Review: Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Let’s disappear together into the nothingness. Join with me in this track-by-track review of new Paradise Lost album, The Plague Within:
Paradise Lost, like At the Gates, Gorguts and Carcass did with their respective comebacks, does not have anything else to prove. With a long career and an impressive ever-changing discography, this band has earned their titles with effort and inventive song craft.
The Plague Within, their last effort, is a record made to think and to feel. The age of the members of Paradise Lost probably made the lyrical content and the overall vibe a much more concise and expressive than their previous release. Every piece on each track is placed wonderfully.
In the sound department, the production and mixing of Colombian Jaime Gómez is perfect to deliver each song in the album a life between the decay. Along one of the most impressive artwork from a release this year, courtesy of Zbigniew Bielak, you can get the idea behind the abstract side of making music, landing in the most pragmatic facet: this last offering of Paradise Lost is their more organic, mature and expressive record.
Just watching the perfect cover art you will see what’s about this: two sides of life breathe and decay together, the skull and the flesh can firstly reminds us of the fear, the desolation; but there’s also a glimpse of the solemnity of life in the leaves coming out in the top. There is no overall “edgy” or “teenage” secrets so the kids induce fears in their parents; here, we deal with the Deadly King and accept it as an important partner in our walk.
The album starts with No Hope in Sight. Desperation and solemnity are encased in that first riff. Old Nick sings with his rotten warlock voice: “No hope in sight/Daylight before them dies/Enshrined the horrified/No hope in sight…”, then the rhythm section pummels you to the darkness and the riffing. Clean vocals clash with that classic putrid growling, making the chorus much bigger in necrotic desperation. This is a song made to feel the sudden explosions on the changes and the piercing guitar melodies.
In the first minutes of the record you will get the vibe. This isn’t a concept; Paradise Lost isn’t going here full pretentious like they could do in their middle era. In fact, I feel that this is one of their most sincere releases in the entire package: the compositions are tight, packed with riffs, twist and turns on their own formula. The Plague Within doesn’t want to infect the listener with cryptic ideas; The Plague Within want to accompany you in the today, in the desolation those modern days can bring you in an attempt to show you and make you feel something.
We follow with Terminal, a piece engulfed by an industrialist marching beat, accentuated by the thunderous bass of Edmonson. The tremolo that is carried along the backing instrumentation serves very well the catchiness of the vocal delivery. Along with a few drum breaks you get a song that will deliver live and still be very connected to the central vibe of the record.
An Eternity of Lies reminds of the metal return of Paradise Lost in Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, in which they experimented with some orchestral touches. A piano and a few strings instruments make the base for a more melancholic delivering. The solemnity of the piece is remarkable, Old Nick uses both masks: the undead magician and the aristocrat vampire. Once more, the dynamic of the song, like happened in the first two, push the composition to a higher status. And the duo of Mackintosh and Aedy sip some wine into the scars to remind us the frailty of hopes in these dark ages with their perfect guitar work.
Punishment through the Time starts once again with an angular riffing and the drumming rolls of Erlandsson touch. In this side, the band read old books (specifically Shades of God and Draconian Times) and the vocals return to the gritty shouting that made famous both records. This is one of the most straightforward songs of the records and makes a good impression of how well they did to make this album a very enjoyable experience remembering their past.
And then, we come to Beneath Broken Earth, the death/doom piece everyone talks since their official video was published. Since is a devastating offering, this is a song made to enjoy and to feel. The guitar tone is set to the maximum, the bass rumbles and in between the starts and stops, you will be graced by a beautiful melodic death or a great drumming placing of the notes. This is a great song in which they could conjure what is good on Paradise Lost. It’s the feeling, the simple-yet-effective dynamic, the vocal delivering perfectly positioned in each syllable. You will feel the soil shatter and you’ll be engulfed into nothingness with this one.
After this emotional ride, the band stills have something to offer. Sacrifice the Flame follows the doom embrace and embarks the listener to a more tender experience than previous track, helped by the orchestration in the sides, until the final part of it when the guitars push the volume to inflict despair through the dissonant change.
Victims of the Past return once again to retain the sense of urgency and bleakness in the well-spotted usage of the violins and keyboards, without forgetting the doom feel on the piece. One more time, the tremolo choice on the riffing makes the atmosphere colder, the refrain throws you into a spiral to sudden makes you crash to the bottom of the pit, in which Old Nick sings to you with an echoes clean voice: “The others/The Guiding Flame”.
Flesh from Bone and Cry Out both can be the weird choices in the track listing. While pummeling in their own fashions, can feel somewhat displaced in the emotional aspect of all the songs in the group. The maniac thrashing drumming in Flesh from Bone can remind of the definite cross between Bloodbath and Vallenfyre, pushed thanks to the chorus and the orchestra behind it as an ode to the Deadly King. Meanwhile, Cry Out is more upbeat offering that hangs between the direct rock-oriented riffing and the bending guitar tainted by melancholy in the leads. Those two aren’t bad songs, by some parts of both can disconnect in some ways of the overall vibe of the record.
Finally, we finish (or we accompany death?) with Return to the Sun. This is a great closure in this dark recollections, Paradise Lost really pushed their game of making feel the blood and the introspection on their music. The eerie orchestra opens the gate to oblivion, there is nothing left except you and the Sun, and a doom beat compliments the sounds of thunder, destruction and the tremolo riffing echoing in the vastness. It is a very touching song, in which you will get every aspect that made this band big; everything is placed in the right spots. From the leads melodies and the perfect usage of both textures of the vocal delivery, Paradise Lost accompanies you to the release, to the peace.
As you can feel, The Plague Within is sincerity. Hearing this record is an experience to look upon the eyes of reality to unmask the filthiness and the harshness with cold eyes and with the feeling that the Deadly King will still conquer the ignorance in one way or another.