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A welcome addition to their legacy - 87%

Absinthe1979, June 28th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

While familiarity may breed contempt in broader society, it’s an adage that tends not to hold true in the world of metal. Legacy bands are held in high esteem, whether warranted or not.

For instance, Iron Maiden’s bloated grandpa-rock album ‘The Book of Souls’ is bemusedly heaped with gushing praise, while Cradle of Filth’s return to form with ‘Hammer of the Witches’ is rightly viewed as a work of high excellence. The former demonstrates that, in metal, sometimes comfort-blanket bands can do no wrong and that their mere existence is worthy of adulation, while the latter reveals that a genuinely good album will (usually) be received as such. Maiden and Cradle are all too familiar, yet they continue to provide what the fans want. So where sits Paradise Lost in 2020, a band that has now been a regular part of my life for 25 of my 40 all too fleeting years on this earth? With two thirds of the Peaceville Three now on Nuclear Blast (the Nuclear Two?), legacy bands have never been more popular.

I was one of the few who panned the cheap-doom drudgery of ‘Medusa’ in my review here, and lamented what I saw as a deliberate and concerning pathway into blandness and mediocrity. I wailed and gnashed my teeth at the lack of variety, the preponderance of squalid and unexciting riffage and the eschewing of emotive choruses – even of emotive musical passages. I saw a resource-rich band squander its commodities. So it gives me great pleasure to receive ‘Obsidian’, an album that provides melody, emotion and maturity once more, and to proclaim it a raging success. It’s Paradise Lost back to their best... almost.

Despite being in receipt of ‘Obsidian’ since the May release date, I’ve been reluctant to review the album prematurely. I wanted to really live with it and do it justice. I can say now with confidence that the meaty and masculine production by Jaime Arellano, with its retention of earthy heaviness, also has the breathing space that allows the melodic songs to elevate and shine. The achingly excellent guitar melodies of the great Greg Mackintosh, who simply stars on this release, are some of their most effective since their 90s heyday. It's as if the band has pulled right back from the doom of 'Medusa' and re-entered the realm of melodic gothicism, and I, for one, applaud them. The keyboards and piano sections are layered in atmosphere. It’s a beautifully mixed album that, while lacking the sophistication of ‘Draconian Times’, sounds ruggedly handsome nonetheless.

Nick Holmes’s vocals are particularly worthy of comment. With a plethora of cleans, the gothic element is much more present in ‘Obsidian’, and it seems like an especial effort has been made to ensure that his voice is clear, precise and well-articulated: elements that an honest assessment might conclude are not always permanent features of his musical oratory. The growls remain, and they’re good, but I’ve never found his growling to be particularly as emotive or chilling as say Jensen’s from Saturnus. They’re in the pocket here, but admittedly a little workmanlike. Overall, however, Holmes must be respected for his compelling efforts here.

The drumming from Waltteri Vayrynen (strange to think that this band of knockabout Northern Brits now consists of Nick, Greg, Aaron, Steve and er… Waltteri) is unquestionably fantastic. In fact, you can just listen to this whole album from the perspective of the drums, and it’s an enjoyable 50 minutes of your time. While he's young enough to look like Greg's grandson in the promo shots, he really is talented and so profoundly tasteful in his fills and cymbal work. I do find his snare sound to be a touch hollow for my ears, and I would have loved a little bit of smack and crack to it, but everything else is just so effective.

And what of the songs? The first three are some of the best in Paradise Lost’s career. Opener ‘Darker Thoughts’ has become my favourite on the album, with a beautiful introduction of guitar picking and Nick’s clean laments offering life advice, before the powerfully emotional chorus of “God asks not to kill…” arrives, which is just an amazing moment. Track 2 and first single, ‘Fall from Grace’ underwhelmed me somewhat upon the first few listens, but now it’s a real monument, especially the “We’re all alone” section – again, just powerful and beautiful music.

‘Ghost’ offers a return to the upbeat gothic rock days, albeit with a measure of strength behind it, with its sensible and self-conscious monotone chorus from Holmes that works tastefully well against the melodic guitars. Other highlights include ‘Hope Dies Young’, with a chorus that actually reminds me of a metallised ‘Host’, which is honestly the last thing I expected to hear. It’s a great inclusion and a cheeky nod to their past. Final track ‘Ravenghast’ is decent, although the tone on the rhythm guitars reminds me of Black Sabbath’s ‘13’ album and I find it a little distracting. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this? Special mention must be made to bonus track ‘Hear the Night’, which has a catchy clean chorus and really should have been on the actual album.

