For countless doom metal fans, the English trio of Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride are the ones who wrote the proverbial book on the genre in their halcyon days before embarking on different paths throughout their careers. Over the course of twenty five years, Paradise Lost has had a very productive career which has seen them branch out of their doom origins and venture into the realm of gothic rock, only to come back with a renewed outlook on their origins. And so, with such a rich history of doom, gothic and death metal behind them, these highly experienced gentlemen from Halifax and their Swedish drummer, the venerable Adrian Erlandsson mind you, are back with their fourteenth studio album The Plague Within which quite frankly plays out as fifty confusing minutes.
The album has its moments but it comes off as a little tepid in some parts. It doesn’t really age well either as the play count edges closer to double digits. The opening track ‘No Hope In Sight‘ gets things off to a rather slow start but is promptly followed by the slightly more dynamic ‘Terminal‘ which boasts some inventive drumming and a faster tempo. Things start looking up thanks to ‘An Eternity of Lies‘ as it sees Nick Holmes embrace two of vocal abilities and combine them to create a theatrical sense of conflict while the somber, melancholic melodies from the lead guitar just elevate the whole thing. Unfortunately, the following two tracks don’t live up to this momentum and fail to keep things interesting.
‘Sacrifice the Flame‘ is a serious doom number and is as slow as they come but it sounds like they are playing to their strengths and making a safe choice placing it in the middle of the album to even things out. However, after about twenty two stale minutes, ‘Victims of the Past‘ and ‘Flesh From Bone‘ hit hard in quick succession as the former provides a great combination of some commanding growling and lead guitar lines while the latter explodes with a raging Swedish death metal riff of the old-school variety. These qualities don’t come as a shock by any means considering the variety of experiences embarked on by guitarist Gregor Mackintosh with Vallenfyre and vocalist Nick Holmes with Bloodbath.
This run of exciting ideas is alas a short-lived one as it is followed by ‘Cry Out‘; the track that makes the least sense on this record. The ending cut ‘Return to the Sun‘ tries for more than five minutes but fails to rectify the situation as it is just too late for this record. But that doesn’t hint that it’s too late for Paradise Lost as a band. You see when a band goes on for such a long time, it’s bound to have some fluctuations in the quality of its output. That doesn’t mean they’re on a downward spiral. However, with The Plague Within, it doesn’t look like Paradise Lost is a band that’s interested in evolving and developing its sound which is a sad yet understandable reality. The Plague Within may tickle the fancy of the die-hard fans but the casual passerby may be more entertained by the band’s earlier works.