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From the Gallows - 85%

lonerider, May 30th, 2020

Two years after the critically acclaimed The Plague Within, Paradise Lost returned with yet another full-length studio recording and, as various statements in the promotional interviews leading up to its release had indicated, it was pretty much the logical continuation of the path taken by its predecessor. Medusa proved that the band’s rekindled flirtation with their death doom roots was more than a mere aberration, bringing us more music in the vein of the previous album’s grimmest and most desolate cuts from the crypt.

Don’t let the magenta-colored background of the front cover fool you: Medusa is one of the band’s blackest and bleakest efforts to date, with eight crushing tunes that have much more in common with, say, Gothic or Shades of God than with Icon or Draconian Times, the last two of course representing the band’s most heralded era. 2012’s Tragic Idol marked a brief return to that mid-nineties sound many of their fans love and revere, and we can assume that another record in the same vein must have been commercially tempting. Instead, Paradise Lost basically decided to throw their fans a curveball with The Plague Within and then doubled it up with the even more rugged and harsh Medusa. Kudos to these stubborn Yorkshiremen for continuing to defy expectations and still being able to surprise people even after thirty years in the business.

Medusa, even more so than The Plague Within, is a highly consistent but not an instantly accessible affair, at least not for those who prefer the band’s more mellow, velvety side. At merely eight tracks (on the standard version) and a concise 42 minutes, variation and stylistic flexibility is not the name of this snake-haired Gorgon’s game. The only track to deviate a little from the album’s mostly snail-paced doom and gloom is the slightly faster, more upbeat “Blood and Chaos,” which actually feels a bit like a follow-up to The Plague Within’s “Flesh from Bone.” It’s a welcome deviation, but it’s kind of an outlier and doesn’t really brighten the depressed mood of the overall proceedings.

One of the major points of criticism for many listeners is the way Greg Mackintosh’s signature lead-guitar harmonies take a back seat on Medusa, which is geared more towards crushing doom riffs and a barren atmosphere of blackness and despair rather than one of melancholic grandeur. The eight-and-a-half minute behemoth “Fearless Sky” is a notable exception, as is the title track and the aforementioned “Blood and Chaos.” However, the lack of overt melodicism on most of the other tracks can make the raw and unrelenting Medusa a tough pill to swallow for some, but it would be a grave (sic!) mistake to dismiss the rest of the songs as bland only because they won’t immediately grab you with catchy hooks and melodies.

In fact, the true strength of Medusa lies in just that relentlessness and homogeneity. Even a slightly twisted and somewhat disharmonic song like “No Passage for the Dead,” which might seem like a bit of an oddity when standing on its own, works well in the overall context of this album. “The Longest Winter,” with its laid-back introduction and unusual guitar layers, features maybe the largest proportion of clean vocals out of all the tracks, reverting to death growls only for its chorus. Then again, perhaps this “chorus” is only the bridge and the actual chorus is that “feeling so alive in this hopeless dream” part? Owing to the oftentimes unconventional approach to songwriting and structure on Medusa, such things can occasionally be hard to tell. “From the Gallows,” which does a nice job of recapturing the sound and spirit of the band’s sophomore effort Gothic, and the closing hammer of doom that is “Until the Grave” are two more very strong tracks on a release full of strong cuts but devoid of any clear-cut highlights.

Now, a word on “Old” Nick Holmes and his vocal performance, which has been a point of contention since he first rediscovered his death-metal voice for his guest performance on Bloodbath’s Grand Morbid Funeral. There are those who insist that Nick’s performance has grown uninspired and tired and that his death growls in particular sound feeble and labored. Frankly, I don’t see it. It’s true that he rarely uses his gruff, semi-melodic “Hetfield” voice anymore, perhaps one of the major reasons for the discontent prevalent in some circles. After all, Icon and Draconian Times are arguably the band’s most popular albums, but the vocal delivery many people associate with those albums is mostly gone (save for a brief return on Tragic Idol). As for Nick’s death-metal vocals, they are just fine and digging them up after such a long time—until The Plague Within, the last Paradise Lost album to feature anything remotely similar was 1992’s Shades of God—may well have been one of the smartest decisions the band has ever made. Nick switching between melodic gothic “crooning” and death growls adds variety and depth to the music and even though his growls are more hoarse croaking than full-fledged guttural gurgling, their funereal morbidity fits the music perfectly. He’s certainly no George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, but he doesn’t need to be. Nick may be getting old—hell, we all are—but he sure doesn’t sound tired to me.

Medusa is undoubtedly one of Paradise Lost’s grimmest and most unrelenting efforts to date, a crushing and highly consistent death doom behemoth that won’t give you a moment’s respite, yet also not a lot of the truly sublime moments that Paradise Lost are so well-known for. In the end, the only thing missing to vault Medusa above the level of very good and into the realms of the band’s very best efforts is a true stand-out track rivaling the divine greatness of a “Beneath Broken Earth,” the song that arguably served as a blueprint for Medusa but whose unfiltered genius remains unmatched by any of the latter’s compositions.

