2020 turns out to be the year of doom in more ways than one. A year that feels more surreal than most.
But fear not.
It looks like many artists were clairvoyant and followed up with a literal deluge of well-crafted Doom Metal of all sorts. Steely, rock hard, and tearfully arranged sorrow and pain. For the avid metalhead to pass the year in comfort, weird as it may be.
And truly, a few very cool grief-laden surprises crossed our paths lately. Like Black Trillium or the late teary opus River of Souls just sent our way, to cite just two. But let’s not forget the latest piece of My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost‘s eternal nemesis. This one stirred our doom pot pretty heftily over here. So, fertile grounds for Obsidian to appear on the scene, PL‘s newest concoction.
Paradise Lost weaved through twists and turns over their lengthy career. From killer albums like Draconian Times over better and not-so sober ones to an affirmation of old-style PL-Doom on Medusa. In a way, Paradise Lost is to Doom Metal what Rotting Christ is to Extreme Metal. They both constantly reinvent themselves, never shy to experiment. Sometimes it works better for them and sometimes less so. But both always do that with a strong pull, gusto, and undeniable authenticity that will never lose them their fanbase over it.
Now, Obsidian may be prone to a tad more experimentation than its older sibling. But it surely is not a piece that will lead you down unknown alleyways to the doom you crave, far from it.
In other words, you’ll find a rock-solid Doom Metal piece with Nick Holmes firmly at the helm. Already the opening track Darker Thoughts really gets all those fans off the hook with a friggin’ thunderclap. A soft little riff on acoustic guitar comes first, which leads into one of the best tracks Paradise Lost ever made. With Holmes‘ croaks and clears on full display that define Obsidian‘s essence to the best effects.
Imagine the excitement of the RMR deck crew. So many years of service, and – wham – here’s one mean slammer of a track. Which is immediately followed by a piece that the traditionalists will love. Fall from Grace with its soaring riff at the beginning is kind of a déjà-vu without being one. An amalgam of comfortable Lost sounds and flavors that really will sit well with the fan.
What saves both leading tracks from that fall from grace1) are those stellar solos. Gregor Mackintosh truly knocks himself out with those two blurbs that have Iommi spattered right over them. A performance that will remain consistent throughout that record.
Yet things will turn a tad spottier from that point onward.
You see, I just checked Paradise Lost on Spotify. They always give you these top 10 tracks of a band at first. And to my dismay, I found Ghosts at the top spot. One of the weakest tracks Obsidian has on offer with that strange turn towards Gothic Doom Pop. This usually is the realm of a totally different genre, one with a darkly flashy taste full of dark urges. Truly, Ghosts is made for rock radio, something to work for the DJs once, in all this acid rain, they wanna go deep metal. But joking apart, this track does have its allure, especially later when it blossoms out into a heavier beat, much more at home with its metal roots.
Obsidian does sport some highlights still, despite the somewhat rocky road it’s on. Like that delightful Ravenghast that solemnly marches forward at almost funeral speed. A downturned, powerful Sabbath-esque riff-fest, mandatory solo included. One that gets its spice and energy from this Holmes specialty to stretch lyrics to the breaking point2). This one is followed by its close sibling Hear the Night with its clear voice chorus.
Both tracks also truly showcase the excellent contribution of Waltteri Väyrynen, their (not so) new drummer and youngster extraordinaire3). You see, Paradise Lost are an exceedingly stable bunch. Four out of the five members follow the call of duty since 1988 or thereabouts. The only flaw in this pretty picture is this endless cavalcade of drummers. This feels a little like Xandria and their never-ending revolving door of female front runners. Now, young Waltteri surely is one of the best, if not the best, drummer these guys ever had.
Past the nondescript and bland Hope Never Dies or Ending Days, the rest of the offering is right down-the-middle Lost fare. Neither outstanding nor otherwise disturbing, yet with a rock-solid delivery that defines that good home-down PL-doom that we came here for. Albeit that some of these tracks suffer from a somewhat repetitive structure. A strangely tepid and well-known type of arrangement, where tracks start out slowly, then ramp up progression, and garnish all that jazz with a solo.
Yet, finally, Obsidian proves once again that Paradise Lost still are that go-to outfit for that trve, tear-laden doom sound. From gothic shenanigans to the trademark lyrics stretch, down to the excellent drum and guitar work, Paradise Lost got the goods.
All these minor flaws notwithstanding, this record delivers some top-level doom to your music machine. Deliciously miserable, dark, stone-cold, and sleek, as its name so aptly suggests. Just what the good doom doctor ordered.
Ed’s note: If you thought that this one was good, try Shores of Null. Enjoy!