Paradise Lost - Obsidian

Paradise Lost Obsidian cover
Paradise Lost
Nuclear Blast Records
The title of the new Paradise Lost album had me for some inexplicable reason, hoping that at long last, the Halifax men of despair would be able to come up with a proper follow up to their early 90s material, which almost made them household names back in the day. I don’t know what caused that belief to take root, maybe the cool name, I just had a hope and a bit of a hunch.
See, if I were perfectly honest, I have hardly enjoyed a Paradise album in its entirety since the days of “Draconian Times”. There have been some good albums, some barely listenable and a plethora in between, but the swifts in style, songwriting and vocal performances, have not helped much.
I approached this sixteenth album, with some curious optimism. Sure enough the bleak lamenting acoustic intro of “Darker Thoughts” sounded promising, but it’s sudden turn into a symphonic doom piece with deathly growls, pays it no compliments and largely due to Nick Holmes way of singing. His brutal singing, which used to be quite cool, here sounds tired and forced and it feels as if his usual clean baritone would have worked far better. Whether he’s incapable of producing that or he simply doesn’t want to sing like that anymore, the issue remains and it sort of drags the median of the album with it.
“Fall from Grace” is a lot more appropriate, with its legated riffs, droney a hazy and gloomy atmosphere upon which both the beats and the varied vocal performance manage to expand, creating an interesting and engrossing composition. Holmes is not sounding the best he has done, but the style feels like a nice intermediate between “Icon” and “Draconian” eras, which are admittedly the “best times”.
“Ghost” enters with a thumbing, driving beat, but while here Holmes seems to deliver better, the song doesn’t really come together, until the riffs begin and then it still feels about ready to unravel at any given moment, probably due to the song being a few bpms faster than it should; the extra heaviness, a slightly slower tempo would afford this song, I think would make it most excellent… still it’s one of the better things the band has come up with in a while.
“The Devil Embraced” sees Holmes attempting a different style, cleaner gothic, with unnecessary growly moments also, over an overall lighter track… the initial promise is somewhat betrayed as the fairly interesting chorus is probably delivered in the most flat and unenthusiastic way, as if it were a bad verse.
“Forsaken” has the heavier riffs and the right atmosphere and Holmes almost gets on with the rest of it, for a track that back in the day might have been a nice b-side. Decent, but not great.
I will admit that I loved the punishing and persistent riff of “Serenity” and it could have really stayed with me, if not for the uninteresting harsh vocal performance by Holmes that neither sounds menacing or as lamenting as his clean singing can.
“Ending Days” might be overall softer, with the guitars dominating its middle, but at least feels as a song with some purpose and a proper climax and release. Which shouldn’t have been so hard to do.
“Hope Dies Young” feels decidedly 90s – as if something that the band could have done between “Shades” and “Icon”, which again is probably the stuff the vast majority of people might be craving from the band.
“Ravenghast” has some interesting riffs, but while the baritone singing parts are fine, the throaty portions that precede them and intertwine, are almost comical; they’re meant to sound grim and evil and they simply fail to convey that sentiment.
“Hear the Night” is in the right direction in many ways, but feels rather basic and underdeveloped and the vocals again are the main source of discontent and disappointment.
“Defiler” might have passed as something that could have come out shortly after the band’s debut, but thirty years down the line, other than a nice lead, it sounds misguided.
Overall an average album, with a cool title and a couple of great songs. It contains a bunch of songs that could have been salvaged and be shaped into decent tracks and a few others that don’t really go a long way towards expanding the band’s much tarnished legacy. Reading some near perfect reviews online, I wonder if the people writing them are wool eyed fanboys/girls, people on a promoter’s payroll or people that must have listened to an entirely different album. Fair… but fair is not great.