Pros:
– consistency
– old-school death doom heaviness
– production
– musicianship
– worthwhile bonus tracks on the digibook version

Cons:
– slightly monotonous
– signature lead harmonies take a back seat
– lack of obvious highlights

Choicest cuts: Fearless Sky, From the Gallows, Medusa, Until the Grave

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

An understandable attempt that doesn't succeed - 55%

Absinthe1979, February 11th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Nuclear Blast (Limited edition, Digibook)

There is no reason to rehash the phenomenal history of the great Paradise Lost, a band who have been present in my life since 1995. Their evolution and shifting approach to dark music has been well documented. I want to begin by immediately exploring why ‘Medusa’ is a disappointing album and not a release that reaches their best works.

After releasing possibly their greatest ever song in ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ from previous album ‘The Plague Within’, it is understandable that they would attempt to capitalise on that style and take it further. Unfortunately it turns out that ‘Medusa’ is bogged down by what seems to be a combination of a wish to be as heavy as possible (not of itself a virtue), with a lack of fresh riff ideas, variety and vocal lines.

The production, by man of the hour Jaime Gomez Arellano, contains a layer of fuzz that doesn’t do Paradise Lost any favours. In fact, the heaviness factor almost seems to be smoke and mirrors, as the songs themselves aren’t particularly crushing; rather, Jaime has stepped on a distortion pedal (or more likely clicked a pro-tools icon) in an attempt to make these fairly mundane riffs seem 'heavy'.

The songs themselves vary from pretty good to largely skippable. The highlights are definitely ‘The Longest Winter’ with its excellent chorus and Nick Holmes’ clear voice stretching across it in lament, as well as the title track with its engaging main riff that reminds a little of Katatonia, once the apprentices to Paradise Lost.

Unfortunately there’s not a lot else here that really captures my attention, and the surprisingly short running time of 42 minutes feels more like an hour when trying to plow through the album in one listening. The reason for this is that the songs are too samey; they’re bogged down in a squalid production without musical peaks and troughs. The riffs actually remind me of Cathedral's worse moments. Where are the emotional choruses? Where is the contrast between dark and light? Where’s that indefinable ‘class’ that makes ‘Gothic’ and ‘Draconian Times’ – even ‘Faith Divides Us…’ – the classics that they are? I don’t feel any elation or elevation from these songs, and with Nick’s trademarked opaque lyrics not giving much away, there’s nothing to hang my hat on. The mediocre mood doesn’t really have anywhere to go.

The album artwork is about as random as it gets, and I can’t help feeling a bit cynical at the off-purple colouring that attempts to appear retro. Amusingly, in my digibook version a full page is dedicated to the misspelled ‘Shirnes’ bonus track, an incredible spelling oversight in a professional release. The snakeskin motif looks really good though and I like the font of the text.

This album apparently appeals to many people judging from other reviewers who relish the heavier tone, and that’s great of course. I love Paradise Lost and I always will. But heavy for heavy’s sake just doesn’t appeal to this reviewer, and I find the whole thing flat, uninspired and even a little sad.

Richer for being slower - 90%

gasmask_colostomy, July 29th, 2018

Paradise Lost have made a career out of doing the unexpected. Their formative years were spent releasing albums that evolved in leaps and bounds, while their recent return to heavier territories since Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us has proven a time of unparalleled consistency in the band’s history. However, the promise of an album in the vein of 'Beneath Broken Earth' from 2015’s The Plague Within signalled a desire to indulge fans’ wishes, even at the expense of the Yorkshire group’s pioneering spirit. As for myself, I was slightly suspicious that PL really would make a full album of crushingly heavy slow music, since the group's past strength was always in briefer, more melodic bursts than the early '90s doom scene that nurtured them. For all that, I was certainly not averse to the idea, having cut my teeth on the grim sounds of early Cathedral and My Dying Bride, who were both always darker prospects than these five men from Halifax, grotty debut excepted. Therefore, I allowed myself to believe the hype and awaited Medusa hungrily.

Indeed we did get more or less what we were expecting: eight songs of breezeblock-heavy doom metal with the modernity of the production balancing the deathly elements that are included. Fans of broad guitar tones should rejoice at the rumbling heft of the riffs, most of which crush down at slow pace and with judderingly heavy drumming from new member Waltteri Väyrynen. In fact, enough can't be said about the absolute sound worship epitomized by the creaking bass of Stephen Edmondson, while most of the songs opt for punishing low tones over the diversity and playfulness that the group exhibited on some of their more expansive work. With that in mind, it's possible to identify that some of the riffs on 'From the Gallows' fall rather too easily into the band's signature groove, while there are other moments when the riffs are surrendered in the interest of enlarging the sonic scope. On the other hand, I'd be wrong to say that riffs are sacrificed in favour of atmosphere, seeing as there are moments that combine the two in wonderful cooperation, as with the climactic chorus of 'Until the Grave' that sees melody combine with rhythm more or less perfectly. However, my first few listens (as with the preceding two PL albums) didn't convince me that this was as exciting as I had been expecting.

