Reviewed: April 2018
Released: 1999, EMI
Reviewer: Demitri Levantis
In 1988 a group of teenagers in Yorkshire came together to form a band. That band began playing a Doom fused brand of Death Metal but slowly their sound took a different turn and began making a Metal one can liken to a heavier version of the Gothic Rock music that had arisen from the band’s homeland throughout the decade. That band is Paradise Lost.
And the change of their music did not stop there, for as the 90s progressed, Paradise Lost began to take even more interesting risks with their sound, creating a lighter but just as melancholic Goth Rock album in 1997 (One Second), but then going even more experimental just two years earlier with 1999’s Host album.
Now, 20 years on, Paradise Lost has released a remastered edition of the album many fans see as a crux in the band’s career. Some felt betrayed by PL’s new direction, others felt it was a brilliant step for a band who weren’t scared to showcase their versatility – and even frontman Nick Holmes himself has jokingly referred to it as ‘the sell-out album,’ in a few live appearances.
But now it’s time to look back on Host and see it if really was as radical or volatile as the fandom divide claimed it to be, so lets dive right into PL’s seventh studio outing.
Speaking as someone who has consumed almost as much Synthpop and Industrial music as they have Metal, it was quite interesting when I put this album on because the opening tune ‘So Much is Lost’ lays a very dark Synth driven framework that I can’t say I’ve heard very often in all the years I’ve been listening to said music. There’s not as much metallic weight in the guitars and the keyboards are the backbone of this entire album as ‘Nothing Sacred’ and ‘In All Honesty’ showcase.
The darkness the overshadows this album reveals how PL had mastered the Gothic by the time they came up with Host. Even though it’s a more Rock oriented structure, I could easily see tunes from this record being played in a cavernous concert hall and pleasing hundreds of Metalheads who normally go for something heavier to soothe their inner woes.
Regardless of how light or electronic the tunes appear, one thing that hasn’t changed is Nick Holmes’s signature croon, as he wails sentimental poetry about how hard life must have been at this point in the band’s career. Emotion and personal anxieties are constant influences on PL’s music, and here they’ve not shied away. In fact, this is the sort of album you’d get if Depeche Mode took on all the emotional baggage handled by the likes of Bauhaus and mixed it with some crooning cynicism from Andrew Eldritch who happened to have access to a miniature orchestra living in a German warehouse.
Yes, this album is a full on pastiche of all things Goth. At times I was reminded of all the good nights I’ve spent dancing to tunes of the dancefloors at Slimelight and Reptile, so I’m a tad amazed at how this album is never played in such clubs.
And there is one other thing to point out on what makes this album so interesting, and that is the inclusion of classical instruments. There are cellos and violins on ‘Harbour’, ‘Year of Summer’ and ‘Host’, so with all this laced in with everything else that screams Europe in my eyes, it seems as if PL took us on a journey around Europe, especially Germany, to give their fans a tour de force in how strong and versatile the Gothic music culture really is.
Host is a juxtaposition of the old and the new; classical music meets modern electronica.
So now’s the time to ask the omniscient question: Has this album stood the test of time? And the answer is: Yes – remastering such a package of good music that relies heavily on modern technology, the electric tunes carried on this audible tome have been recrafted to sound even harder and darker, so if you’ve ever wanted to make your living room feel like a warehouse party in Berlin, then this is the album to put onto your sound system. The mastering has definitely added a cavernous depth to the mix so turn this album up if you want to have the best experience of Nick Holmes’s crooning over the keyboards.
With Host, PL brought a European Gothic edge to their metallic output, and this album should be seen as a celebration of their versatility in music for within this release they forged a ghostly paradise of noise. If you have been of a different opinion over the last 20 years, I recommend you revisit Host and see if it really was worth it calling PL a traitor when they did what they wanted.
1. So Much Is Lost
2. Nothing Sacred
3. In All Honesty
5. Ordinary Days
6. It’s Too Late
7. Permanent Solution
8. Behind The Grey
10. Made The Same
12. Year Of Summer
Nick Holmes – Vocals
Gregor Mackintosh – Guitars, Keyboards
Aaron Aedy – Guitars
Stephen Edmondson – Bass
Lee Morris – Drums