Paradise Lost – The Plague Within 01Rebounding from their infamous flirtation with electronic pop music, British doom legends Paradise Lost have kicked out a string of albums since 2005 that rival the sonic oppression of their early-’90s heyday. More recently, the band has embraced their death metal roots, as evidenced by guitarist Gregor Mackintosh’s Vallenfyre project and singer Nick Holmes’ involvement with Bloodbath. This intensified commitment to old-school heaviness sets the stage for Paradise Lost‘s latest record, The Plague Within.

The aptly-titled “No Hope In Sight” kicks off this installment, and immediately reveals what will become recurring themes. First off: Yes, Nick Holmes is once again singing death metal vocals on a Paradise Lost record. His voice bears little resemblance to the growl on PL‘s classic records, sounding considerably thinner and croakier, but hey — you asked for it, you got it. The song is anchored by riffs that are pretty generic by PL standards, and Holmes’ vocal patterns feel awkward and disconnected, as if he’s short of breath. The result is a track that, while heavy, is the very definition of “unmemorable.” My opinion of the next two tracks, “Terminal” and “An Eternity Of Lies” can be found by pasting those song titles into the above paragraph.

Elsewhere, shit just gets weird. “Punishment Through Time” could be mistaken for Crowbar, eventually picking up the pace for a “Pity The Sadness”-esque feel. Old-school PL fans will rejoice over “Beneath Broken Earth,” which sounds like their old records played at half speed, but even more depressing. “Flesh From Bone,” on the other hand, is easily the fastest song that the band has ever executed, with drums approaching blastbeat tempos while dissonant, near-black metal guitar lines swirl around them. There’s also the bizarre “Cry Out,” a sort of ’70s-ish boogie rock tune, although Holmes is still singing death metal over it.

Paradise Lost – The Plague Within 02

There are some bright spots though. “Sacrifice the Flame” effectively layers violins and cellos over a truly morose riff, leading to a brief orchestral section that is one of the more adventurous pieces of music in the PL canon. “Victims Of The Past” is one of the album’s few concessions to melody, blending both clean and death vocals, while Mackintosh’s abstract guitar work and tasteful orchestration create a sense of urgency. Incidentally, this is probably the best song on The Plague WithinParadise Lost has always excelled at integrating classical instruments into their compositions, and honestly I’d rather see them pursue that direction instead of this death metal midlife crisis they are currently indulging. Seriously, how awesome would it be if they turned into the doom equivalent of Septicflesh?

Apparently no one else will come out and say it, so I will: Just because Paradise Lost is “metal” again, doesn’t mean they’re Paradise Lost again. They are increasingly favoring heaviness at the expense of good songwriting, and The Plague Within continues that trend. It feels like the band is trying way too hard to be something they aren’t anymore, throwing ideas against a wall and pursuing them whether they stick or not. I suppose fans of the band’s very early days will enjoy the record, and there’s probably some new-school death/doom crossover appeal. But deep in my ice-cold heart, I know Paradise Lost is capable of better, and I anxiously await music that meets those standards.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7  |  Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Release Dates: EU: 2014.06.10  |  NA: 06.11.2014

  • AndySynn

    “Seriously, how awesome would it be if they turned into the doom equivalent of Septicflesh?”

    Not at all. I don’t need another band who seem to forget that they actually have guitars and might want to use them now and then.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      I guess I meant “with guitars.” Paradise Lost already has 2 or 3 albums with no guitars, and they don’t need any more.

      • Luciano

        I’d say they have one album without guitars (and I love it, haha). But I, for one, think PL as a “doom Septic Flesh” would be quite interesting.
        I’ve got to reread your review and get me some time to write more elaborate words, but right now I’m in the position to say that I want to enjoy the new album, albeit a new direction – like the one you mentioned – would be preferred and more consonant with PL’s ethos.

      • Wilhelm

        Host was the only album without a heavy guitar sound, but guitars are actually there – run through various effects, but they are there.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          Alright, how about “2 or 3 albums with no guitars doing anything useful or audible?”

  • Martin Knap

    I really enjoy Death Divides Us…, I haven’t expected this. The embedded track isn’t good.

    • Faith Divides Us Death Unites Us and Tragic Idol are both excellent albums IMO. I’m hoping I like this when I hear it.