My only complaint here might be that some of those middle tracks don’t exactly have me going into withdrawal once they’re over, and I’m not rushing to press play again on the ok-but-not-great ‘Ending Days’ and ‘Forsaken’. There’s nothing essentially wrong with them - they're fine songs - but they just don’t really move me. Perhaps that’s just a personal thing, and it would be churlish of me to expect nothing but a slab of perfect hits.

The album artwork shares a colour scheme with its brother album ‘The Plague Within’, and has an elaborate and pleasingly symmetrical front cover. Nails, flowers, skulls, hearts, even some teeth: it’s an elaborate image and conforms to the current trend of fine-line drawings that are all the rage in metal right now. The booklet is quite beautiful, with further comparable images, lyrics, credits. It’s a very nice package.

‘Obsidian’ isn’t perfect, but it’s as good as could be hoped for – perhaps even exceeding my wishes after the inglorious bastard of ‘Medusa’. Familiarity breeds admiration, Paradise Lost are back, and the legacy continues.

The light and shade of things - 77%

colin040, June 7th, 2020

It’s been over a decade since Paradise Lost has rediscovered their metallic spirit, yet it still fascinates me how the band manages to catch people off guard. The Plague Within saw the band bundling a variety of ideas and combining them into a versatile, if still flawed record and Medusa was a near-doom experience that marked a serious return to heaviness with little usual hooks for the band in sight. Now it’s Obsidian that defines the most recent incarnation of Paradise Lost.

Given the description of an elaborated record (something that Medusa certainly wasn’t), I expected Obsidian to have more in common with The Plague Within than its predecessor. While both albums feature more light and less shades than Medusa Obsidian sees the band retain slightly in their comfort zone from a surface level, as it relies on plenty of elements the band had rediscovered since the last decade or so. Having that said, yet there’s more to this record than meets the eye and the opener makes that clear from the start. ‘’Darker Thoughts’’ flows like a river of introspective, yet confronting visions; firstly led by a tender cleaner passage that resonates between the morose violins and tranquil acoustics before the venomous barks of Holmes dominate the second half of the track. For a while it seems like the doom/death crunch the band had rediscovered has already been replaced by something less mangling, but there are many sides to this glass-like rock.

One moment a low-baritone croon gets supported by an ice acoustic passage and a haunting violin the background, another time the band’s sense of recent heaviness comes to life through thick palm-muted guitar strikes and venomous howls. ‘’The Devil Embraced’’ sums this up perfectly well; its medieval scenery starts off pleasantly with a church organ introducing the track before a clean verse emerges, yet with Paradise Lost you can’t always be sure what they’re up this and this is no exception. By the time Holmes leans in for that gruff chorus (once Greg joins with one of his apocalyptic leads made even more exciting) things get heavy - not to mention that grinding riff that got unleashed as the track progressed surprised me in the best way possible. Needless to say, it becomes clear the band still has a thing for combining their introspective nature with grit – something that has been a strong factor since the Faith Divides Us – Death Unites era.

Ever since In Requiem came out fans have compared the band’s newer works to that of the pre-One Second era and of course Obsidian is no exception. To me there’s very little to refer to the band’s early outputs though, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and while this album feels very much like a recent Paradise Lost record, perhaps its most surprising factor is the amount of dosage of gothic rock that it contains. I wasn’t too sure excited about this at first, given my opinion on the band’s mid-period era, yet the head bobbing ‘’Ghosts’’ and the hazy gloom-like ‘’Hope Dies Young’’ are both superb. The latter might demonstrate Waltteri Vayrynen’s talent at its best - I hadn’t noticed his talent before on Medusa, as the drums did sound a bit flat on that record, but here the man’s talent is definitely notable for the best. The man never plays a fill too much or shows off, yet he’s a worthy drummer that gives Obsidian a certain boost.

Despite the gothic rock being a clear element of Obsidian, there’s no need to fear for a lack of heaviness, even if it takes a while before you’ll witness the heaviest compositions the album has to offer. Somehow unexpected ‘’Serenity’’ sounds as crushing as it sounds heroic; the former caused by a crunchy rhythm attack of Aedy and the latter a result of Macintosh’s larger-than-life lead work. Lyrically, the track feels a bit more cinematic than usual; as if a tale of ancient battles get retold through the raspy growled lines of Homes. On a related note ‘’Ravenghast’’ is another vivid epic; the simple, yet eerie key passages makes the track sound even more haunting than anything you had heard on Medusa – as if I’m discovering of an old horror tragedy that wasn’t meant to be heard of again. Stylistically speaking the track falls somewhere between the foreboding nature of ‘’Beneath Broken Earth’’ and the hammering grooves that were present on ‘’Gods of Ancient’’. It goes without saying that the result is absolutely fantastic of course.

