Review / Paradise Lost – Obsidian

It’s surely no easy thing to keep on writing music after over 30 years as a band. Yet Paradise Lost have, in recent times, made it seem like the easiest thing in the world, with their last two albums in particular – 2015’s The Plague Within and 2017’s Medusa – seeing the band hit a fine run of form, hitting that sweet spot where heaviness and gothic pop sensibilities combine superbly. Latest album Obsidian sees that run continue, with Paradise Lost honing their craft whilst also expanding on it by looking back to their past.

Of course, when talking about “the past” for a band like Paradise Lost, there’s so much that could mean, given how many different sounds they have explored since Lost Paradise was released 30 years ago. Anyone hoping for a return to their death-doom sound should know by now that’s not going to happen; but Obsidian recalls the goth-rock triumph of 1995’s Draconian Times and the classic Depeche Mode and ‘80s goth influences that ran rampant over 1999’s Host. Obsidian is very much a metal album – there’s no synth-driven, would-be chart-topper like Host’s ‘So Much Is Lost’ on here, or even something as immediate as One Second (1997) single ‘Say Just Words’. But there are moments when you think that, maybe, the band could go in that direction again; but instead they embrace the heavier aspect of their recent sound.

Which is another way of saying: there are some absolutely killer songs on Obsidian. ‘Ghosts’ in particular sounds like it’s destined to fill the dance-floor of your local goth club the instant it reopens. For all its heavy riffs and muscular guitar soloing, there’s a hell of a lot of Sisters Of Mercy in the song’s DNA, with its driving bass, icy guitar melody behind the chorus and vocalist Nick Holmes doing his best Andrew Eldritch impression. Likewise, ‘Forsaken’ opens with a choral chant and crashing guitars that suggests the song could become a behemoth in the style of ‘This Corrosion’, but Paradise Lost instead take it into more typical goth-metal direction; yet the feeling persists that they’ve gone back to those influences and decided they wanted to write a few metal songs you can dance to.

Of course, being Paradise Lost, there are still some crushing tracks that go in heavy on the metal. Opening ‘Darker Thoughts’, after a few introductory minutes, is the kind of doom that the band have been making their own over the last few albums. ‘Fall From Grace’ is a natural choice of single, despite being the slowest song on Obsidian; its relentless, dirge-like march is miserable and cathartic in equal measure, culminating in the repeated insistence that “we’re all alone” atop a mournful guitar solo.

Obsidian is, more than any other recent Paradise Lost album, characterised by those competing influences and sides to the band – the anthemic crowd-pleasers with their killer choruses sitting next to miserable, crawling introspective doom. The triumph of Obsidian lies in how well it combines the two. It feels like Paradise Lost have really hit the Motörhead stage of their latest incarnation, where you know what you’re going to get, the band know how to craft what they want to make, and you know it’s going to be good – the only question is “how good?”. Ultimately, it’s nothing that Paradise Lost haven’t done before, but it is a marked improvement on the uneven Medusa and represents an ongoing run of form that shows no signs of running out of inspiration or thrills any time soon.

Obsidian is out 15th May via Nuclear Blast. Order here.

Words: Stuart Wain