  • tomasjacobi

    I hope you’re wrong. I really enjoyed the 2 tracks that has been released so far.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      I hope I’m wrong too. This album seems like it’s gonna be pretty divisive — the reactions so far are either “This is awesome!” or “This is pure shit.”

    • Akash GG

      I hope for you too…
      I’ll just let you make up your own mind and look forward to reading your opinion here some day…

  • Great review!

  • Spongebob

    I particularly enjoyed it and I plan on carving up hobos in the back of the Krusty Krab for Krabby Patties to this album!

  • Rob Pociluk

    It’s a great album. To each his own.

    • Pablo Joaquin Rapetti

      Loved every song. Cry on would be incredible to listen live. I found it a lot more inspired and varied than Tragic Idol.

  • JL

    The single that I heard was awful, so I don’t expect anything from this but I’ll give it a listen.

    On an unrelated note someone over there should review the new Forefather…it’s great!

  • Grymm

    I never wanted to disagree with a review so badly as I have with this one… but I can’t.

    “Beneath Broken Earth” is easily the best song on here (and a Best of the Year candidate for me), but the rest is so unfocused.

    Great review, btw.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Thanks, man. I wanted to like this album just as much as you did.

    • I agree as well. I REALLY wanted to like this album, but man, is it boring! I was so impressed with “Faith Divides Us…” and felt it was like their comeback album. Then “Tragic Idol” came out and tragically was uninspired, I chalked it up as a sort of sophomore slump, but really thought this one would be a home run (or at least a triple to the corner), and sadly, its a weak bunt into foul territory! :(

  • Damn.

    Given its success on the forum, I think it’s worth using again here on this particular topic. I wish it wasn’t, though.

  • Wilhelm

    Agreed 100%, every review I’ve read (with the exception of this and another one) has praised this as something like Gothic/Shades of God/Icon, which it is NOT. The production/mix sucks, the bass drum pumps out everything else and I’m not a fan of gregor’s guitar “tone” (which used to be something special) bass is unremarkable, vocals are bad and tired, and music that goes from PL’s commercial rock sound to doom and death metal just doesn’t sound right/

    Oddly enough, some of the darker doomier riffs sound really good but more like older My Dying Bride than Paradise Lost. If they could have utilized these riffs, made something abstract and obscure, it could have worked…but no we got short, confused songs instead.

    the second half is better than the first but all in all an average album. I really loved Tragic Idol. I thought that album really touched on the dark and catchy sound without resorting to repeating themselves. This album will not be remembered as something special a year from now.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Exactly, man. Even when they’re “heavy” and “doomy” or whatever, they still don’t quite sound like themselves. And I totally agree about the guitar tone, where did that sound go?

  • RuySan

    The single did nothing for me. The trademark paradise lost guitar tone and atmosphere just wasn’t there. It sounded like a completely generic doom metal band.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    I have to say “Beneath Broken Earth” is a doom metal classic. I can’t help but think that Nick Holmes’ growls are more suited to the slow-paced doom setting of PL rather than the fast, crushing extreme metal of Bloodbath.

    • AlteredState

      I don’t want to seam grumpy or something like that, but I really preferred Åkerfeldt’s growls on Bloodbath. Nick’s really suit better doom metal and sound really awesome on “Beneath Broken Earth”. I’m going to see Bloodbath this summer and I can’t really imagine Nick Holmes singing “Eaten” like Åkerfeldt did for example.

      • Doomdeathrosh

        I agree. All I’m saying is Nick’s vocals are better preferred in PL than in Bloodbath. Akerfeldt in Bloodbath was something else!

      • Excentric_1307

        Akerfeldt did his best with “Eaten” but was no match for Peter Tagtgren. I saw them at Maryland DMF, and I have no complaints about his vocals there.

    • Wilhelm

      That was the song that stood out when I first listened…classic doom death, would have the whole album sounded like this one, it would have been a great one, but it comes right after Punishment through Time which, style wise, sounds nothing like it.

      • Doomdeathrosh

        unfortunately, they just got too obsessed with being too heavy….and Beneath Broken Earth was one of the very few good outcomes. I also liked Sacrifice the Flame and Victims of the Past.

  • Mark Rose

    I don’t know how a reviewer can complain about ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ sounding too depressing. Erh, this is doom metal! The album is their best since ‘Draconian Times’ anyway so dont anyone be put off by this review.

