REVIEWED: Paradise Lost - 'Obsidian'
Perhaps the most enduring quality at the core of Paradise Lost’s distinctive genius is the exploration of internalised agony, each exquisite musical offering a deeply personal journey into the beating heart of the psyche. The Yorkshire-based gothic metal crew’s latest highly anticipated release leans even further into the contemplative side of the spectrum to deliver their most exacting dissection of the human condition yet. Vocalist Nick Holmes describes new album 'Obsidian' as ‘dark, reflective and black’ and discusses it in terms of reflection and regret, ‘The Butterfly Effect - the idea that certain decisions can affect you and your life much further down the line’. While the finely-balanced, tautly honed blend of delicately-realised song structures, lyrical inventiveness and infernal instrumental skill that have kept the band at the top of their game is present here in spades, new ground is broken with the album’s more polished, mature and meditative aspects.
The range of emotion encompassed by the ambitious scope of 'Obsidian', from the sharp pain of regret to the bitterness of shattered dreams, the yearning for lost innocence to the cruelty of lost faith is matched only by the diversity of style and creativity inherent in the melodic majesty. Slipping in and out of various forms with Protean ease in typical Paradise Lost fashion, the album encompasses everything the band does best, from sludgy doom-ridden death to pulsing gothic rock, elegant atmospherics to rich draperies of velvety gloom.
Opener 'Darker Thoughts' unfolds like a tragic tale, beginning on a slow and thoughtful note with plaintive strings and dulcet vocals, before flowing through lapping classical overtones into a wave of metal riffs. 'Fall from Grace', an instantly recognisable classic, occupies more familiar Paradise Lost territory with all the heavy, misery-infused excess that characterises their legendary sound. In a break from the more melancholy fare, 'Ghosts' hits like a freight train with its infectious, 80’s inspired goth groove reminiscent of Sisters of Mercy or 69 Eyes, all toe-tapping rock and roll beats. Intended as a dance-floor filler, this is not the strongest track, but certainly a lot of fun. Wrapping the listener in wicked folds of devilish drama, 'The Devil Embraced' revels in raw-edged, brimstone vocals and exquisite, anguished riffs that exude shivering emotional torment. 'Forsaken’s' grinding bass is redolent with despair, each note a pounding death knell, while the pace meets boiling point in the far from calm 'Serenity' as the wretched hopelessness turns into anger with raging riffs and beats full of ire. 'Ending Days' is more mellow and reflective, basking in its gentler, more deliciously synthetic groove and high-strung solos, while 'Hope Dies Young' follows this theme as well as bringing in some delicate percussive elements. 'Ravenghast' closes the album on an epic tone with grinding doom and suitably bleak, gorgeous grandeur.
A feast for the senses, 'Obsidian' is a kaleidoscopic delight, all ever-shifting patterns of variety and splendour that defies interpretation. Indeed, trying to pin Paradise Lost’s latest opus down to a particular meaning, style or genre would be like capturing any ethereally lovely insect creature in a display case, tethering its beauty in an infinite moment yet depriving it of all its vibrancy, essence and movement. When these masters of metamorphoses flap their inky wings, a multifaceted tsunami of opulent, crushing black glory is released.
'Obsidian' is out now via Nuclear Blast