Paradise Lost: Medusa, Nuclear Blast Records 2017
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. 85/100
Adam McCann / MHF Magazine