Paradise Lost are one of those bands where everyone has their favorite album, and they’re all different from person to person. Whether it’s Draconian Times or Host or their eponymous debut, The Plague Within, One Second, whatever, it’s hard to argue that there isn’t something to enjoy in the vast scope of their catalogue. Personally, when I first heard 2018’s Medusa, I was sure that they could not get better than the ultra-heavy kick-in-the-face that album was. I was wrong. Obsidian is more than just a follow-up to Medusa. It’s everything that was good about Medusa turned up to 11.
When a band has been around for 32 years, it’s a funny thing to think about them putting out their best work now as opposed to when they first began jamming together. Paradise Lost’s lineup has remained mostly unchanged since 1988, but their sound has been constantly evolving, pretty much since they began releasing music. Transitioning from classic death-doom to more gothic metal to electronic-inspired art rock and back again, they’ve both seductively straddled the lines of genre and thrown them completely out, sometimes right after each other. Despite their ever-shifting sonic palette, Paradise Lost have struck critical and commercial success in almost everything they’ve attempted, but they seem to be in something of a renaissance period with their most recent releases, which hearken back to their classic death-doom sound. Where Obsidian differs from releases like Medusa and The Plague Within is the way that it seamlessly blends influences from every corner of their bag of tricks in a way that doesn’t feel forced or like the band was trying to make the record sound a particular way. This is an album that feels organic in every part and piece, not stitched together but grown and cultivated and bred. It’s heavy, it’s crushing, but it’s also groovy and danceable and haunting and full of wailing melody. These are well-constructed songs that have an attention to detail that is much sharper and more focused than on Medusa, as opposed to the latter’s focus on cultivating an atmosphere of desolation.
As far as one-two punches of openers go, Obsidian might have struck gold here. “Darker Thoughts” opens the album with gentle acoustic guitar and beautiful strings backing up Old Nick’s sultry croon but when the song opens up, it explodes with a furious vengeance that instantly sets my head and neck thrashing around impulsively. Led out by one of the many, many fantastic guitar solos from veteran Gregor Mackintosh, the track flows almost seamlessly into lead single “Fall From Grace,” a massive doomy anthem with a chorus meant to be shouted in a packed venue (hopefully soon). These are songs that are meant to be catchy and stick with you long after the record is over, and it’s a testament to just how good Paradise Lost are as songwriters that they can do that and still make them incredibly heavy. No song on the album better demonstrates this than “Ghosts,” which might be my favorite cut just because of how much post punk influence there is. It’s like if The Cure or Joy Division went to a Type O Negative show and it changed their lives. There’s an energy here that is different from the usual death metal energy, one that makes you want to do the goth kids dance from South Park as opposed to slam dancing into the people next to you. Or maybe a little bit of both. And that’s only the first three tracks on the album. There’s so much more here to talk about, but I feel like the best way to experience it is to actually experience it. This is an album that pulls the best parts of every facet of Paradise Lost’s career and puts them together with resounding success.
I’ve woken up almost every morning for a week with the chorus to “Fall From Grace” stuck in my head. I’ve knocked over picture frames from headbanging while cleaning and listening to this album. I’ve burned food while listening to this album. I’ve almost walked into traffic taking the dog for a walk while listening to this album. Maybe this says a lot about me, but it should also tell you that I want Obsidian with me wherever I go. I want it to be the soundtrack to my day every day, which is a blessing and a curse because it is so engaging that when I put it on for background noise it quickly becomes the only thing I can focus on. Paradise Lost have had a lot of highs throughout their massive career, but this is a whole new level for them. Although, given their trajectory I might just be eating my words come their next release.