After 32 years and pioneering the death/doom genre as well as a revival of gothic-tinged melancholy, it’s fair to say that Paradise Lost have had a storied career, and sixteenth album Obsidian is an accurate summation of that career so far. Since reintroducing vocalist Nick Holmes’ cavernous death growls on The Plague Within after a near-decade of morose, baritone crooning, the band have been on an absolute tear with the aforementioned Plague… and 2017’s Medusa. In the midst of a global pandemic, doom has perhaps never been more appropriate and the ever-dependable godfathers of gloom are here with their sixteenth platter of misery and darkness Obsidian to scratch that itch.
Opener ‘Dark Thoughts’ begins proceedings with an acoustic guitar and Holmes’ yearning clean vocals before Greg Mackintosh’s trademark riffing, with a sense of loss and longing and sets the stage for the tracks to come. ‘Ghosts’ is an early highlight, opening with a rumbling bassline and featuring a mid-paced stomp and giant, yell-along chorus with a planet-sized lead though the cries of ‘for JESUS CHRIST’ are certainly somewhat overwrought. The kitchen sink approach to writing and definite influence from Sisters of Mercy are especially apparent on ‘Hope Dies Young’, which ups the introspective and the melancholy to sit alongside their heavier death/doom roots that were brought sharply back into focus over the last few releases. Closer ‘Ravenghast’ is simply epic in scope, opening with a minimal, sorrowful piano motif before a mournful guitar lead enters and Holmes’ guttural roar is brought to bear; the glacial pace and grandiose scale creating an oppressive atmosphere throughout that beats down on the listener.
Obsidian may be a tad shorter than earlier records and remains for the most part tightly focused, though there are occasional slips where attention can wander. Despite this, the band deliver a solid effort where even the worst songs are merely Paradise Lost by numbers as opposed to actually bad. The album lacks the immediacy of its predecessors but on repeat listens it opens up, revealing new, previously-hidden depths to reward the listener. The band have successfully managed to take all eras of their sound, from their early roots in death/doom through to the gothic and this approach pays off in spades, creating a cohesive whole that stays true to their tried-and-tested formula while still allowing for some growth and marking a good, if not great, entry into the Paradise Lost canon that has something for any fan to enjoy.
Obsidian is released May 15 via Nuclear Blast Records. Purchase the record here