Paradise Lost, ‘Medusa’ – Album Review
Paradise Lost are doom/death pioneers, and helped spawn the gothic metal genre, as well. Over the years their sound shifted in a more accessible and less extreme direction, but 2015's The Plague Within saw them return to their heavier roots. Not only have they continued that path with their 15th studio album Medusa, they've doubled down with an even heavier effort.
Their new drummer, 22-year-old Waltteri Väyrynen, wasn't even born when Paradise Lost released their debut album back in 1990. But the youngster, who is also in Gregor Mackintosh's band Vallenfyre, is an impressive player who fits right in with the veteran group. And an infusion of youthful energy and enthusiasm can never hurt, either.
Starting an album with the longest track might be a risky move for some bands, but Paradise Lost have the gravitas and skill to pull it off. The eight-minute “Fearless Sky” starts deliberately with heavy plodding doom and harsh vocals, but the tempo picks up halfway through and Nick Holmes switches to melodic singing.
As to the subject matter of “Fearless Sky,” Holmes says, “I’ve always liked the expression 'the richest man in the graveyard’, as it sums up so much about life, our purpose for existence, and what all material possessions actually mean once we have gone. Yet, particularly in the West, adult life seems to be about accumulating meaningless things, or admiring other people that have accumulated more meaningless things than you have.”
The band's plodding, morose side is on display on tracks like “Gods of Ancients,” while songs like “Blood and Chaos” are much more uptempo and energetic. That helps add some variety, but Paradise Lost's bread and butter is downtempo, downbeat fare that's laden with thick riffs and emotional vocals. Holmes does an excellent job shifting from his baritone croon to intense death growls throughout the album, with growls being heavily represented this time around.
The title track features mostly melodic singing, but songs like “No Passage For the Dead” and album closer “Until the Grave” (listen below) spotlight Holmes' aforementioned harsh vocals. And if you thought the album would end on an upbeat note, you don't know Paradise Lost. According to Holmes, “Ideas around this song are based on: innocents lost for no reason, slaughter founded on unfounded hatred, fear, and gradual dehumanization based on lies and propaganda.”
The evolution of Paradise Lost's sound is interesting. Usually as bands age, they mellow, either in attitude or sound. It looked like Paradise Lost were headed that way too, but their last couple albums show the band revisiting the sound of their youth while bringing the maturity and skill they've developed over the past three decades.
Watch the Lyric Video for 'Until the Grave'