Admittedly, I do expect perfection from the melodic side of the band, which leaves me feeling rather fraught about Medusa, because it doesn't involve itself directly with melody on some of the tracks, certainly offering nothing as poignantly memorable as 'Sacrifice the Flame' from The Plague Within, nor approaching the style or standards of anything from the classic Icon era. When the riffs are as slow as the power chords driving the verses of 'Gods of Ancient', there's little for Gregor Mackintosh to do, simply following Aaron Aedy's patterns in a higher key, while the greater drive into the chorus encourages a similar kind of feature though more apparent for its foregrounding. In a sense, this is troubling; PL were unable to consistently use one of their strengths to its fullest, though flip that around and we can see that actually PL chose not to use Mackintosh to his fullest because the songs did not require it; finally, we take a step back and see that the band actively intended this kind of album (promising heavier songs etc.), so may well be accused of forcing the sound rather than allowing it to develop naturally.

The problem with that kind of logic is that one is forced to admit by repeated listens (as though the sheer force of Medusa wears one down) that there is a surprisingly satisfying balance between melody and rhythm playing, perhaps tipped in favour of the latter due to Nick Holmes's frequent use of harsh vocals, which themselves add no melodic features to the songs. Take a fairly average example like 'No Passage for the Dead': the entirety of the verses and late bridge are given over to groaning heavy riff work that sounds as much like sludge metal as doom; Mackintosh is permitted to contribute a stately decorative melodic motif (if a dude with medals rode up on a horse to that, I wouldn't bat an eyelid) and a brief controlled lead that backs Holmes's clean section, plus a regular slow solo later on. Considering the fact that this song doesn't have an actual vocal chorus, it could be considered a messy and repetitive piece, since I believe there are four of the same verses, but in fact it holds together extremely well, bolstered by the repeated appearance of that stately motif at the end of each verse, as well as the melodic vocal section and a reasonably concise length.

Naturally, the album doesn't have these advantages on every track, not least because of a generally extended playing time, of which opener 'Fearless Sky' is no doubt the prime example. Rarely venturing over six minutes on a full-length, an eight and a half minute dirge should certainly be viewed as a liability for PL even considering the slower playing style exhibited here, so it comes as no surprise that I initially felt this track to be a mindless crawl punctuated at the six minute mark by a totally unsuitable riff that bounces along in a style almost upbeat by contrast to the rest. However, it's another example of how doom metal sometimes just works like no other genre, because the simple notion of playing verses with Aedy alone in the first half and Mackintosh joining for the second, then both slightly spreading their wings as the chorus swoops onwards, seems ridiculous but works so well, as does the way that the guitar melodies take on a whole different potency at half their usual speed. Considering that PL have been aiming for minimalism more and more on the past few releases, the change of direction really does make sense.

Listening to this album with full concentration should allow the listener to appreciate all the small decisions that went into making the experience so fruitful for repeated exposure, though the choice of singles also proves that the band recognized a flaw with their approach and were canny enough to find a solution. From the general crawling doom sound, 'The Longest Winter' and 'Blood & Chaos' are the two clearest outliers, the former giving Mackintosh the chance to simply enchant its sparseness with shimmering effects, guiding the progression of the song by using as few notes as possible, leaving it all the more wintry as a result in a manner similar to the contemplative emptiness of the title track. However, that leaves only 'Blood & Chaos' allowing a respite from the dour slow pace. Considering that this is the penultimate track, this can cause the album to become slightly monotonous, especially during those first few listens when the dominant guitar tone smothers most of the songs' features. As such, if this more optimistic burst of heaviness could have been exchanged with 'The Last Winter', I would have very few grumbles indeed about an album that appeared at first unflinching in its mediocrity. 'Blood & Chaos' is perhaps not as emotionally powerful as the other cuts here, but it's a worthy inclusion nonetheless.

Bearing in mind that it has taken nearly a year for me to gather my thoughts about the latest step on PL's journey, you can be sure that Medusa isn't an album easily summed up in a few words, nor do I believe I can do so. This is one of a kind of doom albums that becomes unexpectedly richer for being slower, allowing subtleties and peculiarities to sneak in without being initially noticed and transforming its original monotony into a kind of pleasure that becomes harder and harder to resist with each subsequent listen. I really can't say whether this meets my expectations before Medusa's release, though I can say that it's an excellent addition to Paradise Lost's already towering discography. Lay down and bask in it.


Originally written in (vastly) edited form for Metalegion issue #3 - www.metalegion.com

Paradise Found, Actually - 85%

_music_junkie_, June 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, 12" vinyl, Nuclear Blast (Limited edition, Clear vinyl)

