Chameleons rule. Small lizards prone to sneak about trees, to look at you weirdly and change color whenever it suits them. The terror of insects of any kind – one hit of their sticky tongue and their victims are history. Well that’s the animal kingdom.
But you find them not only there, but also with our brethren in Rock and Metal. Perhaps not as deadly, but for sure very capable to shed skins and change color at a moment’s notice.
Paradise Lost is one of them for sure with their newest concoction Medusa. Jumping styles like the chameleon does colors. We saw them wallow down Gothic Metal lane – as in Draconian Times (1995) or experimenting with electro-pop, synthie madness on Host (1999) and Believe in Nothing (2001). One would think Depeche Mode just whelped a twin on those two – with a taste of A-ha. Loki help me.
Then Paradise Lost slowly returned to its Doom Metal roots over a number of records. The most remarkable 2007 piece In Requiem stands tall as the shining beacon of records leading up to The Plague Within. Yet still, I could not get quite warm with their last record, despite stellar tracks like Beneath Broken Earth.
And in truth their 15th full length album Medusa moves on in the vein of this track. But will it be able to unleash tear-soaked metal at the gorgonian scale the title suggests? Will the record turn every fan to stone it touches?
Fear not, the magic of the mythical monster does not extend that far. However, the main change of this record being the heavily downturned guitars and the definitive move towards Doom Death Metal.
Not much of clear voice anymore exists on this newest record. Even if the band left some for the listener to behold. And there is a return to the style in Medusa – the title track. Yet Nick Holmes‘ ever-present croaks, the heavy riffing and the crisp, short solos really provide the backbone of this record. And it really takes Holmes to stretch lyrics like so much blackened bubble-gum – one of the trademarks of Paradise Lost.
Medusa really gorges with them solemn marches down doom lane, like in Gods of Ancient. And it is also in this track where the drumming skills of young Waltteri Väyrynen, their new drummer, come to the forefront. He is by the way also the drummer of Mackintosh’s Vallenfyre.
Poor guy, they saddled him with two bosses to push him around. Yet, he does not seem to mind and – in the process – kicked Paradise Lost’ drumming quality up a few notches. And by all means, it does them old croakers good to get some youthful energy injected into their gig.
Yet all this marching about the soundscape does hide a certain tendency for repetitions. After a while the record starts to sound like some sort of bland stew, getting you more of the same all the time. And interestingly, the ever present same-same, but different sound structure gets a bit too close to things bands like Khemmis did before. Without the crystalline clear voice of the latter. Could it be that they tried to align, and did not quite succeed?
Now, by mid-point Medusa seriously takes on some steam. This new-found energy starts with the title track. And you absolutely need to savor the solo on this one. One would think Tony Iommi just sauntered over from Black Sabbath.
I like the staunch, tough no bullshit airs of Blood and Chaos, sounding like Amon Amarth’s latest for a moment. Not that they are going viking all of a sudden. Yet they are on the move to the North. Because Until The Grave seriously errs on the territory bands like Insomnium are on. And all this with a level of oomph Nick Holmes did not display before. With a stellar solo to boot again. Quite unsurprisingly both of them tracks feature as videos in Nuclear Blast’s mighty music collection.
So finally, Medusa is a record that gains some serious power as the track list advances. Usually it is the other way around, but hey – no problem with me. Paradise Lost again managed to improve their game over the last record. Whilst a bit chewy at times, the astute growls and well constructed clear voice contributions sit well with the guitars and the – at times – otherworldly drum work. If only they could have infused the same level of energy into the first part of the album, this would be a killer. Alas, it was not to be. But Medusa still is one of their best records they ever made. Chameleon style, of course.
Now I am looking forward to the newest of their nemesis My Dying Bride. Can they blow Paradise Lost’ latest out of the water? Time will tell.
[Editors note: The record successfully made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VI edition. Congrats.]