As I had somewhat expected I didn’t enjoy every minute of Obsidian as just not every track has managed to win me completely over. ‘’Fall from Grace’’ starts off in a typical doomed manner Paradise Lost have dived into recently again, but with a slightly dull riff not heavy enough to get supported by growls, it’s not exactly my favorite. What I found even more annoying were the clumsy vocal lines that emerged later on - repeating how we’re all alone for twelve times feels unnecessary and I know we’re in the middle of a pandemic right now, but that doesn’t make it any better! Having that said, the track possesses a chorus that’s very much welcome; the clean / harsh vocal combo works well and Greg’s eerie banshee wailed leads are a worthy addition to it. ‘’Forsaken’’ gets introduced by an angelic choir and while I expected some kind of epic to unfold, I instead was disappointed by the marching mid-paced rocker that it ended up like, not unlike some of the stuff you’ve heard before on Tragic Idol. ‘’Ending Days’’ certainly tries to come off as something sentimental, where a violin makes it presence clear once more, yet I wished it would have followed the footsteps of ‘’Over the Madness’’. With an elaborated guitar solo that detached from the track in the best way possible, I certainly had my hopes up, but once the track returned to that so-so verse, felt slightly disappointed. At last I was also rather surprised how obvious some lyrical passages of Holmes were this time, since he often has a thing for more cryptic lines to keep songs mysterious. The chorus of ‘’Darker Thoughts’’ was quite unexpected, if entertaining, whereas the verses of ‘’The Devil Embraced’’ shares some Goth clichés I could have done without - certainly nothing too problematic at this point, but worth pointing out as far as I’m concerned.

How Paradise Lost managed to keep on going so far in their career is really beyond me, but Obsidian is yet another solid offering. While leaning more towards than gothic than doom metal spectrum, those who are fond of the band's latest few works should definitely have a good time here. Good job guys - we’ll get back at you in another three years or so!

The Fire Is Back, but with a Modern Sound - 97%

Gothic_Metalhead, May 31st, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

I will admit that the majority of Paradise Lost records released after "Draconian Times" have been lacking something that I couldn't describe. Even when they returned to their death-doom roots with "The Plague Within" (which is alright) and "Medusa" (which was a better release), but still lacking. That brings us to the current album "Obsidian," an album that truly surprised me. "Obsidian" did what most big-name gothic metal bands still haven't done in 2020, and that is having the energy and atmosphere that has been waning lately. Paradise Lost recaptured that atmosphere by revisiting a lot of the music that Paradise Lost has done throughout their career, combining the renaissance they garnered with the death-doom roots, and the gothic atmosphere heard in albums like "Draconian Times" and "One Second." The resulting album is an album that rivals "Draconian Times" as Paradise Lost's best album, and album of the year for me.

"Obsidian" is the 16th record in Paradise Lost's long, but influential career. Having pioneered death-doom and gothic metal with albums like "Lost Paradise," "Gothic," and "Icon," they were a band that has either stayed the same with their gothic metal sound or have experimented in their career. They have come back from their lowest points in their career again and again. The first time when they stopped all gothic or metal elements together with "Host," then returning to gothic metal after "Believe in Nothing" and the second when they finally returned to their death-doom roots with "The Plague Within" "Obsidian" is another return. Still, it made do with what was missing with the previous two albums.

Right off the bat, the music in "Obsidian" is a strong atmospheric song in "Darker Thoughts," where it starts as a dark ballad, then builds up into a mixture of depressing and aggressive gothic metal sounds. The noticeable thing about "Obsidian" is that Paradise Lost decided to craft their stuff with a lot of the energy that's lost after "Draconian Times." A lot of the music brings me back to that album, but with more ambition, new inspiration, and well-crafted music. A lot of gothic elements are heard in this album especially with songs like "Darker Thoughts," with again the dynamic range, "Ghosts" where the rhythms stand out uniquely with an incredible performance from Nick Holmes, "The Devil Embraced" where the song treats us with some emotional keyboards, and the spooky atmosphere of the album closer "Ravenghast." The guitars bring are have more atmosphere, and don't sound stale compared to the last two albums, and can bring aggression from the doom, and distorted elements and depression from the goth inspirations in it are acoustic and chorus effect guitars. Of course, the solos in which Paradise Lost stands from other gothic metal bands are catchy and composed incredibly. This album defines modern gothic metal front to back with nothing filling the record to try and stay consistent. The music is indeed incredible where the melodies, the dark atmosphere that it utilizes captures my ear.

