Even in these days of pick n’mix soundbitery, when punters are apparently so time-poor they don’t even bother downloading whole albums any more, it takes a particularly brave (or foolhardy – you decide) band to open their new album with a sombre, not to say misanthropic eight and a half minute epic.
But Paradise Lost do, and it’s barometric of their current levels of confidence in their ‘new’ direction that the band pulls off Fearless Sky in absolutely crushing fashion. The band hit their (albeit sluggish) cruising speed early on this track and, quite frankly, don’t look back after this most auspicious of beginnings. It’s clear from the get-go that the band’s creative axis of Gregor Mackintosh (guitars) and Nick Holmes (vocals) are firing on all available cylinders on Medusa, with almost every song a potential long term classic to be added to the band’s already full-to-overflowing canon.
Gods of Ancient revisits the band’s very earliest doom/death roots via a ferocious performance from Holmes, whose voice appears to not only defy but reverse the ageing process throughout the album but sounds in particularly spritely fettle here, whilst the album’s shortest song, To the Gallows, throws a little melody into the mix to offset some elephantine riffage, with Mackintosh adding a superb wah-wahed solo for good measure.
It’s easy to assume that Paradise Lost, having effectively closed the circle by returning to their musical roots over this and previous album The Plague Within, are done with the experimentation that marks their ‘mid period’, but there are clearly still boundaries to be pushed within these seemingly more rigid historical parameters; Whereas the PL of old would have doggedly wrung every last ounce of morbidity out of a song, they are not scared of tweaking the formula to see where the ebbs and flows of this experimentation take them. Hence The Longest Winter features some electronica influences in the guitar sounds alongside perhaps Holmes’ most melodic performance on the album. The song’s mid section brings to mind Type O Negative as the band push the gothic envelope with sonically pleasing results.
The title track is possibly more what you’d expect from the band at this point, all chiming riffs and thunderous drums, but it also features one of the best – and most melodic – solos Mackintosh has ever delivered. Holmes’ clean vocals at the end of the song are spine tingling, as are the briefly featured harmony guitars of MacKintosh and Aaron Aedy.
No Passage for the Dead is a full-on blast of Shades of God, simultaneously warming the heart with it’s familiarity yet icing the veins with the sheer malice inherent in the riffs, whilst penultimate track Blood and Chaos is PL at their chart-busting, Draconian best, Waltteri Väyrynen bringing the Once Solemn drum avalanche back to life with panache and no little violence.
Final track Until the Grave ends things on a suitably more downbeat note after that blast of nostalgic pop-metal nirvana, yet, as with every other track here, still giving off the air of being the work of a band completely at ease with their past, present and future. A band in control, a band at the top of their game, they’ve written an album that sits comfortably among the best they’ve ever released. Here’s to many more if they’re as good as Medusa.
Medusa is released by Nuclear Blast tomorrow (September 1st).