Review: Paradise Lost – Medusa
The Dead Kings of gothic doom are back, so you better give your golden coins.
Multifacetious and chamaleonic, Paradise Lost has waved high and low since decades and they have not refused yet to breath their poetry to the black masses. Highly experienced in their sweet amalgam of everything dark, these Englishmen deliver this year another macabre recital where the delicate and gothic litanies lead once again their varied sound.
Most of Paradise Lost followers can affirm there are not two equal-sounding albums from their vast discography. Morphing from the dry decayed sound of their death/doom metal pioneering, to the gloomy rock phase and coming full circle to a doom-inspired hard hitting line of records. That is their story, ever-changing, never content with the present, always seeking and searching through their experiences the true meaning of their artistry.
2017 sees the dawn of a new age for these legends. With Medusa, their 15th record, now released under the Nuclear Blast Records banner, they did not repeated their past glories and, instead, submerged into a volatile portal to imprint a new twist into their catalysts and try new spells with it.
The track “Fearless Sky” opens the album with an ominous droning chord played with a perfectly chosen organ that sets the mood of the rest to come. With eight-minutes and just the first strike, the whole band reminds why they influenced a whole subgenre since their humble beginnings. It is a gigantic and anthemic song that progress and displays a terrific songwriting.
In Medusa, there is a palpable dry obscurity latent in every corner. Instead of relying on their elegant slice of melancholy from their last era, Paradise Lost drown them in a damp and foul place in which the songs perspectives are surrounded by an apocalyptic, yet poetic, aura.
According to this aesthetical change, the guitar and bass tones were switched to a doom metal template that carves every ounce of the songwriting without making it morose or derivative. The so-called “return to form” is not a gimmick in Medusa and I dare to claim that the band is completely comfortable as Priests of the Unknown reciting their hellish verses.
Guitarists Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy trade some harsh and hard doom voices with an incredible precision and ease. Their inimitable work flows through the dark compositions and the melancholic melodies of their particular style seals the deal once again for their band. I still find amazing these two guys teamed up since 1988, released a large array of records and still have the inspiration needed to teach the younglings how to play with the mysterious black fires.
The rhythm duo of Steve Edmondson and newcomer Waltteri Väyrynen is another key aspect of this incredible plate. Always on key, always on time, they also did not fear to play a bit within the monolithic doom metal framework. While I praise the Adrian Erlandsson moment in the band, Väyrynen drumming blew me out with his creativity behind the kit.
In the whole album, the rumbling guitar and bass tones oozes expressiveness and gives to the songs a cohesive and distinct sound. Working with producer Jaime Gómez Arellano (Who also helped the legends of Ulver and Cathedral) was another success for the Halifax guys.
Moving within the restrictions of the genre, I was deeply impressed with “From the Gallows” and “Gods of Ancient”; these are two pronged stabs of bleeding death/doom metal. There is always a drum groove between the sculptures built from the monstrous chord switching or a sweet and beautiful melodic line on the guitars that made me realize that this really is a carefully written record.
On the other hand, “No Passage for the Dead” manages to shake up the death/doom style with an inventive and skillful rhythm, in which Väyrynen sets the tempo and the metric for the band to envelop the listener in a choking experience. This track is another marvel inside this well-rounded album.
Following up, “The Longest Winter” opens the second half with a gothic feel that will accompany the rest of the journey. With more spaces and dynamics on the verses, tossing a couple of effects into the mix and the exchange between both clean and harsh vocalizations, the band conjures a little bit more their last era. Traces of In Requiem and Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us can be pointed towards this song until the very end of the album.
At this point, love it or hate it, I feel that Nick Holmes’ vocal delivery in this album is supreme. From his rotten growls to his mournful low-range clean verses, the front man is always connected to his lyrics and that sincerity is always welcomed. Holmes’ is believable in all the character he imprints to the songs and, that, is probably one of the traits of a great vocalist.
“Medusa”, “Blood and Chaos” and “Until The Grave” puts the final nails to this splendid coffin. The track that gives the name to the album is a sorrowful duel of growls and gothic enchant; seventh song grooves with a dangerous rock-driven cocktail (perhaps a nod to their controversial Host, their infamous “Depeche Mode-worshipping era”); and the last title is heart-breaker emotive voyage towards the fragility of humankind and our concepts of life.
Medusa as a whole is a perfect display of how returning to the roots without getting derivative. While revisiting The Plague Within after the first listening of this new release made me think that the previous record was just a stepping stone into this new incarnation. Mackintosh and Holmes twilight walks with their more harsh side-projects (Vallenfyre and Bloodbath, respectively) probably helped to refine the sound they wanted and I truly think they succeeded.
The lyrical content is touching and interesting, the sound is raw and bowl-twisting, the running time is perfect, and the band is extremely compromised in attitude and force towards all the songs that, every time I listen to it, I need to gaze to the eyes of the beautiful Medusa, who convinced me this is one of the best albums of the genre released this year.
I, like in 2015, surrender myself to the Dead Kings.