"Obsidian" is the third album where Paradise Lost brings back some form of death-doom roots in the vocals. However, unlike the previous two albums, Nick Holmes is making use of what his voice can handle by having a terrific combination of death growls heard in the last two albums, but adding depth atmosphere, and depressing energy. If the music doesn't catch my attention, then leave it to Holme's performance to make this album sound better than it already did. Holme's tone is once again having that gothic, darkly shaded sound, and that is one of the driving forces for the gothic atmosphere of "Obsidian." His growls have more atmosphere and raw emotion than before, and his singing is phenomenal and showed no sign of straining or aging.

Lyrically, "Obsidian" explores a lot of depression. The lyrics are worthy of the tone and atmosphere of "Obsidian," where it continues that direction heard in the last two albums. With what's written with every song on "Obsidian," it is clear that Paradise Lost felt inspired again, especially with the surroundings going on in the real world. Topics include hopelessness, death, and enough gothic horror inspirations and have been consistent as well—nothing to complain about the lyrics Paradise Lost brought back inspiration in their lyrics as well.

The problem that seems to hit most gothic metal bands during the modern era like My Dying Bride, Lacuna Coil, and even Dawn of Solace is that age can play a big factor in the energy of the music, lyrics, and imagination and that can be the downfall of an album if not well thought out. For Paradise Lost, they pulled off a move that bands like Amorphis and Judas Priest have done in recent years, and that's looking back at your career, looking for new inspirations related to your music, and in the end, prevailed by resurrecting the fire and energy that's lost for years with a hard-hitting album beginning to end. "Obsidian" stands as my album of the year at the time of writing this review, and I will admit this might be my favorite Paradise Lost album. That is because of how that energy is finally back and exemplifies Paradise Lost of why they pioneered gothic metal and why they are the defining gothic metal band. This album welcomes both fans of their death-doom roots and fans of their gothic metal roots. It's a MUST listen.

A trip back to goth's heyday in a fresh way. - 89%

Empyreal, May 30th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Paradise Lost have been around for decades now, and somehow they’re still finding ways to keep their sound fresh. It’s kind of an interesting paradox with them, because these last few albums have been simple, focused constructs, never getting over-ambitious and instead sticking to almost minimalist soundscapes and ideas, utilizing simple tools in effective ways. This new one is a throwback to goth rock of the 80s and I love it actually.

It’s just like a wave of soothing, cool darkness over you. Greg Mackintosh’s inimitable guitars, which shift into new metamorphoses every album, are subdued and work on ominous chugging riffs and weaving, ghostly trails of melody that remind me of something like Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy or early Fields of the Nephilim, with the kind of groovy, hazy fuzz of the leads and the bass guitar swirling into a graveyard-friendly miasma like those classic bands. It’s actually kind of stunning how dead-on of an impression it is at times, and the writing feels more like a homage building on influences rather than anything derivative.

Nick Holmes’ deep, moody croaks and intonations are laid over-top like a cherry. The drums from Waltteri Väyrynen are a standout, surprisingly - a really acrobatic performance that contrasts the simplicity of some of the other elements in an intriguing way and adds some extra depth.

The whole thing flows very well, the songs going down like a cool kiss on a perfect night. Opener “Darker Thoughts” starts slow and balladic and I like how tender and atmospheric it is, building up nicely into the heavy shit. “Ghosts” is a standout with ultra-tight writing and a fucking killer chorus - this is just so evidently the work of a professional band, and I’ve enjoyed this immensely every time. “The Devil Embraced” is a more sprawling, rocky tune with another great, sticky hook for the chorus, and the band even dips into more even bleaker, more experimental waters with the slower-paced duo of dirges “Ending Days” and “Hope Dies Young.” Closer “Ravenghast” is a haunting, opaque lurching construct of rumbling melodies that makes me feel like I’m in a derelict church at night.

The only downside is the two bonus tracks, which are OK I guess, but they’re not even close to as good as anything on the album - they’re just sort of filler throwaway cuts, and “Hear the Night” is actually a bit annoying to me. I always find that with these types of bonus tracks on a lot of albums - there’s a reason they didn’t get put on the real album. And “Ravenghast” is such a good closer and it breaks up the whole, complete piece to have stuff after it.

This is just a cool, dark trip. It’s evocative music with a definite vibe. Paradise Lost are strong enough writers to pull off the chameleonic shifts in sound every album and yet also retain an identity. I dig this and it’ll be one I come back to often. Recommended if you want to feel like you’re still in high school and spending your days putting together a The Crow costume for Halloween, in the best way possible.