Paradise Lost have been fronting the British death/doom/gothic/honestly-whatever-they-feel-like metal scene since 1988, and in their near 30-year career, have released 15 studio albums, 4 live albums, and 20 singles. This all from a band that has either defeated the odds, or perhaps just knows how to creatively work together; the lineup of Paradise Lost has remained incredibly consistent, aside from a revolving door of drummers. Vocalist Nick Homes and lead guitarist/keyboardist Gregor Mackintosh have proven to be an astoundingly versatile song-writing duo, penning the band’s seminal releases Icon (1993) and Draconian Times (1995), and with bassist Stephen Edmondson and rhythm guitarist Aaron Aedy, have steadily released material since 1988’s demo Morbid Existence. Newly-appointed drummer Waltteri Väyrynen is the only member who has not been with the band since its inception, and, although being over 20 years younger than the other members, has seemingly brought even more musical repute to a band already legendary in metal. Drumming for Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh’s death metal project Vallenfyre, along with recently-revived death metal underground legends Abhorrence, Väyrynen has a resume of his own. This, coupled with a front-man who doubles as the vocalist for Swedish death metal masters Bloodbath, and a lead guitarist with the aforementioned Vallenfyre, plus two other exceptionally talented musicians in Edmondson and Aedy, makes for a band full of musicians seemingly at the top of their craft, most of whom 30 years from where they started.

2017 was an excellent year for metal, especially death metal. Decibel Magazine went so far as to proclaim it “The Year of Death Metal” in their August 2017 issue, and with late-career gems from groups such as Obituary, Incantation, and Immolation, as well as the veteran members of Bolt Thrower and Benediction that make up Memoriam, its easy to agree with that sentiment. Plus, Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh released Fear Those Who Fear Him from his project Vallenfyre in June this year. Finally, on September 1st, Paradise Lost themselves added their album Medusa to the lengthy roster of 2017 releases, and although a later release in the year, the wait was truly worth it. Following up their monumental return to their death/doom roots in The Plague Within (2015), Lost’s previous album, Medusa treads the path previously taken for the most part, but occasionally wanders into uncharted, but rewarding and fascinating territory. Lost’s lyrical themes have rarely changed throughout their storied career, but lyricist Nick Holmes is never lacking in lyrical poetry, and if by some fluke his lyrics fall flat, his immense clean vocals convey emotion in ways similar to Lorde, and his powerful growls grab the listener in the same verbal-meat-grinder style of Jeff Walker, frontman of Carcass. Vocal performances are consistently a high-point of Paradise Lost albums, and Medusa is mostly no exception. Similarly to The Plague Within, Holmes doesn’t inject too much variation into his voice overall, settling into a tenor/baritone register for the album, but his versatility in switching between his growls and clean vocals gives off a flowing, near-effortless sound that removes a stilted aspect experienced with a lot of metalcore groups, or other kinds of bands with clean and screaming/growling vocals. It allows Holmes’ voice to layer with the instruments in both vocal styles to a degree rarely attained in modern metal. Although I would imagine 30 years of vocals gives one a decent amount of practice.

The instrumentation supporting Holmes’ vocals is incredible, and astoundingly, stronger than much of Lost’s previous work since 2000. Paradise Lost is by no means an instrumentally weak band, and each of their albums have always maintained an impressively strong degree of musicianship. Medusa somehow kicks that into ultra high gear, with guitarists Mackintosh and Aedy laying down both monstrously heavy riffs, then moments later, follow these with some of the most intricate and beautiful guitar work ever to grace the metal genre. Their chemistry is excellent, and when put together with the tight and masterful rhythm section of Edmonson and Väyrynen, Paradise Lost churns out gorgeous, morose, melodic passages, and, crushing doomy riffs. However, the weakest aspect of the album also comes to the fore when talking about the overall sound. The mixing and mastering of Medusa consistently sounds flat, not in terms of the key, but rather in the overall sound, and almost nullifies some of the more delicate portions of the album, such as the piano-heavy intro to the title track; the mixing between Edmondson’s bass and the piano track itself feels off, as the piano seems truly secondary, almost like its an afterthought in proportion to the bass. The piano line feels thin in comparison to the meaty bass (but I can’t complain too much, with Edmondson’s bass as audible and heavy as it is), and the introduction, something Paradise Lost is usually very talented at hooking you in with, loses substance.

Medusa is not a perfect album by any means, but frankly the issues with it are few and far between, and although aggravating at times, do not detract hugely from the album itself. A monumental and fiercely melodic slab of death and doom metal produced from masters of the genre, Paradise Lost follow along with the various older death metal bands releasing excellent albums late in their careers, and although 30 years old, Paradise Lost sound like a band rejuvenated. The Plague Within, while excellent, sounded tired at times, and lacked the punch and honest despair their earlier, classic releases had in spades. Perhaps the addition of drummer Väyrynen has provided new perspective and energy to these veterans, or perhaps Lost just examined Plague and decided early on where they wanted to go. Perhaps both ideas are true, or something completely different could have come into play. What is confirmed is that Paradise Lost have returned to further their classic death/doom roots on a journey begun with Plague and are now playing tighter, heavier, and with more fire, emotionally and musically, than they have in years.

Originally written for https://qehsjournalismcbe.wordpress.com/

Their most something sounding album in decades! - 77%

colin040, November 18th, 2017

Instead of praising Medusa for the heaviest and most crushing output by Paradise Lost in a long time (it’s not like you haven’t heard such a thing before, right?) I should mention two interesting facts about the record. It features the longest song the band have come up with so far, as well as a song that consist of bits Greg Mackintosh used of an old tape. If those are not reasons enough to get you excited, perhaps the return to a grittier, doom-molded sound won't do it for you. I've heard folks complain about the band regressing instead of progressing, but you can safely ignore those people. I bet their favorite Paradise Lost record is also Host after all!

