Music Review – “Blood and Chaos” by Paradise Lost (2017)
|Where do you even start with a band like Paradise Lost? With a career spanning nearly 30 years, they have not only defied the genre but come to define their own niche within it.
There are many bands who owe their success to the Halifax doom-mongers, and their constant effort to innovate and redefine their sound directly led the rise of the likes of Lacuna Coil, Him, Tapping The Vein and many more.
For all of this pioneering, it has not be been plain sailing. The highs of Icon and Draconian Times gave way to the pop rock of One Second and then the electro-experiment of Host. Whilst I continue to love that album, many fans turned away from the band at that point it has felt like they have been fighting back ever since.
Believe in Nothing was not necessarily a bad album, but was poorly mixed leading to an insipid affair. Symbol of Life blended the pop synths and heavy guitars, yet seemed to fail to capture that imagination of many fans (although I would argue it offers the best of both worlds.)
PLX followed and whilst it remains possibly my favourite album I find few others who rate it as highly as I do. From this point onwards Paradise Lost began a heavy trajectory. In Requiem felt uneven, but both Faith Divides Us Death Unites and Tragic Idol were masterpieces of doom-mongering.
What happened next polarised fans. The Plague Within saw a wholesale return to the earlier sounds of Lost Paradise and Drown in Darkness. Awash with death metal vocals (of which I am not a fan), the subtleties and textures evaporated under a pervasive sense of gloom which many felt was inward-looking, rather than the defiant outward stance of previous releases.
In short, The Plague Within felt like a resignation letter, and it left me so bereft as a lifelong fan that the latest release – Medusa – is the first Paradise Lost album that I did not pre-order, choosing instead to see what the singles would bring.
Happily, Blood and Chaos is not only a significant improvement on The Plague Within, but also marks at least a partial return to the sound that made them famous in the early-to-mid nineties.
The vocals, whilst still both gravelly and growly are not in that full-on death style and are pleasingly reminiscent of James Hetfield during the Master of Puppets era, albeit slowed down to give it a much more satisfying melodic groove.
So too has the distortion levels been modified, and the crushing low end has been tweaked to give a greater balance and harmony within the rest of the track.
If you want to be hypercritical, much of lyrical content appears to tread old ground with Nick Holmes endless obsession to both criticises and understand faith, and the accompanying promo video can almost be considered to be a Part 2 to the Crucify single.
But ultimately, these are minor quibbles. This is not just a good song. This is a great song. It has both pace and pathos, and the sense of texture as it moves between clean and harsh vocals works well.
After the crushing disappointment of The Plain Within, would I go and buy Medusa off the strength of Blood & Chaos? I don’t know… but I’m seriously thinking about.
Final verdict -5/6