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Paradise Lost - The Plague Within (2015) - Review

Band: Paradise Lost
Album title: The Plague Within
Release date: 1 June 2015
Label: Century Media Records

01. No Hope In Sight
02. Terminal
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
11. Fear Of Silence [Bonus]
12. Never Look Away [Bonus]

Another chapter in the discography of British goth/doom metal masters has been written. Certainly the band has nothing to prove anymore to anybody as in their 27 years long career and fourteen albums behind them Paradise Lost moved the scene like not so many other acts out there and became one of the most influential bands. I must say that this band from Halifax, West Yorkshire, is maybe one of the acts that I follow since their inception and every time when they release a new album is just like a celebration day for me. Now the opus number fourteen is among us and all those who were waiting for something that will continue where the previous masterpiece, Tragic Idol, left off will be surprised a lot. The band with The Plague Within is now rediscovering their very early days, yes, I mean the albums like Lost Paradise, Gothic and Shades Of God, but still they don't forget about the golden era in the middle 90s when the albums like Icon and Draconian Times were released. It's pretty obvious that Greg Mackintosh' and Nick Holmes' death metal trips with Vallenfyre and Bloodbath left a huge mark on The Plague Within as we are dealing here with maybe the heaviest and probably the darkest album Paradise Lost ever did. But yet, it's not everything about the past on The Plague Within, it's as well a modern album by all means that in an intriguing way shows a constant evolution of the band.

The Plague Within is Paradise Lost by all means, but this time not so accessible like previous five or six albums with whose the band returned to a heavier guitar driven path, this time the band is refining the chemical equation of darkness that not many others can afford and just like of nowhere the sound gets another dimension, a much colder one. It's pretty different from the one on Tragic Idol or on Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, the guitar sound is much more vintage and abrasive, the drums are so very heavy, echoing, almost creepy, but the biggest change is in Nick's vocals and his return to pure growling style combined with clean vocals is a nice approach showing a true potential of his vocal cords and once again shows versatility like we are used from him. The basic sound on The Plague Within is deeply rooted in the doom/death metal, but you won't escape some gothic metal like they crafted it many years ago, but surprise surprise, on some moments there's even a black metal edge. The come back to addition of classical strings, orchestral arrangements, gloomy synths and female vocals certainly adds a surplus where implemented. And that's not all, The Plague Within is a melancholy incarnated!

Greg Mackintosh shows once again that he's a master of dark melodic riffs, nevertheless even if on The Plague Within you won't find many catchy groovy melodic guitar lines, there's such a funeral kind of melody spread all over the record that will make even those most demanding critics to go silent when they'll hear some of the well inserted leads and otherwordly riffs. The dynamic gothic metal opener "No Hope In Sight" connects well with the previous album, yet is in my opinion the strongest point of the album, the catchiest one, a fine refined mixture of goth and doom with a fantastic dynamic pathos and addictive drive. But still not only the opener, the album hides many memorable moments and some of the best elements ever utilized by the band. For example the fast death metal edged "Terminal" with hard hitting crushing riffs, vibrant rhythmic line and culminating deep growling voice, but still that's not the heaviest thing up here, take a listen to the first half of really violent almost thrashy "Flesh From Bone" before it turns into atmospheric doom with sparse chants in the background, just listen to those mind blowing thundering drum kicks. Then the eclectic "An Eternity Of Lies" is a collage of every single element for which Paradise Lost stands behind, how nicely the atmosphere replenishes with backing female vocals and I can only guess from where Nick took that amazing growl when he sings, "The fear it yearns / The years they burn / Until the hour we adapt / Until the hour we collapse".

I was pretty much amazed by the slow crawling funeral kind of atmosphere of "Beneath Broken Earth", such a deep and melodious track is this and if you ask me it could suit fine even My Dying Bride's early albums, there's no doubt that it's one of the darkest things the band recorded since "Rotting Misery" in 1990. Another great offering is the rather complex "Sacrifice The Flame" with so very piercing guitar sound and nice strings that deepen the ambiance and in the similar pace it only gets better with "Victims Of The Past" where everything we love about the band gets tinged in the darkest colours and so vividly pushes the listener into the amalgam of emotions with grim Nick's vocal range and sombre gothy synths. I wasn't really sure if I'm listening to "Once Solemn", "Dying Freedom" or something in that vein when the rather alternative groover "Cry Out" started to spin. The album ends in a grandiose manner with monumental "Return To The Sun", again the mesmerizing corrosive guitar lines, amazing vocals, thundering drums,... everything is there just to give us one of the those fantastic experiences we always had when it's time of Paradise Lost. We are left with next words: "Face to look inside my mind / A place you've never been / Face to look inside my mind / A place you've never dreamed." In the end I must make a notion about the once again fantastic lyrics written by Mr. Holmes in his unique rather nihilistic, morbid and ironic manner. The production and everything around it is well done. The Plague Within is another great chapter in the history of this iconic band, still I must be truthfull and admit that as an entirety it doesn't reach the high standards of the previous two albums, not to mention the breakthrough albums like are Icon or Draconian Times, I miss a bit that catchy gothic metal drive, evocative ambiance and choruses that only Paradise Lost were capable to do and I'm not that much comfortable with that much of a death metal edge in some of the tracks, but no matter what, The Plague Within will satisfy most of the bands fans as it's regardless of everything a killer release, a demanding one, a dark jevel in its own way.

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 8,5/10

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