Paradise Lost further carve up their sound, delve back to dark roots on death-doused ‘Medusa’

Paradise Lost have spent the past three decades helping to redefine doom metal and become one of the most important forces in all underground music. The band has created some timeless classics (as well as a few that weren’t quite in that league) along the way, and here they are, still standing and making music that’s as vital as ever.

The band has returned with their 14th album “Medusa,” and what we find is a group that has rediscovered its fire and seemingly turned back to the clock to their “Lost Paradise” and “Gothic” days. They returned the death metal elements to their music fully with 2015’s “The Plague Within,” but they’ve toughened up their sound even more, while never losing track of their gothic tendencies. It’s no secret Greg Mackintosh’s work in Vallenfyre helped him add more virulent strains to what he does with this band, but vocalist Nick Holmes bringing back his hellacious growl blackened their sound even more. Let’s not forget he’s also singing with Bloodbath, a gig that surely had a major effect on him. Rounded out by guitarist Aaron Aedy, bassist Stephen Edmondson, and new drummer Waltteri Vayryen (also of Vallenfyre), the band created a tremendous late-career record that’s as strong as anything they’re released in the last decade.

This eight-track, 42-minute mauler opens with “Fearless Sky,” as organs ring, mournful guitars spill, and Holmes’ grisly growls push into the picture. The cut has a funereal pace, with leads heating up, Holmes singing out, “Reach for the symbol of your wound,” and smothering soloing leading to the cut’s devastating finish. “Gods of Ancient” has a muddy start before the band hits a doom groove, and the leads cut into the meat. The growls churn, guitars leave brush burns, and the song comes to a crushing, shimmering end. “From the Gallows” trudges through mud, as the guitars leave a slimy glaze, and the gloom is laid on thick. The soloing from Mackintosh melts flesh, while Holmes growls rumble, and a pummeling lament rules all. “The Longest Winter” starts with birds crying, and then guitars charge in with frosty keys. Holmes unleashes shadowy singing, and the chorus benefits greatly from his expression, while growls follow as the song darkens. The soaring chorus keeps returning for more blood, as the cut keeps your heart pumping.

The title track has buzzing keys and Holmes delivering soulful clean singing. Again, the band delves into goth-style melodies, which they do so well, and the tempo starts and stops, pulling you along for the ride. “This life, the last,” Holmes calls, while the emotional bloodletting gets thicker, and feedback blows away. “No Passage for the Dead” has grinding growls, sludgy riffs, and growls mixing with singing over the chorus. The track is both destructive and spacious, as the guitars lead your mind into space. “Blood and Chaos” has a folk-flavored approach, though electrified as all hell. Holmes digs deeper into his singing voice, feeling like his mouth is dropping words dripped in black blood, and the track lands some heavy bruising before it finally brings mercy. “Until the Grave” starts solemnly before ugliness rears its head, and the growls chew away at flesh. “The light follows day, say your prayers,” Holmes urges, while star-dusted keys deliver shadowy mystery, and the track has a decimating finish dressed in death.

Still standing 30 years later, Paradise Lost have no interest in resting on their reputation and cashing in simply because of who they are. “Medusa” shows a hungry, channeled, ferocious band that still has the goods to deliver doom mastery. This band helped create the crooked path of doom, and they’re not done carving that devastating roadway.

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