Paradise Lost’s albums often feel like reactions to each other, either emphasizing certain aspects of their predecessors or pushing off in the opposite direction. The group’s sixteenth full-length in a thirty-two-year run is no exception. Coming off the ultra-doom of 2017’s Medusa, Obsidian abides by similarly slothful tempos but pairs them with more overt melodicism. The results are comparable to 2009’s Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us and 2011’s Tragic Idol with a bit of The Plague Within’s kitchen sink flavor.
At the very least, it’s nice to see the musicianship return to fuller dynamics after Medusa’s rather one-note nature. The vocals are as dexterous as ever, utilizing more cleans than the last couple albums but keeping the growls around for emphasis. The guitars offer a similar degree of variety; the rhythms punch in the usual crushing heaviness, but one can detect some gothic throwbacks in the mournful leads and ethereal filters. The extra bits of piano, violin, and backing vocals also do a good job of expanding the presentation.
There aren’t too many drastic outliers or moments of whiplash when it comes to the songwriting, but each track features a standout style. “Fall from Grace” wasn’t the most accessible choice for a lead single, but that classic doom lurch makes for a worthy highlight. “Ghosts” and “Hope Dies Young” also stand out for their anthemic executions, the latter of which might not have been too out of place on One Second or Host. Things somehow get even moodier as the album progresses with the closing “Ravenghast,” putting its symphonics toward an, especially apocalyptic mood.
But even with the familiar elements at work, Obsidian can still take some time to get used to. The dynamics are enough to keep the album from feeling monotonous, but there aren’t too many breaks from the slower pacing. The melodies also tend to be more methodical than outright engaging, relying on a uniformly downtrodden attitude throughout. Fortunately, I can’t say that any of the tracks are underwhelming or poorly written, even if “Dark Thoughts” might not have been the best choice for the opener.
Overall, Obsidian does a splendid job of showing off Paradise Lost’s multi-faceted approach to gothic doom metal. The eclecticism isn’t as wild as The Plague Within, but the fluctuating dynamics and sturdy musicianship bring a lot of life to what could’ve been an otherwise pedestrian affair. The excursions never feel gimmicky, and the songs reward multiple listens. Paradise Lost has always stood out for their prolific yet diverse discography, and any release that highlights those attributes is good by me.
“Fall from Grace”
“Hope Dies Young”