Paradise Lost – ‘Medusa’ (Nuclear Blast) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 04:20

Paradise Lost - MedusaIt is, so the saying goes, grim up North. Perhaps that goes a way to explaining why the North produces such great extreme music then, the North of England in particular revered for its spawning of the legendary doom metal triptych of My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost in the late 80s/early 90s. Formed in 1988 and on a constant path of reinvention ever since, Paradise Lost have never been a band to shy away from taking musical left turns whenever the mood took them. The only consistent throughout their career has been a dogged adherence to reinventing the wheel in expanding the boundaries of what a band could achieve within doom metal. Whether it was injecting the genre with a healthy dose of death metal in the early days (thus proving themselves early champions of the now popular doom-death subgenre) or pursuing gothic aesthetics, Paradise Lost’s music has never been fully typecast in one role, the band constantly finding new ways to reinvent the wheel without alienating their fanbase. So why should ‘Medusa’, the band’s 15th studio album, be any different?


If there’s one thing that Medusa’s predecessor, 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘The Plague Within’, proved it is that the return to the band’s early doom/death style was much anticipated, fans and critics alike fawning over the primordial snarl of vocalist Nick Holmes. Rejoice then, that those grave-dirt tones have stuck around, opener ‘Fearless Sky’ bringing us in with a demonic funeral procession. Where Plague’s opener ‘No Hope In Sight’ rode atop some premier riffage courtesy of messrs Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, ‘Fearless Sky’ offers no holds barred in the doom metal stakes, its agonisingly laboured riffing enough to have any respectable music fan checking their turntable for incorrect RPM. Make no mistake; this is doom metal at its purest and nastiest.


While the split between death growls and Holme’s impressive melodic vocal work was fairly evenly distributed on ‘Plague’, ‘Medusa’ lives up to its monstrous namesake with a constant barrage of snarls, roars and howls that at times err on almost black metal levels of nastiness. This just makes the rare melodic moments shine all the brighter of course, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a band that employs the snarl/melody dynamic better, especially now that Opeth have definitively moved away from their hellion roots.


A sense of epic grandiosity propels each track along, with the impressive showcase of musicianship during the intro to ‘From The Gallows’ proving that you don’t need to work your riffs out with a calculator to produce some astoundingly pleasing sounds. Slightly less pleasing however, are the occasional forays into radio play theatricality, the canned wind, tide and raven squawks that signal the start of ‘The Longest Winter’ feeling slightly hammy as they take the listener’s attention away from the album’s real star; the band.



The closest ‘Medusa’ has to a lead single, ‘The Longest Winter’ is solid goth thunder. Removing none of the sonic identity of the previous tracks but letting Holmes flex his more melodic side, ‘The Longest Winter’ is as close to commercial as Paradise Lost care to stray on the album, clearly aiming at the hearts of their own audience rather than trying to bring in new fans. At its core, that description describes ‘Medusa’ well; an album absolutely assured of what it is, Paradise Lost have reaffirmed themselves as one of doom metal’s most respected names by doubling down on everything that made them popular in the first place, whilst staying far away from sounding too comfortable or set into their niche. Instead, the band offer doom metal 101, a handy and easy-to-digest package that gives you a taste of all that is good within the genre, whilst never getting too indulgent or static.


Without a doubt, ‘Medusa’ is a premier doom metal record, one which is unashamed in its status without coming across (as so many of its contemporaries can, and have) as a tired re-tread of old ground. While not as immediately accessible to the average metalhead as its predecessor, nor as anthemic as ‘In Requiem’ a decade ago, ‘Medusa’ is nonetheless Paradise Lost at their absolute best. Rooted in doom, coloured by goth and haunted by echoes of classic metal (the spirit of Black Sabbath’s ‘Black Sabbath’ is strong here), ‘Medusa’ is a distillation of all the elements a fan could possibly hope for and a high watermark other traditionally inclined doom metal bands can strive for.


'Medusa' is out now.


Paradise Lost will tour Europe this autumn/winter, playing The Electric Ballroom in London on Friday 3 November before headlining the Damnation Festival on Saturday 4 November.


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