Album Review: Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Posted by Reggie
Label: Century Media
Release Date: 2 Jun 15
Length: 51 Minutes
Previous Albums: This is their 14th album. See article for the rest of the albums.
There are very few bands out there that you can say started out one way, evolved into something completely different, and then came back to their roots. At least not the way England’s Paradise Lost has done it. They have come damn near full circle with their latest release, The Plague Within, which we’ll talk more as I build up to it. In the late 90s, they formed Paradise Lost…what is now considered one of the pioneers of gothic metal. Their first four albums, Lost Paradise (1990), Gothic (1991), Shades of God (1992), and Icon (1993), were heavily gothic/doom albums – not the kind of songs you would have heard on the radio…at least not in America. Most of Nick Holmes’ vocals were gritty and growling and the music was dark and brooding. Icon started the slow and eventual evolution that Paradise Lost embodied for nearly two decades. Here is a clip from their debut album, Lost Paradise.
Draconian Times (1995) was a pivotal album for Paradise Lost. While their core sound remained melancholic and doomy, it was a huge leap for the band in terms of musical style and direction. The vocals were, I guess you could say, normal. Enter more keys and take away some Goth and the music became more mainstream…at least as mainstream and goth/doom could be. This was the album that got me into the band; much different from what I was listening to at the time. Keep in mind, in the mid-90s metal was being pushed back underground. I had not heard of Paradise Lost until Draconian Times earned the band more advertisement space in metal magazines. I bought it because I thought the album cover looked cool. Sure paid off. Here is a clip of a live performance from that album. By the time this video is over, you should have noticed a fairly huge difference between 1990 and 1995.
The band continued to evolve their sound. One Second (1997) more or less carried the same principle sound as Draconian Times, but edged closer to mainstream. And, as I use the term mainstream I do not mean that as a negative thing. I just mean, their style helped them reach a wider audience. Keys are all over One Second and Holmes’ vocals were a little cleaner. What happened next with Host (1999), threw a lot of people off. If you have heard Depeche Mode or anything British synthpop, then you will understand Host without having to listen to it. It was a huge departure for the band, but as far as my personal taste I still liked it quite a bit. It was labeled a controversial album, but I do not know what the controversy was except maybe that it wasn’t metal. Note the lack of guitars in the song below. Mackintosh whose guitar presence forged their sound has moved over to mostly playing the keys.
Believe in Nothing (2001) picked up where Host left off, but maybe added a bit more “rock” into the mix. 2002’s Symbol of Life added guitars back into the sound and gave things a bit more kick. When I say kick, think of something like the band Pendulum. Erased was one of the top tracks on that album and they still play it live…at least they did when I saw them live in Norwich, England in 2012. You can read that review here.
The self-titled album from 2005, continued to mark a very slow return to the ballpark of One Second and Draconian Times era music. Holmes’s vocals were still quite clean, but there were some marked improvements in terms of “metal” though nothing nearing anything extreme.
By the time In Requiem was released in 2007, it was pretty clear where Paradise Lost was going…back to where they came from. The darkness from earlier albums was returning and Holmes’ vocal style was getting a bit grittier. The Enemy is a great song from In Requiem. Overall, it wasn’t anything compared to their first few albums, but all that synthpop stuff just went away. Keys were still there, but they served a better purpose.
One of my favorite Paradise Lost songs ever, Faith Divides Us, can be found on Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us (2009). Again, continuing the trend back to goth/doom, this album was more choppy and in-your-face. Rise of Denial is the first video below and shows the return to heavy roots, gritty vocals, and more aggressive guitar playing. Faith Divides Us is from the same album and despite bring one of the slower songs on the album, it is quite powerful. The video is disturbing and looks like it should be from a movie.
Tragic Idol continued the trend and was a strong output from the band. Our review of that album can be found here. Tragic Illusion followed up Tragic Idol and is not a studio album. It does boast some very classic Goth sounds, remixes, and rarities that Paradise Lost was proud to dig up from the grave.
And now there is The Plague Within, Paradise Lost’s 14th studio album. It is about as close as they have been to their first few obscure albums that are possibly out of print (I’m guessing). Since Nick Holmes decided to step out and front the death metal band Bloodbath as well…I think he brought some of that back with him to the Paradise Lost studio. While about half of the album is laced with brutal, early-era growling, the other half is still…not as clean as it used to be during their mid-career years. The droning doom found on Beneath Broken Earth (see below) should delight those that lean to the doom metal side of things. No Hope in Sight opens the album and features a short, melodic intro and Type O Negative-ish cadence during the cleaner parts. It’s a nice set up to what the rest of the album brings to the table, but there are better, more energetic songs I think they could have chosen to open the album.
It’s great to see Paradise Lost bring their music back to their roots again. That’s just my personal opinion. I have always liked their music no matter what direction they decided to take it. However, because of their return to the land of heavy, it’s tough to say that they are doing anything entirely new since they more or less sound like they used to. There are some surprises though. The double bass in Terminal is something I have not heard in years…not at the length Erlandsson keeps up the pace. Punishment Through Time and An Eternity of Lies could have been ripped from Icon or Draconian Times. These songs are a nice throwback to that era. Flesh From Bone is borderline blast beat driven…perhaps the fastest and heaviest song of their career. This one was completely unexpected and ended up being the song on the album that gets the most spins on my preferred music player. The orchestral instrumentation on Victim of the Past is a style Paradise Lost has done well with over the years. They have a knack for that orchestra-melancholy-fusion element that takes their music to a deeper, more personal level.
Overall, The Plague Within should be a treat for long-time Paradise Lost fans for the simple reason they have mostly returned to their roots. As a whole it’s grittier than anything they have done in decades. As a standalone album apart from the rest of the band’s discography, The Plague Within is, pretty simply, a generous dosage of old-school Paradise Lost. Whether you wanted the band to revert to days long past or venture off in a new direction, the current set of 10 songs is healthy dose of all things heavy, doomy, and gothic.
4 Out of 5