Bloom and gloom - 80%

kluseba, May 25th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Three years after the gloomy, heavy and intense Medusa, gothic metal icons Paradise Lost offer a most diversified effort with Obsidian. The songs meander from slow, melodic and airy elements incorporating dreamy keyboard sounds and smooth clean vocals over more dynamic, gripping and rhythmic passages with excellent drum play and sluggish guitar riffs to short emotional outbursts in form of discordant guitar solos and haunting growls. Obsidian fluidly combines Paradise Lost's different styles, soundscapes and identities throughout the years. This album can be seen as an excellent introduction to the band for new fans but also as a concise summary of the band spirit for occasional fans.

Highlights include the slow, melodic and haunting ''Fall from Grace'', the rhythmic ''Ghosts'' with its domineering bass guitar sounds and the sinister, sluggish and discordant ''The Devil Embraced''. Just as on Medusa, Paradise Lost has included two brilliant bonus songs on the limited edition that are actually better than most regular tracks. ''Hear the Night'' convinces with longing and discordant guitar sounds, dynamic rhythm section and excellent combination of dreamy clean vocals and throaty growls. This mixture reminds of a combination of Septicflesh's experimental era two decades ago and early Crematory two and a half decades in the past. The other bonus track ''Defiler'' convinces with melodic heavy metal guitar play that slowly shifts for atmospheric, dreamy and otherworldly soundscapes. This instrumental voyage concludes a strong record on an inspired note.

If you plan on purchasing Paradise Lost's very good new record Obsidian, make sure to get your hands on the excellent limited edition with the two outstanding bonus tracks. The creative guitar play, sinister bass guitar, steady drums and variable vocals evoke gripping atmospheres that should please anyone who appreciates doom, gothic and even melodic death metal. The record isn't as intense as the excellent predecessor Medusa but proves that the genre veterans are currently experiencing a much convincing renaissance.

Subtler thoughts - 87%

gasmask_colostomy, May 25th, 2020

Every time I get hold of a new Paradise Lost album, it starts off as my least favourite by the band. I tend to think that they sound jumbled, threadbare, or monotonous. For all that, PL have always tried to make things relatively simple for their listeners: choruses play a major role, songs are usually succinct, and the band rarely make use of technical features. It’s as if the quintet’s formula involves writing songs that they think are obvious, yet I’m forever a step behind their thinking. I’m several listens into Obsidian now, and the Yorkshire band’s sixteenth album has begun to piece together into a nice continuation of their most recent doom phase and also a minor detour back into gothic territories. Seeing as PL’s career has formed a pretty smooth bell curve of diminishing then rising heaviness, Medusa finally levelling with the debut and Gothic in terms of flat-out extremity, it should have been clear that Obsidian would mark a different kind of shift, and it’s probably for the best that it did.

Any PL album brings with it a necessary sluggishness and glowering negativity. Except for a few moments of speed, mostly scattered through the more commercial phase of their discography, slow songs have been the group’s most frequent trope. Obsidian reinterprets Medusa’s simple “slow = heavy” equation to introduce some gothic subtlety, both in the form that PL’s back catalogue exhibits and also in new ways. Although Gothic arguably funnelled Sisters of Mercy and Fields of the Nephilim into the somewhat ornate guitar sound of a primitive death doom effort, we sit here 29 years later with a new kind of goth on our hands. The pumping bassline that leads ‘Ghosts’ into its stomping drumbeat and signature off-kilter guitar melody seems more akin to a nightclub sound system than the jangly guitars of the old guard, which may represent PL’s widespread influence coming back around. Gothic metal has changed a great deal since the mid-'90s. On the other hand, the quieter elements that see ‘The Devil Embraced’ and ‘Darker Thoughts’ through clean verses do reach back to a Sisters/Bauhaus archetype, while the tense beats with which Waltteri Väyrynen marks time may even hark back to the debut of Dead Can Dance with its tribal rhythms. Certain vocal passages also see Nick Holmes evoking the deep-voiced menace of that ‘80s movement, ‘Darker Thoughts’ dwelling on a moody introduction for longer than an opener probably should, ‘Forsaken’ later grabbing attention in a more wholesome manner with the epic cathedral hush of Holmes’s voice.

