Paradise Lost – Medusa (Nuclear Blast)

Wednesday, 30th August 2017
Rating: 9/10

As Paradise Lost continues to pad albums (and years) to their decorated résumé, it’s more apparent now, than ever, the Brits have come full-circle. Returning to one’s past glory is not necessarily new nor enticing anymore; it’s what you do with it that matters. For us to fully detail PL’s evolution from U.K. doom harbingers, commercial Goth progenitors, electronic rock craftsmen, back to solid-foundation metal, and up through their current permutation would be quite the colossal task. But in listening to their 15th full-length Medusa, you get the impression the Brits aren’t just cranking out this kind of churning doom for kicks. It’s more of an impassioned display than retreat to old laurels.

Patterned, or at least inspired by their labyrinthine 1992 Shades of God foray, Medusa is virtually all enveloping darkness and deep brushes with death. Vocalist Nick Holmes, capable of tender Goth bows all the way to grizzly roars, is perhaps the main player here, practically shaping these songs in whatever way he sees fit, whether with harsh blood-curdles (“Fearless Sky”) to ominous calls through the moody metal forest (“The Longest Winter”). Either way, Holmes’s career-long development as a vocalist should not be in dispute: He remains untouched in his ability to change styles in a single song.

Guitarist and main songwriter Greg Mackintosh doles out one body blow of a riff after another, striking slow and epic on “From the Gallows” (you can really spot one of his guitar melodies from a distance) to the up-tempo throttle of “Blood and Chaos,” the album’s highlight. And he does it within the framework of songs never feel boxed in by formula, an obvious shift from how the band used to operate circa Icon and Draconian Times.

On the doorstep of their 30th anniversary, Paradise Lost can be filed into the “Nothing Left to Prove” category, a designation earned not just through their seminal early days, but through the electronic experimentations and mid-career metal resurgence. Medusa encapsulates it all in one towering northern misery package. Here’s to another 30.

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