Thursday, August 24, 2017

Album Review: Paradise Lost - Medusa

Paradise Lost got a shot in the arm when Nick Holmes joined Bloodbath. That foray back into the world of death metal reignited the fire within the band, and pushed them back into being the gloomy masters of metal they once were. That's not to say they went soft, but they weren't bringing the same level of death metal into their dark atmosphere that they once were. Returning with "Medusa", the band is promising to venture even further in that direction, which is sure to please many of their longtime fans.

They waste no time in showcasing that attitude, as "Fearless Sky" opens with a slow, crawling doom riff and Holmes croaking in his most decrepit voice (that's a compliment, by the way). Writing music that slow and foreboding without it becoming dull is difficult, but Paradise Lost has been at it long enough that they know when enough is enough. The song picks up just a touch at exactly the right moment, and Holmes delivery allows him to articulate hints of melody, which is immensely important. The short passages where his clean voice pops up are welcome, but actually unnecessary. That's not something I expected to ever say.

One of the underappreciated details about an album is vitally important here. The drum sound makes this album feel even heavier than it is. There's an organic feeling to that sound, where you can almost hear the wood reverberating with each hit. It's the kind of sound you don't hear very often anymore, as everyone tries to reach clinical perfection in their recordings. You could call this old-school, which wouldn't be wrong, but it's more that they're just doing it right.

But there are some issues with "Medusa". Despite being only forty-two minutes long, the album does drag a bit because of how slowly paced the whole thing is. I understand Paradise Lost isn't a speedy band by any means, but too many of the slow doom riffs packed one after the other begin to sound alike. And other than "The Longest Winter", which is primarily sung clean, the vocals aren't diverse enough to give the tracks individual identities either.

When we do get a faster track in "Blood And Chaos", it's entirely refreshing. If it had come in the middle of the album, rather than one track from the end, it would have done wonders for the pacing of the record. As it is, the middle section is one slow number after another, which saps the energy from the music.

Look, "Medusa" is well-constructed dark doom/death/Gothic metal. It's heavy, evil, and certainly hits all the marks it's aiming for. It's not the kind of music I tend to listen to, so I'm never going to find myself raving about something like this, but I certainly can appreciate when it's done well. Paradise Lost may be a band a bit long in the tooth, but their fangs are still sharp. "Medusa" is proof of that.

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