Medusa is a heavy piece of work though...there’s really no denying of that. Even The Plague Within had some airy ambiance here and there, but this album sees Paradise Lost abandoning that elements for the most; the elegant gothic elements are exchanged for a heavy dose of doom, leaving one wonder how far this record actually relates to the band's first three albums. I'd argue Shades of God is the most realistic point of reference this time - Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy reach back to the swinging guitar stomps that defined that album and still equipped with their seven-string guitar tones for optimal effects, the result is yet something different this time. ‘’Gods of Ancient’’ for instance, is as oppressive and shattering as it is emotionally exhausting, even if it's devoid of the often present emotionally evoking leads of Macintosh or the somber cleans of Holmes. Instead, big rolling riffs slowly unfold themselves around Holmes' throaty roars.

Holmes still delivers a fair amount of cleaner lines, yet the majority of his lines sound harsh and sharp. As expected, the death metal roars of the man still sound closer to a throaty rasp than a bellowing bark, but I’m a bit more fond of his role here than I was on The Plague Within. With a few more extra screams appearing here and there, I get the idea he’s becoming more confident and (re) progressed rather well in the vocal department, making even the smallest amount of harsh vocals beneficial. The title track sees Holmes deliberately avoiding the use his vocal range until a chorus reveals itself; ghostly cleans (it must be those harmonics) echo in a maze of mysterious despair where there seems to be no escape from. There’s still some casual accessible tunes here which unsurprisingly were the singles of this record, even if they’re somewhat misleading. ‘’The Longest Winter’’ features some laid back verses, space-y lead work and a catchy guttural chorus, but overall it's a bit of an ordinary track, even for the band's standards. Only ‘’Blood & Chaos’’ feels very much out of place; it's is catchy in the worst way possible; a plodding rocker with inappropriate harsh vocals, although I'll admit the cleaner sections are somewhat addictive.

But it’s ‘’Fearless Sky’’ and ‘’From the Gallows’’ that really are unpredictable and a lot more interesting than anything else. The former is a big portion (eight and half minutes to be exact!) of sorrowful, yet triumphant doom and quickly leads into sluggish dirge verse recalling ‘’Beneath Broken Earth’’. Thanks to the production values, even the ordinary palm muted verse near the four and half minute mark sounds absolutely massive. While that break around the six minute mark exchanges the grim atmosphere for a little upbeat fun, the band quickly get back on track for the best. ‘’From the Gallows’’ opens up in a familiar fashion to ''Gods of Ancient'', but once the vocals appear, I’m instantly getting reminded of Gothic (as well as early Celtic Frost to a certain degree) and I never thought I could honesty say something like this about this band anymore! Old school fans who'd yearn for change would probably get a good kick out of this number - as it gets close to the ghostly stomp of ‘’Dead Emotion’’ without appearing like an obvious rip-off.

It's rather debatable which recent work of Paradise Lost is most challenging to listen to, but if you ask me, Medusa is a good bet. It sees the band becoming more minimalistic for their standards and while fans of the band's mid-period might find this direction unappealing, there's no denying that Paradise Lost are still relevant, even if it took them a while to get back on track.

We rise again! - 80%

Rosner, October 29th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Nuclear Blast

Ah, Paradise Lost: one of my favourite bands ever. I love every album they have released, except maybe 'Shades of God', a transition album with lots of potential and original ideas but with a lackluster effect. Since then, an amazing and inspired career full of experimentation started, taking the band from catchy gothic metal ('Draconian Times') and Synthpop ('Host') to danceable industrial metal ('Symbol of Life') and a former return to a heavier style ('Requiem'). With 2015's 'The Plague Within', the band reached its finest moment: the growls came back, the melodies and riffs were inspired and the album flowed magnificently with variety. But two years after that glorious triumph, the band releases 'Medusa', and for the first time in their brilliant career it seems like they missed a great opportunity to further develop their personal style of music.

I'll admit it: 'Medusa' is definitely a grower and gets better with each listening. Maybe I really want to like it and I'm forcing it, listening to it compulsively in order to make it 'click', but to be honest, there isn't a lot to grasp: it is by far Paradise Lost weakest and most striped off effort. One word that came into my mind when I first listened to the record was 'forced': it seemed like they tried so hard to go back to a heavier death/doom sound that everything ended up sounding unnatural. I mean, when one examines Paradise Lost's discography carefully, the changes that they made to their sound during the years isn't forced or abruptly implemented. It feels like every step they took when transitioning towards a newer style was a small one, changing their sound logically. It all culminated, as I said before, with 'The Plague Within', their triumphant return to death/doom with a modern twist: 'the circle is done', as 'Beneath Broken Earth' lyrics explicit. But with 'Medusa', it seems like instead of taking a new step, they decided to completely transform the band's sound, straying out of their 'linear evolutionary path'.

