The Plague Within
1st June 2015 – Century Media Records
01. No Hope In Sight
03. An Eternity Of Lies
04. Punishment Through Time
05. Beneath Broken Earth
06. Sacrifice The Flame
07. Victim of the Past
08. Flesh From Bone
09. Cry Out
10. Return To The Sun
The writing of this review has placed me in the midst of a considerable dichotomy. Namely, do I review this album in terms of its applicability to to the pulsing wave of modern metal, or from its prospective and reliable appeal to the middle aged and seasoned fan of Paradise Lost, whose number is legion?
There is no easy or direct solution to this nebulous conundrum. Regardless of how one approaches it, the solution is still guarded by layers of equivocation, which if ignored or underestimated could decimate the value and import of any critical assessment.
Having set up the style of this challenge, I shall ignore it – albeit temporarily – and hope that through a process of dissection, seams of verifiable logic are brought to the surface; transparency through liquefaction.
Paradise Lost are vastly experienced and could probably make music like this in their sleep; which unfortunately, on several of the tracks, it sounds like they have actually attempted to. However, their experience does not count for nothing, and they have used theirs to add a certain lustre to what are otherwise bland and vaguely doomy tracks.
The majority of this peripheral appeal is provided by the addition of various layers of choral backing vocal, which sits with an almost regal grandeur on top of what is, for the most part, ponderous and unremarkable backing. This being said, one does not sustain a career for as long as Paradise Lost have by surprising the target audience. Indeed, The Plague Within almost exists as a template for satisfying existing fans, without boosting their expectations for future releases.
It is packed with quasi-doomy landscapes and passages that could be black metal if another band played them. It staggers from almost becoming one genre to nearly being another with the same delusional self-satisfaction as an ex-alcoholic lurching between off-licences, just to window shop.
But please, do not misunderstand me: these are not criticisms. This is Paradise Lost; they have been doing this since before I first bought Kerrang (October 1994) and will probably still be doing it after I have ceased to write these pithy little missives. This is their style and, for what it is, they are masters of it. However its lack of definite focus and a limited notion of variety make it sound positively geriatric (and I fucking love my nan).
There are some muscular moments, but a lack of creative dynamics and a dearth of variation in pace renders the music unremarkable and almost a drudge to listen to, and while functional, the musicianship is not close to matching contemporary standards. Loose-jointed drums and unembellished predictable solos are held together by stolid but consistent riffing.
This kind of underlines a feeling I have had about Paradise Lost for some time now; namely that I have always been significantly perplexed that they have accrued a fan base large enough to afford them the luxury of repeated and regular trips to the studio. How did they become as famous as they are? Is Yorkshire so replete with trust-fund goths with money to burn that releases such as this are not only justified but actually required by the corpse paint and cape-producers of Halifax and Harrogate?
Regardless of such speculation, and throwing my own prejudices aside for a moment, this record has a pervasive, hypnotic charm; which despite the sincere level of idiocy require to succumb to it, is genuinely extant.
So, in conclusion: it’s bland, semi-homogenised goth-lite, brown-ish metal – but if you are a fan of Paradise Lost, you’ll love it!