However, the resurgence of the gothic gene never threatens PL’s doomy heaviness. Obsidian might sound a lot more pensive than the band’s other releases of the last decade, yet the equipment remains programmed to bludgeon as much as craft spooky lushness. Notable not only on ‘Ghosts’ but also on ‘Ending Days’ and ‘Forsaken’ is the novelty of Steve Edmondson throwing his bass around to beef up what from a metal perspective seems like rather wimpy ambience. His tone is clearly designed to crush any notion that this could be gothic rock. The drum sound also smacks harder than I would expect from a doom band - even one on Nuclear Blast - and the crunch of rhythm guitar on ‘Ravenghast’ and ‘The Devil Embraced’ demolishes riffs whenever the deceptively airy melodies cease. I’m rarely disappointed by Gregor Mackintosh’s performance in this regard, and Obsidian proves no different, those melodies really towering over ‘Serenity’ and ‘Ravenghast’ - both epic, though in opposite ways. He especially impresses on ‘Ending Days’, which takes over PL duty as the album’s slow-grower (it’s usually the title track in this category, but Obsidian doesn’t have one); the song initially hovers on a restrained, violin-backed verse and allows Mackintosh to gradually lift the latter half on slow delayed notes into a hopeful lead, offering another climactic solo after the last chorus.

The mismatching that I originally felt hampered the album has shrunk over time and actually leaves me feeling more comfortable than on any PL album since Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us. It seems that Obsidian was intended to be a more spacious album than the sometimes claustrophobic Medusa, and allowing each member the opportunity to add something different broadens the scope of the release as a whole. That said, I don’t miss the attempts at higher pace and groove from The Plague Within, that atmospheric focus proving more efficient at tying everything together at low pace. Brief cameos of violin and keyboards help the dry distortion of rhythm guitar and death growls, particularly the moist piano dripping down the dungeon walls of ‘Ravenghast’, turning it into a fine closer. One small niggle for me comes in the form of the lyrics, which plateaued a few years back and now seem in danger of losing all meaning thanks to Holmes's terse style. He seems to have regained a preoccupation with religion that steers 'Ghosts' and 'Darker Thoughts' down more specific avenues, though it's never been my hope to hear PL using the words "for Jesus Christ" as a hook, accompanied by gothic morbidity or not.

Overall, I'm definitely satisfied with what the band have come up with. The band promised something different and delivered, more or less equalling everything in their recent strong streak. The bonus tracks add something too, particularly 'Hear the Night', despite sounding like a crappy hair metal song. I'd like to keep them separate from the 9 main tracks, though keeping them around as B-sides is quite pleasant. Many fans noted early on that Obsidian seems to combine qualities from PL albums from across the years, and I’ve got to agree on that count. Having punishing riffs keeps the doom fans in check; creeping through sparser atmospheric sections recalls the gothic glory of Draconian Times; song lengths around 5 minutes offer sufficient progression and catchiness; switches between clean and harsh vocals should placate almost everyone; most importantly, maintaining the melodic essence of Paradise Lost will unite all kinds of fans. As has been the case all along, the only people who won’t enjoy Obsidian are those who dislike slow music. And, frankly, the people who think slow bands are wasting their time…aren’t worth me wasting my time on either.

As Pure As Driven Snow - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, May 20th, 2020

Paradise Lost’s albums often feel like reactions to each other, either emphasizing certain aspects of their predecessors or pushing off in the opposite direction. The group’s sixteenth full-length in a thirty-two-year run is no exception. Coming off the ultra-doom of 2017’s Medusa, Obsidian abides by similarly slothful tempos but pairs them with more overt melodicism. The results are comparable to 2009’s Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us and 2011’s Tragic Idol with a bit of The Plague Within’s kitchen sink flavor.

At the very least, it’s nice to see the musicianship return to fuller dynamics after Medusa’s rather one-note nature. The vocals are as dexterous as ever, utilizing more cleans than the last couple albums but keeping the growls around for emphasis. The guitars offer a similar degree of variety; the rhythms punch in the usual crushing heaviness, but one can detect some gothic throwbacks in the mournful leads and ethereal filters. The extra bits of piano, violin, and backing vocals also do a good job of expanding the presentation.

There aren’t too many drastic outliers or moments of whiplash when it comes to the songwriting, but each track features a standout style. “Fall from Grace” wasn’t the most accessible choice for a lead single, but that classic doom lurch makes for a worthy highlight. “Ghosts” and “Hope Dies Young” also stand out for their anthemic executions, the latter of which might not have been too out of place on One Second or Host. Things somehow get even moodier as the album progresses with the closing “Ravenghast,” putting its symphonics toward an, especially apocalyptic mood.

But even with the familiar elements at work, Obsidian can still take some time to get used to. The dynamics are enough to keep the album from feeling monotonous, but there aren’t too many breaks from the slower pacing. The melodies also tend to be more methodical than outright engaging, relying on a uniformly downtrodden attitude throughout. Fortunately, I can’t say that any of the tracks are underwhelming or poorly written, even if “Dark Thoughts” might not have been the best choice for the opener.