Well, maybe I was a little harsh. I think 'forced' does not really fit within a proper description of the album. The keyword I would now use to define 'Medusa' is rushed. Why? Well, a lot of things make me feel like this about it. Every bit of information the band gave (and is still giving) away on interviews makes me very convinced about this: Nuclear Blast deadlines, Greg having to write a Vallenfyre album and a Paradise Lost album at the same time, the use of the 'cut up technique' for songwriting, Waltteri improvising drums, the stripped down approach... I'd say all of this was done very hastily and confusedly. But yet, the band professionally knew how to turn this problems into something positive and changed skin again with a new sound, simpler yet effective, but weird regarding the band's 'linear evolution'.

Personally I am disappointed with the final product, as I was expecting something darker. 'Beneath Broken Earth' (that miserable death/doom song from 'The Plague Within' that took all of us by surprise) supposedly was the blueprint for 'Medusa', but in the end, I think we got something more comparable to 'Cry Out' from the same album. Remember 'Cry Out'? Maybe the worst song from 'The Plague Within', a weird fusion of stoner, death 'n' roll and of course, the band's trademark style that ruined the whole 'Plague Within' experience for me. Akin to that song, 'Medusa' has doom metal fused with some kind of a stoner vibe, very 70s, simpler and without many layers. It's more similar to Black Sabbath than to The Sisters of Mercy, more similar to Cathedral than to Evoken. The gothic influence is not completely absent, but the more doom/rock sound takes over the album, similar to what happened with 'Shades of God' (as I stated on the first paragraph, my least favourite album by the band). Also, the songs in general do not feel melancholic or miserable: instead, the album is quite upbeat. I wouldn't call it happy but instead, anthemic and epic, an unexpected change regarding the band's sound over the last years.

'Fearless Sky' opens the album with a really high note. It does the really perfect job of introducing us to the band's new sound. The chorus at around the five minute mark is one of the band's finest moments, and Nick's vocals are in top shape. But at around the six minute mark we have, on the contrary, one of the band's cringiest moments. The epic sound of the song changes into average and uninspired stoner, a style that I'm not really fond of. But overall, the song is a really big and daring statement for an almost 30 years old band. From there, the album seems to vary its style between the death/doom sound and a more melancholic style of doom. 'Gods of Ancient' and 'From the Gallows' sound much better, with a more aggressive and riff-oriented style, but with pretty forgettable songwriting. 'The Longest Winter' and 'Medusa' are closer to what I was expecting from this album: depressive and melodic death/doom with amazing vocals by Mr. Holmes, making me wish the growling and the singing were more balanced during the whole record. 'Medusa' in particular feels very cohesive and very well thought, having some good layering and a dramatic approach with beautiful lead work, contrasting strongly with the rest of the album.

'No Passage For The Dead' and 'Until the Grave' have the same impact as 'Gods of Ancient' and 'From the Gallows': they are ok and have some good riffs, but feel very weird and lazy. Also, 'Until the Grave' does not work well as the last song on the album, making 'Medusa' feel inconclusive. 'Blood & Chaos" deserves a special mention: this song is everything I never wanted the band to become. An upbeat, catchy and anthemic song (I can totally picture a band of drunken hooligans chanting the main lead in a bar) that feels totally out of character not only for Paradise Lost, but also for the whole 'Medusa' record. Curiously, there's something to be said about the bonus tracks: 'Symbolic Virtue' is ok, the average Paradise Lost bonus track. But 'Shrines'? My favourite song from the album, even if it is a bonus. Yes, it is that good. I think this could have been the perfect closing track: I really love everything about it. The leads are very 'Draconian Times'-esque and overall the song feels very dreamy and melancholic. This is everything I hoped the band was going to achieve with 'Medusa', but ended up being just a bonus track. Too bad.

What about each member's performances? Honestly, I do not have a lot to complain. Nick really shines through the record, as his growls sound better here than on 'The Plague Within' or on Bloodbath's last album. Greg leads are very varied, but less prominent than on other releases, giving him and Aaron a more riff based approach. Speaking of guitars, I don't like the way they sound on the record, very fuzzy/70s revival. But yet, there is no doubt that it is a sound that fits within the vibe they were trying to achieve. Steve's bass shines through thanks to all the distortion it has, and again, it works marvelously within the context of 'Medusa'. All of the original members know what they are doing and perform as one would expect. My only complaint here comes from the band's new acquisition, the young Waltteri.

As a fan of the band, I have 'Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us' set as a drum standard for the band: Peter Damin, although a session drummer, was superb on that album, and raised the bar very high. After Adrian's lack lusting drumming on the last couple of albums, I was expecting something more creative from Waltteri, a young and talented drummer who plays the band's back catalogue effortlessly. But yet, it would not fair to judge him with 'Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us' in mind, nor to compare him with other drummers. I think he gives a good performance, not really original but with a few interesting drumming moments... The drums sound is what truly ruined his debut! The snare drum is way too compressed, and it sounds similar to the toms, which are kinda low on volume, making the drums sound in general very muddy and weird. I think a drum sound closer to 'The Plague Within's would have worked way better here (a funny thing, as it was what I less enjoyed about 'The Plague Within'). However, to be honest I'm really happy with Waltteri and have a really good feeling about him and his future with Paradise Lost: hope he gets a better drum sound and a more creative approach on future albums.

