REVIEW: PARADISE LOST – “Medusa”
Formed in 1988 and considered by many to be one of the early pioneers of the metal sub-genres now known as Goth and Doom, British rockers Paradise Lost are back with their fifteenth studio album, ‘Medusa’. Having remained very much at the forefront of these movements by always pushing the limits of the genre, the band have endured the test of time, adapted to its changes and fans can generally expect a powerfully charged and diverse track list when it comes to new records. With ‘Medusa’, however, diversity takes a back seat and gives way to an almost overly generous serving of predictable Doom.
Slow to kick off, the near nine-minute opening track, “Fearless Sky”, offers little of real interest and far exceeds its welcome. If somewhat interesting in its last moments, there’s just not enough happening throughout its run time that holds up, Things improve momentarily with “Gods of Ancient” and “The Gallows” following suit. Had they left it at that, they might have had one hell of an E.P. But this is not the case.
Diversity is also absent vocally throughout ‘Medusa’, with singer Nick Holmes failing to consistently exercise his renowned, dynamic vocal range, going for a deep, guttural styling for the majority of these songs. Exceptions, such as “The Longest Winter” remind us what we’re missing. More Goth than Doom, more Type O Negative than Paradise Lost, and certainly more Peter Steele than Nick Holmes, “The Longest Winter” serves as the albums standout track with its multiple references. Featuring atmospheric guitar work executed by Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, the song seems to be tipping the hat in homage to Type O and Steele. “Blood and Chaos”, the record’s single, is another reminder of what could have been, a song destined to make the rounds in set lists to come, with guitar hooks reminiscent of “Shades of God” and “Hallowed Land” from the bands earlier works. But in “No Passage for the Dead”, album closer “Until the Grave,” and the title track “Medusa”, there is little to be found in the way of variety.
In Greek mythology, Medusa, known as The Gorgon, was a monster with snakes instead of hair and anyone who gazed upon her was doomed to be turned to stone. In the end, Medusa fell victim to her own gaze and was herself tuned to stone. Yet there is more to Medusa than this minimal by-line. One which reveals her to be a vulnerable, multi-layered and complex character with more to offer than the single attribute of doom she’s often reduced to. But that’s not to be found here, for with ‘Medusa’, the monsters of rock that are Paradise Lost, fall victim to their own gaze. A band capable of transcending and enriching genres, ‘Medusa’ sees them coming up short with an album that does them a disservice. For the problem is not that ‘Medusa’ is a quintessential Doom album. It’s that it’s a Doom album of the standard variety and, for the most part, only that.
A passable Doom album,not a great one, from a band who have the ability to be great. Black Sabbath developed the prototype for the sub-genre decades ago and bands having been using and developing it ever since. But with ‘Medusa’ development comes to a grinding halt as there is nothing new or exciting here. In a catalogue that includes great albums such as ‘Gothic’, ‘One Second’ to ‘Believe in Nothing’ and ‘Tragic Idol’, this one doesn’t sit right and, unfortunately, sees Paradise Lost uncharacteristically delivering a one dimensional and at times, even repetitive Doom album, despite a couple of strong tracks.