REVIEW: PARADISE LOST – “Obsidian”
Obsidian glass is characterized as hard, brittle, and amorphous; and as such, given to fracturing into sharp edges. Veteran doom dealers Paradise Lost’s powerful new record ‘Obsidian’ unquestionably lives up to its White Walker slaying namesake.
Opening track “Darker Thoughts” serves as a lyrical and musical declaration of intent. Vocalist Nick Holmes’ gentle croon rides brittle acoustic guitar and atmospheric tension-building strings before the satisfying metallic salvo of the chorus, in which Holmes’ distinctive growl is offset by textured guitars. The song eventually winds down into a melodic in-service-of-the-song guitar solo by Gregor Mackintosh. Tuneful and efficient, the song is the first in a series of striking tunes on a somber record that is clearly focused on songcraft.
Of all the tracks in the set, lead-off single “Fall from Grace” is the one that harkens back the most to the heavier style pursued on 2017s excellent ‘Medusa’. The twisting, melodic doom of the intro is offset by an angular, start-stop verse riff emphasized by Holmes’ plaintive snarl before the intro riff is re-purposed for a memorable chorus.
The compact styling of “Ghosts” are a gentle reminder to upstart bands like Idle Hands that Paradise Lost were among the original purveyors of the profane marriage between buzz-saw bass driven ethereal goth and muscular riffing. A driving rhythm thick with toms serves as the skeletal backbone for Mackintosh and rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy’s sparse atmospheric guitars and infectious echo-laden chorus leads. Holmes’ tale of chaos and eternal night is delivered via a wonderfully woeful sad bastard vocal turn.
Elsewhere, the up-tempo “Serenity” finds ‘Draconian Times’ era heavy riffage clawing its way to the surface. The theatrical falsetto of the nihilistic “Hope Dies Young” is pure new wave bliss. “The Devil Embraced” is notable in the big rock gestures of the lead break, where Mackintosh’s timeless, wah-wah drenched solo rides drummer Waltteri Väyrynen and bassist Stephen Edmondson’s lumbering blood drunk breakdown. The rock classicism of the lead break is a trick employed throughout the set to tremendous effect.
The vampiric majesty of final curtain call “Ravenghast” blows out the candle on full-length number sixteen with pitch black gusto. The brittle, eerie piano figure that haunts the mood-setting introduction is shattered by the funereal death doom that follows. Underpinned by Makinstosh’s stellar song elevating leads, the song builds to a crescendo before grinding down via a plaintive double-kick laden dirge-like coda.
‘Obsidian’ finds Paradise Lost in peak melancholic form as they embrace the dark romanticism of their earlier gothic inspired work.