Paradise Lost - Medusa

Paradise Lost Medusa cover
Paradise Lost
Nuclear Blast Records
Paradise Lost was probably the head of the triumvirate of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema, three of the strongest doom/death metal bands that came out of Britain in the 90s single-handedly signaling the shift in musical opinion as far as metal is concerned in the British Isles. By far the most successful of the bunch, Paradise Lost did really make a mark on the metal scene and was touted to become the next big thing in the mid-90s, with albums like “Icon” and “Draconian Times” becoming firm fan favorites. Their “Draconian Times” gig was actually the second gig I ever attended after Accept’s 94 Athenian stint, so count me impressed and a rather old timer.
However their unheralded shift in sound, that came around the release of the “One Second” album, caught many by surprise and slowly started corroding at their fan base, who largely found it hard to accept the synth-pop sound the band had largely adapted and experimented with thus leading in a steep decline in popularity and sales, switching companies and downscaling they were at first convinced to but later “rediscovered” on their own terms their musical “past” and since their 2002 “Symbol of Life” album started to make amends with their past and return to a more gothic metallic sound that saw their popularity surge once again. Despite never quite releasing a milestone album like “Draconian Times” in their post millennial era, the band has steadily been on the rise and even switched to Nuclear Blast, from Century Media for this year’s “Medusa” their fifteenth overall album.
Feeling much like a conundrum, the band who initially was a death metal band, which started experimenting with more melodic forms to then abandon that style for a very synth-pop “Depeche Mode” type of sound, started to regress post millennially back into a more gothic sound that on the last few album has gone back to an almost sludgy and doom laden “death metal” like in the old days, but with the added experience that nearly thirty years offer.
“Fearless Sky” that opens the album is long and dark and brooding with pronounced guitars and sharply looks at times, pre-“Icon”, embracing the “Gothic” & ”Shades of God” era; I suppose it has a certain charm, but I somehow feel like it somewhat drags a little more than it should, but I should not be complaining too much I suppose, as it’s rather enjoyable.
It’s evident that Greg Macintosh is the mind behind most of these machinations, with his riffing superbly pronounced in the more focused “Gods of Ancient” another example of the olden days style.
“From the Gallows” doesn’t stray from the path of its predecessors, but just makes things a bit more urgent, with some drum fills making it a bit more rhythmical and interesting…
“The Longest Winter” is slow to begin, with a surging riff and a Holmes trying his very best to channel the same vocal performance he had during the transitory period between “Icon” and “Draconian Times”, while at times slipping back into the earlier vocal style as well.
“Medusa” is pretty much the same case, with a neat riff and a mix of vocal styles by Holmes, which come close, but not really manage to duplicate the Gothic splendor of the band at its finest.
“No Passage for the Dead” really feels like Macintosh’s playground as he lets loose with a series of ideas that appear between a monolithic riff and a seldom appearing Holmes trying to maintain a balance…
“Blood and Chaos” riffs mimic the “Draconian” days very successfully, but the more primal vocal style is probably in this case working as a detriment. I am not sure if Holmes cannot sing like that “consistently” any more but I am curious the riffs towards the end really also felt too evocative of “Hallowed Land”, so it does feel a bit like a self-tribute recycling.
“Until the Grave” reverts back to the pre-“Icon” style, probably in threshold style, while it shifts back and forth between a more dynamic and a more anemic style.
Three more tracks, “Frozen Illusion” (from their demo), “Shrines” (that sounds also like a past left over) and “Symbolic Virtue”, a very “Icon-like” sounding track, appear as bonus tracks and I wouldn’t have matter if more like the latter appeared sprewn throughout the album or if Holmes really assumed that singing style again.
Overall “Medusa” is likely to please fans of the “very” early Paradise Lost days and I’m not sure how many of those might be still out there. It suffers from the lack of an obvious “single”, with the best contender “The Longest Winter” not really measuring up to their prime-time hits. It will please older fans, but I’m not entirely sure how younger ones might take it… “Host” divides us – “Medusa” doesn’t quite reunite us then.