I owe Gregor Mackintosh a high-five or something. I’ve met the man twice during failed attempts to interview his band VALLENFYRE, of which I am a huge fan, and I’ve always wondered about his main gig, PARADISE LOST. Certainly with regards to their own output, PARADISE LOST have been very consistent in quality as well as quantity, with even the more divergent material being well regarded in general. That was more or less the extent of my familiarity with this band before listening to The Plague Within, out now on Century Media Records.
I had the album cranked while playing a game set in a nuclear post-apocalypse, when I reached something of a breakthrough. There’s nothing like a literal apocalypse to set the tone for a genre called “doom” metal, and it provided the perfect context to fit The Plague Within into my regular music rotation. Normally I tend towards fast, exuberant music, whether the youthful energy of thrash metal or the optimistic bombast of power metal, so slower tempos rarely make their way into my day-by-day playlist. On the other hand, for all of those who have questioned Dave Mustaine’s lyrics about teenage rebellion and drivin’ real fast even as the man himself approaches 50, The Plague Within provides a sober, mature approach befitting a band that’s older than I am. It can’t all be “Power Thrashing Death”, after all.
I wrote out all this preamble largely for people similarly unfamiliar with the band. I probably shouldn’t have waited this long to say: if you’re a PARADISE LOST fan already or fond of the style of deathly gothic doom metal that they pioneered, get this album. Simple as that. For me, the aforementioned search for context was, essentially, my own path to becoming a PARADISE LOST fan. Earlier, I wondered how Greg Mackintosh managed to juggle writing consistently excellent music for VALLENFYRE while also doing the same for PARADISE LOST. I still wonder that, for the guitar playing in The Plague Within is varied and wholly enthralling. From the relative pounding speed of “Terminal” to the staggeringly beautiful bridge riff on album opener “No Hope Inside”, I constantly shake my head at the quality of the songwriting. Vocalist Nick Holmes brings an equally varied vocal approach to the table as well, pulling off harsh and clean vocals with equal ease and always at the appropriate time. I hear metalcore vocalists often criticized for a “good cop/bad cop” approach to mixing styles, but Holmes has one all his own that suits the music perfectly. Special note must be given to “Victim of the Past” and “Return To The Sun”, whose orchestral accompaniment elevate them to breathtaking heights.
It can be easy to dismiss a good album from a consistently good band because it’s the brilliant trainwrecks that draw the most curiosity and attention. See the aforementioned artist for an example. And honestly, it can be easy to dismiss The Plague Within as well as a “safe” release from a band that knows how to write good music and seems to have no trouble doing so. However, the stirring majesty of the orchestral moments on this album beg to be heard, even to a jaded listener who might pass the album up otherwise.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “No Hope In Sight”, “Terminal”, “Victim of the Past”, “Cry Out”, “Return To The Sun”