Despite the criticism, I don't think 'Medusa' is a horrible record. I still have my grips with it: a lot of things feel rushed and underdeveloped, and it sometimes seems like a wasted chance for the band to release a masterpiece. But yet, I'm really happy that the band went for a new sound again (even if it contradicts their 'step by step' 'linear evolution') and I'm really stoked for what is going to happen after 'Medusa'. Just like 'Shades of God', I feel this is a transition album and that the band is at a very creative and youthful moment, like a new golden age for them, with Waltteri's addition seeming to further contribute to this 'rejuvenation'. Not my favourite album by the band, but definitely a grower and a promising effort, despite its rushed and incomplete feel. Definitely a modern 'Shades of God' but with a more experienced approach, and a brave statement by an almost 30 year old band that refuses to stale and die.

Paradise Lost return with another Gorgontuan album - 85%

HeavyMetalMeltdownReviews, September 13th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Nuclear Blast (Limited edition, Digibook)

In a career that has spanned and is now fast approaching their 30th birthday, Paradise Lost have pioneered and blazed a trail in the gothic metal/death doom/whatever you want to call it genre. Not only have Paradise Lost managed to create their own legacy with this, but they also had a chance to dabble in darkwave/synth towards the millennium, planting their flag their too. More recently, Paradise Lost have progressively got heavier and heavier, ironically, coming full circle and over the course of the 2000’s, Paradise Lost have created some of their heaviest work to date releasing their 15th studio album ‘Medusa’ on the 1st September.

Back in 2015, Paradise Lost released ‘The Plague Within’ to a massively warm reception and rightly so, ‘The Plague Within’ more than earned its place high up in the echelons of the best albums released that year and ‘Medusa’ follows on perfectly like a little brother, born from the same mould but unique in every way. ‘Medusa’ is full of the motifs that you would expect to hear from a modern Paradise Lost record, Greg Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy’s guitar is as distinguishable as ever, cutting their way through and creating that funerary dirge in a way that only Paradise Lost can. However, the first thing to note about ‘Medusa’ is that the violins and violas which made some of the tracks on ‘The Plague Within’ so haunting are now absent, replaced by a focus on an equally eerie keyboard to fill the sound out. This gives ‘Medusa’ a slightly different feel than the previous effort with a sound more akin to that of ‘Draconian Times’ in parts.

Beginning with the blindingly superb ‘Fearless Sky’, the bar is already set high for the remainder of the album as ‘Fearless Sky’ flickers into life with a chord from a church organ, sustained and added to that sounds initially more like Ghost than Paradise Lost. Then, like a rolling clap of thunder, the unmistakeable tone of Mackintosh and Aedy rumble into the life as Paradise Lost pummel through one of the best doom songs they have written in years, ‘Fearless Sky’ even comes complete with a Sabbath style breakdown, a bouncing riff of ‘Vol. 4’ standards, a pure homage if anything to an influential band which called time on their illustrious and ground-breaking career this year. If the guitars of Paradise Lost aren’t instantly identifiable enough, then there is no denying the sheer vocal power of Nick Holmes, from a rasp and a growl to the almost hypnotic Sisters of Mercy croon.

For those who also bought the latest album from Vallenfyre this year (which features Mackintosh and current Paradise Lost drummer, Waltteri Väyrynen), will already have sampled the excellent energetic drumming of Väyrynen and the talent the Paradise Lost new boy possesses. Väyrynen is easily their best drummer since Lee Morris and brings his interesting drumming into Paradise Lost, creating a backbone to each song that gives your full attention to the songs, especially during the long sustained notes in songs like ‘The Longest Winter’, ‘No Passage for the Dead’, ‘Until the Grave’ and the title track alongside some beautifully serene keyboard arpeggios which manage to blend both the solemnness and anger of death.

‘Medusa’ is not without familiarity, ‘Blood and Chaos’ has the feeling that it was buried in a time capsule somewhere in 1995, dug up and used on ‘Medusa’ as the song itself could easily have slid in anywhere on ‘Draconian Times’ and that is certainly not a criticism, maybe ‘Blood and Chaos’ doesn’t quite fit the ‘Medusa’ trend, but it is definitely a breath of air from a different time and a welcome one at that. An interesting point to mention is that your mind can instantly be dragged to another song when hearing something else, and in this case it is something that you wouldn’t expect, the beginning of ‘From the Gallows’ can make you hum the melody to ‘In Bloom’ by Nirvana before marching off on its own drum, a foreboding chug which quickly makes you forget about the rather odd introduction familiarities.

Following the record company pressures of darkwave, Paradise Lost have gone from strength to strength, rebuilding their reputation and solidifying their place as heavy metal legends. ‘Medusa’ is a strong, solid album, a strong chain with no weak links, it is the perfect successor to ‘The Plague Within’ and without a doubt ‘Medusa’ will be riding very high for the best albums released in 2017.