Overall, Obsidian does a splendid job of showing off Paradise Lost’s multi-faceted approach to gothic doom metal. The eclecticism isn’t as wild as The Plague Within, but the fluctuating dynamics and sturdy musicianship bring a lot of life to what could’ve been an otherwise pedestrian affair. The excursions never feel gimmicky, and the songs reward multiple listens. Paradise Lost has always stood out for their prolific yet diverse discography, and any release that highlights those attributes is good by me.

“Fall from Grace”
“Ending Days”
“Hope Dies Young”

Originally published at Indy Metal Vault

English folk, scumbag-free riffage, type o, and a four ton compressor - 84%

jcoctigan, May 18th, 2020

This album had me excited long before it came out. I’ve long been a fan, since Icon and hen truly with Draconian Times. The metal world was still wide but much smaller then than it seems to be now. In fact, I’m not quite sure what even qualifies these days. Anyhow!

Great album. Will undoubtedly be one of the better releases this year by any band, even though I do not think it is one of the strongest by this band.

There are moments of brilliance on here. “Fall from Grace” is excellent and follows very closely in line with “Until the Grave” on Medusa. For better or for worse. It’s also a great choice for the lead single, just as “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” was for October Rust. It’s clearly the most pop song on here, it’s catchy, and it’s good. Speaking of Type O Negative, Obsidian’s “Forsaken” and “Ghosts” do well with the same goth/doom/pop style. Great songs. You could even get some crossover fans with that. Slowly poison their minds with this entry level dooom, not quite dooooom. This isn’t Thergothon, Skepticism, or Tyranny. Definitely closer to Warning. Is that enough name drops?

For me, a third of this album is really, really satisfying. Great hooks, amazing vocals, and there’s just something about that melancholic feel Paradise Lost specifically has. You’re standing above some Celtic cross ruins on a hill shredding a sweet solo while that slow, thick U.K. mist is cleared by a gale that blows your Hessian locks behind you while you’re opening up the volume pedal for a sick solo.

But there’s also this Katatonia-esque monotony at a certain point in the album. The same way a Tool song is almost interesting sometimes but hell if you can even remember the first 15 minutes. I hate to say it but about half of this album is one riff or something very much like the last riff. It gets boring. Also, why so much compression on the guitars? They squeezed the balls out of them.

Don't get me wrong, I love Paradise Lost and there are plenty of tasty riffs on here. It’s just not new ground. The production is also just too much for me. So polished.

The scumbag metal riffs and dirt rock blown out guitars are long gone, but if you want some pretty fun songs from a band still heads above the rest then this is a great one to pick up. Even if the beginning of “Darker Thoughts” kinda sounds like Fairport Convention or Pentangle, which I’m okay with! Just be warned and if you dig the folky vibes don’t be scared. Medieval chamber music inspired English folk music can be cool.

Also, does that epic riff about 2/3s the way into “Serenity” kinda sound like “Perry Mason” by Ozzie or am I crazy?

better late than never - 90%

Cosmic Mystery, May 16th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

It sucks that Paradise Lost has always been a lost entity on my metal radar for, well since the existence of the band. Having heard so many great things about them and yet the reluctance to at least give any of their music a chance has always gotten the better of me. Can't say I had been anticipating Obsidian because I've little to no knowledge about the band and their history as a group and all the necessary formalities. It's only by chance I even managed to gain interest in Paradise Lost through Shaun Taylor Steels departure from My Dying Bride which caused the band to seek out a drummer to record on the kit for The Ghost of Orion, that being Jeff Singer (ex-Paradise Lost Drummer). The more I sought-out about the matter, the more my ascending interest in Paradise Lost grew. And provided they're a Gothic/death/doom band (a favorite sub genre of mine) and are part of that My Dying Bride, Draconian, Tristania, katatonia family (the way I see it), I could not pass up the opportunity to hear what became of Obsidian.

Out the gate. I can tell you this, Obsidian emphasizes well on just how great of a band Paradise Lost are when it comes to capturing that gloomy Gothic feel that only few such as Draconian and My Dying Bride (among others) make no mistake of weaving into the music. Not only do they exceed at the sonic aspect, but they also manage to replicate the same feelings visually. As a companion to the first two singles released by Nuclear Blast, videos for both 'Darker Thoughts' and 'Fall From Grace' were shot and put out for all to stare at. Personally I don't care much for visual-aid/music videos to be specific when addressing metal, as they often depict poorly what most listeners (myself included) may be envisioning, but the videos produced for both tracks seemed fitting with what my first impressions were suggesting about the music. They nailed the visual aspect as far as concept and meaning and lifted my expectations for the rest of Obsidian.

