Review Summary: Giving credence to an often overlooked era
I don’t think it’s too much of a fringe opinion among Paradise Lost fans these days, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the electro-goth rock phase they had back in the mid-nineties on albums like One Second and Host. While the band has spent the last couple decades affirming their reign as kings of gothic metal, I’ve low key hoped they’d consider revisiting that softer style in some way. While IX is technically a debut album for a spinoff aptly named Host, it’s enough to suggest the feeling was mutual.
While the years since this era may make for a somewhat grizzled presentation in comparison, the musicianship captures those tropes quite nicely. The mood is an appropriate mix of somber and detached as keyboards color the atmosphere, electronic beats set the pace, and the guitars and bass distortion occasionally slip a little heaviness slip through. It’s also nice to see Nick Holmes’s melodic voice be given the spotlight in light of his growl getting more prominent elsewhere, even if the periodic autotune can border on excessive.
The songwriting also plays into this brooding setup, albeit in a somewhat one-note fashion. The bulk of tracks like the opening “Wretched Soul,” “My Only Escape,” and “Inquisition” are slow burns with plodding beats and methodical builds. They’re generally effective but can be interchangeable and can make that thirty-eight minutes length feel longer than it is. Fortunately “Tomorrow’s Sky” and “Hiding From Tomorrow” are more danceable contrasts and “Divine Emotion” puts in a solidly sardonic drive in between.
Host’s IX may not fully recapture the glory of mid-nineties Paradise Lost but I can certainly appreciate the spirit behind it. It’d no doubt be a stretch to expect something like a “Just Say Words” rewrite, but I still wish there were some catchier hooks to shake things up. Whether this is just a one-off effort or the start of a minor entity alongside their main flagship, it’s nice to see them give credence to an often overlooked era.