The Night Follows Day - 75%

Twisted_Psychology, September 12th, 2017

The upward momentum that Paradise Lost was experiencing for a decade only accelerated when The Plague Within was released in 2015. The band’s surprise return to death/doom made a slew of listeners take notice, and the quality material kept it from merely pandering to old school extreme metal fans. Less than two years later, Paradise Lost is back with an album that’s been hyped as diving even deeper into the realms of extreme doom.

It felt like hyperbole when guitarist Gregor Mackintosh described Medusa as an album full of “Beneath Broken Earth” variants, but the description actually isn’t too far off. With the exception of the upbeat “Blood and Chaos,” just about every song thrives on drawn out riffs, slow tempos, and raspy growls courtesy of Nick Holmes. But while this results in much of the album being comparable to Forest of Equilibrium-era Cathedral, there are still enough clean vocal spots and symphonic flourishes to warrant the band’s goth metal tag.

But what really made The Plague Within work so well was the sheer variety of song styles on it, which Medusa lacks in comparison. Paradise Lost has never been the most riff-oriented band, and having the same tempo run through most of the album results in the songs running too similarly to one another. The emphasis on growled vocals is also a double edged sword; the approach was especially refreshing on The Plague Within and even early efforts like Gothic or Shades of God due to the melodic contrasts, but it makes the songs sound flat when there’s nothing to counter them. It’s especially concerning on “Blood and Chaos,” where an otherwise catchy chorus ends up sounding monotonous.

Fortunately, the musicianship is still up to the band’s competent standards, and there are still good songs on here. “The Longest Winter” and the title track are the most memorable songs thanks to the predominately clean vocal performance and purposefully gloomy guitar work successfully conjuring what worked so well on the previous album. “Until the Grave” also stands out for its more direct riff set, and as much as I gripe about the vocals on “Blood and Chaos,” the change of pace it brings is certainly welcome.

Medusa may continue the talking points that got the most attention on The Plague Within but it’s definitely not a “play it safe” album. It is easily one of Paradise Lost’s most inaccessible albums to date and will require more listens than usual to really get a feel for it. It’s an enjoyable album and definitely relevant to those who enjoy Paradise Lost’s harsher side. But as someone who loves Paradise Lost the most when they get catchy, this may be the least essential album of their comeback era.

Highlights:
“The Longest Winter”
“Medusa”
“Blood and Chaos”
“Until the Grave”

Originally published at http://indymetalvault.com

Where the sinister meets the sweet - 95%

kluseba, September 3rd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Chaos Reigns (Japan)

Paradise Lost has often been described as a gothic metal institution and even though I'm a huge fan of this genre, I was unable to get into this band. I saw Paradise Lost in concert at the M'era Luna festival back in 2008 but found their performance lackluster. I listened to several songs but they weren't memorable enough to motivate me to check out an entire record. As you might guess by now, things have finally changed. I picked up the latest edition of the great German metal magazine Legacy that had a three-track compilation promoting Paradise Lost's new record Medusa. I immediately liked the new songs and decided to check out the entire release as soon as I could. Let me tell you that Medusa is one of the most brutal, intense and sinister gothic metal records I have ever come across.

This brave, pitiless and unique direction works right from the start. The band opens the album with a monster of epic proportions entitled ''Fearless Sky'' with a stunning length of eight and a half minutes. Commercial ambitions? Forget about that. Numbing occult organ sounds, melancholic guitar melodies, humming bass sounds, slow-motion drum beats that hit your soul and guttural growls set the tone for this great album. The opening song is already the perfect soundtrack to any sinister horror movie that takes itself serious. Title songs ''Medusa'' is another track of this kind with melancholic piano sounds, droning bass sounds, precise drumming and desperate guitar melodies that are this time accompanied by comforting yet mysterious clean vocals. The track unfolds a hypnotizing vibe drowning you into the darkness. This song is best enjoyed with your headphones on late at night. The mysterious and magic guitar sounds of ''No Passage for the Dead'' have almost an Arabian soundscape and contrast the particularly low growls. Paradise Lost manages to mix the sinister and sweet like very few bands on this output. If you are an innocent child, a deeply religious person or someone who thinks Evanescence are gothic metal, stay away from this beast of an album.

As if eight gripping songs weren't enough, the special edition includes two additional tracks and these aren't uninspired alternative versions that so many other bands have to offer but two more high-quality gothic metal monsters. The plodding and sinister ''Symbolic Virtue'' in particular manages to be emotionally profound, melodically catchy and yet musically simple. Other genre bands would chose this track as single but Medusa is so convincing that it's only a bonus track on this album which speaks volumes. The Japanese edition even features a third additional bonus track entitled ''Frozen Illusion'' which is a bleak, complex, slow-paced sinister death metal track that could come straight from the early nineties. It reminds me of the early years of Amorphis and Therion. If you've got some money to spend on an outstanding record, go and get this import version.

This album is like a drug for your heart, mind and soul. If you like to discover your dark side and embrace it to escape from reality, go and buy this record that is one of the few highlights of a rather underwhelming year concerning releases of metal records so far. Paradise Lost has finally managed to get my attention after all these years with a bang. Consider me a fan now.