Century Media – Out Now
‘The Plague Within’ has the capability to divide the considerable Paradise Lost flock. There aren’t many bands more established in British gothic metal, but time can stagnate creativity. ‘The Plague Within’, PL’s 14th album, is a rally against expectations. Over its ten tracks fans are treated to flesh-peeling speed (for these sluggers, anyway) and crushing, blackened doom, while Nick Holmes explores the full reign of his vocal styles and techniques.
Black metal remains the dominant force in their sound, but not without considerable groove and melody. ‘An Eternity Of Lies’ sways recklessly like a Manowar on high seas, bleeding into the lumbering ‘Punishment Through Time’. This all builds to an indomitable slab-dragger: ‘Beneath Broken Earth’. It is the sound of the slow, deliberate steps of unstoppable dread.
‘The Plague Within’ is ruled by the riff. Holme’s vocal performance is varied and adds texture, but it is Greg Mackintosh’s lead guitar that paints the deepest blacks, as well as giving the listener glimpses of relief. ‘Flesh From Bone’ starts as a steady march into the pit before the tempo gets a shot of adrenaline and the guitars get to shred. It brings heat and viciousness where there is so often despair and hopelessness. You can practically smell the brimstone. PL purists may lament the choice of smouldering black metal over the white-hot squealing death metal of old, but with guitar work like this it’s hard to feel short-changed.
‘The Plague Within’ sits as the latest milestone in a career spanning 27 years. By rights it should be sat in a rut so deep that it can barely be seen. But it’s not. Instead, it stands as one of Paradise Lost’s most creative and diverse albums.