PARADISE LOST - Obsidian
May 24, 2020, 2 months ago
The sporadic, tin-sounding pizzicati plucking of something like a ukulele, and a spoken (otherwise a cappella) voice, greet "Darker Thoughts", eventually joined by the whine of bow across violin. Not exactly a doom metal introduction to the English masters' 16th studio effort. No worries, as it quickly (well PL have never been about speed) rights the ship and throughout the expanse of eleven compositions, Paradise Lost traverse their back catalog, ultimately resting comfortably between Shades Of God and Icon. The tonnage of vicious black/death metal that's encompassed the last few platters is nowhere to be found. "Ravenghast" comes closest. Slower executed (pun intended) Halloween theme, adopted from the infamous Psycho shower scene, kicks things off, but it still ends with lone tinkling of ivories. This album is more about atmospheric shades of gray, than outright darkness.
Nick Holmes employs a variety of vocal styles, from agonized screams, to the sinister, frothy mouthed opener, plus Gothic, almost demure, touches and the guttural, aforementioned aggression. Trudging, with all the alacrity of maneuvering the massive stones that form the base of the Great Pyramids into place, "Fall From Grace" has Holmes employing the whispering cherub style he utilized on the best tracks from the early-to-mid Nineties albums. The jangly guitar and post-new wave (old wave?) Romanticism of "Ghosts" has earned references (elsewhere) to Depeche Mode, long a favorite of Holmes and mainstay guitarist/co-founder Gregor Mackintosh. However, knowing squat of that UK lot, neither owning, nor listening to them, let's say it recalls Type O Negative, especially the infectious, repeated "Oh, Jesus Christ" chorus.
There's a bit of liturgical organ to "The Devil Embraced", the vocals alternating between clean/soft and forcefully devilishness (pun intended). Slowly chugging "Forsaken" inhabits a soundscape akin to "Shadowkings/Elusive Cure" off Draconian Times. "Serenity" (fittingly entitled) raises spirits (and not the liquid variety), briefly. Similar to like-minded, contemporary Yorkshiremen My Dying Bride, the violin wasn't put away, following the opener, but makes a return, to accent mournful "Ending Days". Drums are dominant on the meandering sludge of "Hope Dies Young", the least metallic offering. As the album winds down, there's "Ravenghast", the heaviest sediment settling to the bottom. "Hear The Night" is the first of two bonus tracks available. Holmes in full-on demon mode, nearly slurred lyrics, to start, but come the chorus, there's his airy, lilting counterpoint. The second extra is "Defiler", an evil delivered performance (courtesy of the singer), but the guitars retain that jangly buzz.
Stunning step back, without sounding dated. Cheers!