Released: 2015, Century Media Records
Paradise Lost returns with their 14th album in THE PLAGUE WITHIN, an album that on first listen brings the band full circle. It is tempting to call this album a return to the roots, and in many ways it is, THE PLAGUE WITHIN encompassing elements of all the band’s many phases. More accurately though, the direction on this album can be attributed to Gregor Mackintosh’s side work with death metal band Vallenfyre as well as Nick Holmes’s work in Swedish death metal band Bloodbath. Hence THE PLAGUE WITHIN is easily the band’s heaviest album since SHADES OF GOD back in 1992.
The aggressiveness of Holmes’s and Macintosh’s other bands has clearly bled through onto THE PLAGUE WITHIN, most noticeably in Holmes growling death metal vocals. There is no disguising or withholding this direction, as the band proudly flaunts it on the excellent album opener “No Hope In Sight”, a song that could easily have appeared on DRACONIAN TIMES, as Nick alternates between baritone and growl. The baritone is used more for color and shade such as on “Victim Of The Past”, which gives these parts of the songs the feel of the last three or four albums. Mackintosh delivers as well, continuing the down-tuned guitars of the last 3 albums and throws variety and tempo changes into the mix as well. Witness the opening and middle sections of “Flesh from Bone” with it tremolo riff and hectic pace, faster than anything the band has attempted in literally decades.
“Cry Out” is an exact throwback to 2005’s PARADISE LOST musically, while Holmes deftly shifts vocal styles. On an album with many highpoints, this one stands out as the most seamless melding of the band’s past and present. The mournful and doomy guitar lines are ever present, recalling in particular the melodies of ICON, DRACONIAN TIMES, and PARADSISE LOST. However, there are many elements of death metal guitar in the tremolo passages, albeit delivered slower than most death metal. That being said, fans of LOST PARADISE AND GOTHIC should not get too excited. Holmes’s singing is still more musical, and the guitar lines more melodic than on those albums.
Ultimately, Paradise Lost is doing what they relish, which is being completely unpredictable just when it seemed they had settled into a comfort zone. Having said that, this is not an album for the entire gamut of PL fans. Those who have enjoyed all of the bands phases, from the early Peaceville death days, to gothic metal and their Depeche Mode period will certainly appreciate the new album. So will fans of the three album run that began with SHADES OF GOD and ended with DRACONIAN TIMES as well as the self-titled from ‘05. Those fans that only got into the band for the 3 album stretch that began with ONE SECOND, well you probably have not been on board for quite some time now, and THE PLAGUE WITHIN will do nothing to bring you back into the fold.