    Anyhow I see lots of whingers on here which is starting to remind me of Opeth fans who whinge because they’ve moved too far from their roots and here are PL fans moaning because they’ve gone back to their roots. No one is EVER happy lets face it..

    These kind of ‘metal fans’ should just stick to listening to a band’s first 2-3 records because 10 albums later they will moan no matter what.

    • There are always fanbois that think they know better than anyone else, so it all balances in the end.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      I doubt anyone takes issue with PL going back to their ‘roots.’ My issue is with an unfocused album of not-great songs.

      You raise an interesting point though: How DOES a band navigate through a 10 or 12 album career? Is there a way to avoid being repetitive (Motorhead, for instance) while also managing to not do stupid shit (Metallica, Megadeth, Paradise Lost, etc etc)?

    • RuySan

      I don’t care if they’re back to their roots, or if they’ve evolved way past their origins. I just want good music.

      “Paradise Lost” was the first of their “back to metal albums” and it’s probably one of the weakest of their career. I really like “host “though.

      And I have to say that “Tragic Idol” is absolutely tremendous. I still hear it often when i’m running.

      I still can’t comment fully on this one yet, but i like the first song.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    hmmm I do like ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ … I’m going to investigate further.
    I really would like to dig into this. Ive been going back through their catalogue since the Draconian Times ‘Yer Metal is Olde’ piece.

  • Shawn Cypher

    There’s no way I’ll buy this and think it’s a 2.0. The only Paradise Lost albums I’m not a big fan of are actually their first few. They’ve never disappointed me, so I hope I’ll disagree here. I will buy it the day it releases.

    I guess that’s how personal opinions are. I haven’t been able to listen to the past 2 Opeth albums (I still bought them)… but when I listen to MAYH, Morningrise, and Orchid, I miss that sound so much.

  • Norfair Legend

    Argh…I don’t know…PL is a band I WANT to like so much nowadays but have such a hard time doing so. Gothic absolutely blew me away back when I was out randomly picking up cassettes. I never minded their foray into the more straight forward Gothic rock either but it was their lack of consistency over the years that constantly kills it for me.

    The embedded clip sounds decent but missing that dead emotion in the vocals and guitar that oozed out of the earlier releases. I’ll pick it up and give it a chance, no band can stay the same forever and I’m ok with that but I’m just not sure if it’ll be good enough for my 2015 standards.

  • sickgrinder

    Couldn’t disagree more, I never was a huge PL fan mostly due to every album I have heard before this (besides their first) was flat, boring and lifeless. Although this is not the best death/doom metal album ever made, its got feel and is morose as death/doom should be. Hope this continues as trend for bands to return to their roots……Septic Flesh??

  • Neo84

    Album is amazing. It’s at least a 4.5, but whatever, everyone has their opinions.

    Wow, you review a mp3 version !?!?!? 0_o

    • tomasjacobi

      I think promos in anything but mp3 are very rare. At least this site states what quality they were given by the label.

  • Martijn Brugman

    Last time I saw these guys, it immediately took me back 22 years and everyone was screaming all songs along. So, is it nostalgia? Probably, but in Beneath Broken Earth, when Nick goes “Hail to nothingness, you wish to DIIIIEEEEE” that makes me feel 15 years old all over again. For reference, this is a good thing. I’m such a nostalgic old fart.

  • xengineofdeathx

    I really don’t know what the fuck you guys are complaining about, this album is pretty great.

  • Martijn Brugman

    “Cry Out”, with death growls over 70’s rock feels very similar to Gorefest’s Soul Survivor album. Weird, but kinda cool.

  • defjam

    After repeated listens on vinyl I find this to be an excellent album. The guitars are economical and focused on carrying the songs. Not being overly familiar with their material since, ahem, Icon, my opinion is that this album is like a time capsule back to where I left them with a few elements added anew.

  • Pierre Garcin

    Finally a review I agree with. There are a few good ideas / songs here, but it doesn’t stop the overall album to be pretty boring and far below my expectations. The second album of Vallenfyre, the Greg Mackintosh project, is much more interesting.

  • Enrico Pallazzo

    i strongly disagree with this review, it is a grower one…4.5 at least. it has no fillers…just magic.
    the bonus tracks are also great.

