The doom-death-gothic legends have been through so many musical phases in their incredible 32-year career that you never know quite what to expect from a Paradise Lost album. But you can always rely on the core elements of crushing morosity, foreboding energy, and supreme elegance. Sixteenth album, Obsidian, released on May 15th via Nuclear Blast, brings all of that in bucketloads, subtly melding the different eras of PL’s career while continuing to push into new territories of sound.
The first single, “Fall From Grace,” is a classic Paradise Lost anthem that references last album Medusa, and in many ways Obsidian is a continuation of the band’s return to heaviness over the past few years. There are loaded guitar sections throughout and massive riffs in “The Devil Embraced,” “Forsaken,” and “Serenity,” a galloping track about the horror and futility of battle.
However second single “Ghosts” is a surprise gothic disco number, with up-tempo beats and a gloriously catchy ‘for Jesus Christ’ refrain. “Ghosts” may be an outlier, albeit a brilliant one, on the album but there are plenty of other Eighties references – clean guitar tones, echo-effect vocals, wah-wah solos, and motifs that trace Paradise Lost’s influential gothic days.
But while at times this album harks back to earlier periods of the band’s story, it by no means relies on past ideas; Obsidian is filled innovation and variety. The vocal delivery is notably varied, with Nick Holmes bringing out the full range of his iconic voice, from mellow cleans to full death growls. Piano, synths, organ, string and choir effects are added sparingly throughout, never allowed to overpower the core sound. Drummer Waltteri Väyrynen also adds atmospheric creativity, with innovative drumming patterns notably in “The Devil Embraced” and “Ravenghast.”
Paradise Lost has a unique ability to combine gloom with energy. Even in their most lyrically despondent and musically bleak moments, an ominous driving force is a constant. And there’s no other band that can inject the simplest of melodies with such depth and meaning. Heartbreaking lead guitar motifs are a Paradise Lost staple, and these melodies are better than ever in “Darker Thoughts,” “Fall From Grace,” and “Ending Days.” And as ever, while the themes and lyrics couldn’t be any more miserable, there is something incredibly cathartic, dare I say uplifting, about the whole package.
At nine tracks and forty-five minutes long, Obsidian is a masterpiece of succinct, supremely confident, deceptively simple song-writing, delivered with grace and ultra-satisfying heaviness. A beautiful album that shows Paradise Lost is still at the top of their game.
Obsidian Track Listing:
1. Darker Thoughts
2. Fall From Grace
4. The Devil Embraced
7. Ending Days
8. Hope Dies Young
Run Time: 45:22
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records