Paradise Lost surely haven't lost their touch (given my brief skimming-through of their catalog as of late) hence the entire thing sounds like a kickback to the 2000-2005 era of the sub genre when hearing 'Ghost' that features a Gothic rock overtone and has a kind of deathrock/deathwave attitude as well, compliments of long standing vocalist Nick Holmes and drummer Jeff Singer. Then you'd progress to songs like 'The Devil Embraced', 'Forsaken' and 'Serenity' that'd invoke a quick realization of how seamless the transition from those uptempo to symphonic and momentary funeral doom sections are.

The usage of more clean singing than death growls did not prove displeasing, rather refreshing, convalescent and impressive when factoring how difficult it could prove to be when shifting between harsh and clean vocals, thus, the experience of Nick Holmes as Paradise Lost's front-man for 30 years beams with blinding brilliance on Obsidian. His clean singing is as good as his death growls, and its through this dynamic diligence in coordination and cooperation with Gregor Mackintosh (guitars and keyboards), Aaron Aedy (rhythm guitars) and Stephen Edmondson (bass), the record is able to move so uninterrupted and fluently rather than feeling coerced.

Bonus tracks are not quite an ear-catching feature I look out and listen for, however there are exceptions judging by 'Hear the Night' and 'Defiler'. These songs sound very much connected to Obsidian and even compete with the stronger tracks on the album such as 'Fall From Grace', 'Ghosts', 'Serenity' (that has a more traditional doom metal approach) and 'Ravenghast'. 'Defile' almost steals the spotlight through its guitar solo exposé and had it not been a bonus track, it probably would have became my favorite piece off Obsidian.
Playing catch-up with Paradise Lost has been a rewarding experience to say the least, hearing them late in their career rather than much later has its perks. Obsidian is a stroke of mastery by Paradise Lost, while traversing a new chapter in the band's history.

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Paradise Lost go gothic and dark metal once again - 90%

diogoferreira, May 16th, 2020

Paradise Lost, 32 years of career, 16 albums. It's amazing how after more than three decades a band can remain so relevant and make each record a new experience. Over more than a dozen and a half albums, these guys draw their musical map between death, doom, gothic and dark metal with such fantastic ease that it continues to amaze us.

If from death/doom metal (“Gothic”) they switched to dark/alt-metal (“Draconian Times”, “One Second”) during the 1990s and remained there for a while, the early 2010s began originating a returning to the roots that sprang up splendidly with “Tragic Idol”, “The Plague Within” and “Medusa”, the latter, from 2017, which was globally applauded for having the ability to merge the death and alt-metal sounds so characteristic of Paradise Lost.

Almost in the middle of this infamous year of 2020, the band bet on another mix of influences with “Obsidian”, an album with the band's signature that reintegrates in the discography what was so beautifully done 25 years ago. And no, it's not a “Draconian Times” 2.0, much less a rejuvenated idea of what they did in “One Second”, having more of “Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us” here than, possibly, another any record.

While the inaugural “Darker Thoughts” surprises with an orchestration supporting the screams of the excellent Nick Holmes, the following “Fall From Grace” has a beginning that reminds us of My Dying Bride and it's undoubtedly the doom metal song of this album, reminiscent of “Medusa”, as if something had been left out in 2017 and recovered now in 2020. And if so far, with only two tracks, it can be said that what we hear is good but without blatant news, the board changes its look with the third “Ghosts”, with Paradise Lost reactivating the 1980s gothic-rock without ever losing their own unique direction and sound. Then, with "The Devil Embraced", the direction remains similar but with a very strong inspiration drawn from legendary bands like Fields of the Nephilim - and I even have the audacity to say that this song is really asking for a duet with Carl McCoy.

Nostalgia continues to be felt with the fifth “Forsaken” and the eighth “Hope Dies Young” when we witness a revisitation to the 1990s dark metal so inherent not only to Paradise Lost but also to Moonspell.

Overall, "Obsidian" is dark without being cavernous and without being overly heavy, with an entire urban condemnation mirrored in the sometimes cryptic lyrics of a fiery and deep Nick Holmes. And if the whole collective (be it the band or the production team) must be praised, the greatest compliment goes undoubtedly to Greg Mackintosh who, with his guitar, paints a melancholic and melodic scene, sometimes with omnipresent leads, sometimes with rock n' roll solos.