Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Obsidian marks the 16th studio album by British Gothic Doom Metal legends Paradise Lost. With such a long career and so much music under their belts it can be difficult to find new ways to describe what they do in a way that might attract new listeners. In the world of doom and death metal you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn’t heard of Paradise Lost, and basically every European metal band would cite them as a primary influence. And for good fucking reason! Paradise Lost are, and have basically always been masters of the craft. One of the most impressive facts about this band is that for as long as they’ve been around, they’ve never had a revolving door of musicians as is often the case for any other band that has survived as long as they have. From their first album until now the only member changes that have occurred have the been the drummer position. For Obsidian, the line-up is Waltteri Väyrynen on drums, bassist Stephen Edmonson, guitarists Aaron Aedy and Gregor Mackintosh, and of course Nick Holmes on vocals.
At this point in their career, Paradise Lost are not trying to re-invent the wheel. They know what their music should sound like and what their fans expect, so they’re simply serving up what they do best. Big doomy riffs, soaring leads, pounding drums and Nick Holmes signature vocal style that alternates between a deep, disgusting growl that is pure death metal and a crisp, clean baritone vocal that basically defines the Goth Metal style.
The album opens up with “Darker Thoughts” a haunting acoustic guitar melody supporting Nick as he croons over the top with a stand out lyric that says, “This one way street you’re on is gonna get you killed.” The song builds up until about the two-minute mark where it explodes into a big distorted guitar riff and Nick effortlessly switches over to his deadly growling style. The band leads through a fairly standard quiet verse/loud chorus song structure, but gives enough space for each instrument to shine, culminating with an epic, soaring guitar solo before wrapping things up. In less than five minutes Paradise Lost prove they are all professionals in every sense and have crafted a damn near perfect song. Only the most critical of fans would really find something to latch onto and submit a complaint.
Track 3 is titled “Ghosts,” and it would be near impossible to not draw some comparison to Type O Negative as Nick employs a bassy vocal tone to sing “For Jesus Christ” that echoes Peter Steele in a way that seems all too intentional. However, they pull it off tastefully. They’re not ripping off Type O’s sound, they’re just coming from a similar background and express their music in a similar way.
Obsidian as a whole is 11 tracks and clocks in just shy of an hour, and it’s pretty much business as usual the whole way through… down-tempo doomy riffs that draw heavily from the school of Sabbath accented by Nick’s fluctuations between the growling death metal vocal and the cleaner, Goth metal vocal style. With even just one listen you can hear the impact this group has had on nearly every sub-genre of European death and black metal. If you’re looking for blast beats, sweep arpeggios or prog/djenty influences, you’d want to look elsewhere… but if you’re up for some great songs with modern production style and draws from the book of traditional heavy metal ala Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate and Candlemass, then Obsidian is worth the time. Granted, this will probably not go down as a game-changer for any fans, and it certainly won’t be considered Paradise Lost’s all-time best album… but for being 16 albums deep, they are keeping it together better than most any band could ask for.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that Nick has been pulling double-duty as the vocalist for the Swedish death metal band Bloodbath, which also features Anders and Jonas from Katatonia and Martin Axenrot of Opeth, so if you find Paradise Lost to be a bit too slow-moving and you’d like to hear Nick sing over some faster, more pure death metal style music you may want to check out their latest release The Arrow of Satan is Drawn.