  • Akash GG

    At last someone someone has the balls to call a cat a cat!

    If you start with “No Hope in Sight”: yes, great intro, and is in fact the main riff as it keeps repeating throughout the song. Nice opener, but still,
    With Terminal, it gets “better”: the drums try to shake things up, but following the guitars instead of leading to give rhythmic foundation yields a sense of ‘elephant trying to sprint’ – uneven, and cringe-worthy. ‘An Eternity of Lies’ could salvage something with its nice chorus, but… ‘Punishment Through Time’ is just…
    ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ – NOW you’re talking about gloom and doom, a real reminiscent of ‘Gothic’ era melancholy, but let down by the dull drumming again. ‘Sacrifice the Flame’ tries to go places, but keeps revolving one theme that leads to nowhere. ‘Victim of the Past’ has some substance to it – the shifting tempo, the orchestration, the lead lines, YES. And we have have lift-off with ‘Flesh from Bone’: a gloomy, post-apocalyptic intro, to reach an incredible speed! Was that an off-cut from Vallenfyre…? But for memorable stuff at some similar above-average speed from this band, you’d surely prefer ‘Channel for the Pain’.
    And then we stumble at ‘Cry Out’ – cringe-factor shoots to the maximum over this dud. ‘Return to the Sun’ proposes to be a honest closure, but lacks the incredible highs of, say, ‘Over the Madness’ or ‘World Pretending’.

    Yet, at the end of many listens, you’ll find something is amiss… yet, rationally, you can’t have missed the many ear-candy stuff:
    Grainy guitars: check.
    Death vocals: check.
    Slow tempo: check
    Melodic lines: check
    Clean vocals: check.

    But still, you realise that your favourite is actually packing his album with filler… A forgettable record, with a few highlights interspersed here and there…

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Glad someone mentioned “Over The Madness.” THAT’s how you end a goddamn album!

  • Yeah, fully agree with the review. The cookie cutter style and somewhat – how to call it – bland presentation of some of that stuff is very apparent. No doubt the sound is meaty in places, but for sure could there could have been more oomph to it.

  • Robert

    I love this album. It’s one of the best metal albums I’ve heard at all!!! By good album I mean the album good as the integrity of all the songs that it contains and not an album with few good songs on it. For example good albums are also KoRn’s “Take a look in the mirror” or “Tboxicity” from System of a Down.
    The Plague Within is dark and pesymistic, but it’s not too dark or too loud with its darkness. Band has found perfect integrity between rock and metal, between melody and hard base with drums, Nick Holmes between his regular vocal and rough throat singing. “Paradise Lost have a stronger passion for atmosphere over aggression, the band pulls off its moodiness on almost all levels” hat’s exactly what I’m thinking just in a better words than I would’ve used. Album is hard but it isn’t too hard, it’s melodic but it doesn’t loose it’s doom and negativity. It has a great music, I mean I’d listen to this base even if there wouldn’t be any vocal with it! And vocal man! It’s outstanding. Holmes perfectly switches beetwen his soft voice, rock voice from last albums and his metal voice(better than the most of popular artists like for example Rob Zombie) known from first 2 albums.
    Only the lyrics. Don’t get me wrong- lyrics are good, make you think about what they say. Almost each song is like a poetry. For me it was a little bit problematic to understand all, not the words but the meaning of them, but that’s probably because English is my second language.
    In my opinion the most important is that The Plague Within is oryginal. Paradise Lost doesn’t copy anyone and they don’t try to be like other popular metal bands. Instead of trying to fit in nowadays music to make money, they create something new – something only they could create. I think that Paradise Lost is much better band since they release with The Century Media (that includes In Requiem(2007),
    Faith Divides Us–Death Unites Us(2009),
    Tragic Idol(2012), The Plague Within(2015) ).
    What can I say to end my review? Only one think: I JUST CAN’T WAIT TO LISTEN TO THE NEXT ALBUM!!!

  • 100% agree with this review. I’m a long time PL fan (since DT), and felt like The Plague Within was a stab in the heart. It sounds like a resignation letter. I appreciated and enjoyed the electronic phase, but recognise that many don’t consider it “metal enough” (whatever that means). That said I loved albums like PLX, FDUDUU, and Tragic Idol. Too each his own, but I won’t be automatically buying another PL album just because it’s got their logo on it.