starting point – for all those people wanting to experience Paradise Lost’s epic journey for the first time. It’s an album that couldn’t have been made without those lofty shifts in sound over the years, and it’s one that couldn’t have been forged without the age and experience behind it all. As I stated at the start of this review, the path this band has taken is quite a rare one, but for those that dare to walk down it, it’s a road that can bring the forbidden fruits at the peak of their maturity. This is an album made by a bunch of dudes in their absolute prime, and while it’s easy for one to assume that the disparate styles being straddled here would make the LP less cohesive, it’s just not the case; Paradise Lost don’t lose an iota of focus or momentum in the making of this concise project – the scenario only serves to strengthen Obsidian
’s case for being their most revered album for the years to come, and is one hell of an act to follow up on.
//CD//DIGITAL//VINYL(various coloured exclusives)
A solid laminate box which houses all of the album’s goodies.
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES:
The boxset contains the album’s standard nine tracks on vinyl picture disc, a digipak CD with two bonus tracks, six placemats, a booklet containing the making-of Obsidian
, and a picture card. The picture disc comes housed in a gatefold, and all of the items listed are well made and well worth the very fair asking price. The bonus tracks are worthy additions: “Hear the Night” fits in with the overall tone of the album perfectly and is a great addition to the tracklist; while “Defiler” is a weaker song by comparison, it still offers another great slab of doom riffing to sink your gnashers into.