Review Summary: Paradise Lost's songwriting core return to their electro-rock experiment.
I’d assume it took all the courage they had. Back in 1997, coming off the success of Draconian Times
, Paradise Lost decided to make one of the largest stylistic leaps I’ve ever witnessed. With the release of One Second
, they abruptly abandoned the guitar-driven metal/doom hybrid they had helped to pioneer and whole-heartedly embraced electronic rock. As you might imagine, there were not a lot of metal fans with a penchant for electronic rock back in the 90s, and the backlash was swift. Undaunted, the band doubled down on the electronic influences with the release of Host
in 1999. Abandoning any remaining semblance of metal, Host
was one hundred percent the type of electronic rock performed by bands such as Depeche Mode. Despite initial resistance, both albums have benefited from the passage of time, eventually garnering wider acceptance. In the moment, however, with the experiment complete (and the damage done) Paradise Lost slowly returned to their doom roots, never to revisit that sound again… until now.
Despite sharing a name, the press release makes it clear that this new project featuring Paradise Lost vocalist Nick Holmes and guitarist Greg Mackintosh isn’t meant to be seen as an extension of Host
– and who can blame them for making that distinction? In the years since Host
’s release, the songwriting prowess of both Nick Holmes and Greg Mackintosh has improved dramatically, as has technology and their proficiency with it. Whereas Host
(the album) was unabashed Depeche Mode worship, Host (the band) is a seamless blend of 80s electronic goth pop, industrial rock, and even a little bit of that Paradise Lost doom and gloom – although those that heard the pre-release single “Tomorrow’s Sky” could be forgiven for believing otherwise. “Tomorrow’s Sky” is Host
-era electro-pop worship brought into the modern era, with a rhythmic dance beat, slick chorus, and waves of undulating synth. Except for that song, however, IX
is a dense collection of 80s-era Cure-inspired melodic selections driven through a doomy Paradise Lost filter and covered in layers of synths, strings, and piano.
fits more comfortably between Draconian Times
and Symbol of Life
than any of the three albums that were actually released between them. It features the dark gothy overtones and latent doom influences of Draconian Times
, the electronic pop elements of One Second
(without the awkwardness), and it foreshadows the direction Symbol of Life
would eventually take as the band blended the electronics with a more metal-oriented direction. “Wretched Soul” opens the album determined to prove that IX
isn’t simply Host
part two. At its core, “Wretched Soul” is the kind of sullen doom Icon
excelled at, moving at a lethargic tempo while establishing a melancholic atmosphere with layers of synth, acoustic and electric guitars, organic drum sounds and a haunting Nick Holmes vocal performance. “Hiding from Tomorrow” gives off a subtle “Yearn for Change” vibe if it had all its guitars replaced by cyclical electronics and a bed of melodic synth. Conversely, songs such as “Tomorrow’s Sky” and “Inquisition” channel the same Depeche Mode melancholic electro pop as Host
but brought into modern times with a much more proficient execution.
For a variety of reasons, Paradise Lost’s foray into full-fledged electronic music was faltering and brief. The band did the best they could with the technology and experience they had, but the results were homogenous and uneven. If we’re being honest, though, even if Nick Holmes and company had released the best electronic rock album of the nineties, most their fans would have hated it. That’s where Host (the band) comes in. Over twenty years after Paradise Lost’s foray into electronic rock, people are generally more open minded about artistic exploration, the technology is infinitely better, and both Nick Holmes and Greg Mackintosh have grown as songwriters. For those reasons, now was the perfect chance for them to revisit a passion they were forced to abandon decades ago. The result is Host and their debut album IX
. While the original Host
album was linear in sound and wore its influences on its sleeves, IX
is an eclectic blend of 80s goth tones and melodies, electro-rock hooks, and a classic Paradise Lost doom aura that puts an interesting twist on a classic formula.