It’s beginning to get serious now as I enter the second half of my ‘Album Of The Year 2015’ Top 30 countdown.
Thanks to my regular readers who have remained loyal throughout this barrage of new posts. And, if you’re new to the Blog of Much Metal, welcome! Please feel free to check out my picks from 30 down to 15 via the links at the bottom of this post.
In any normal year, this record would have been way higher in my list. However, given the strength of 2015, I award the number 14 spot to…
I’ve been a fan of Bradford’s Paradise Lost for a lot of years. I discovered them via their seminal album, ‘Draconian Times’ but was quick to delve further back in time, discovering other gems in their back catalogue. To this day, the criminally underrated ‘Shades Of God’ remains my favourite Paradise Lost album, so it is with genuine joy and excitement that album number 14, ‘The Plague Within’ offers a few nods in the direction of this record as well as many others, principally from the band’s earlier days.
After the foray into more Gothic pop-rock and electronic sounds, I had dreamed for an album like this but even after a return to heavier climes via ‘Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us’ (2009) and ‘Tragic Idol’ (2012), I never dared to put voice to my hopes. And yet, in 2015, here we have Messrs Holmes, Mackintosh, Aedy, Erlandsson and Edmondson’s heaviest and arguably most varied release for a long time. The darkly-monikered ‘The Plague Within’ sounds modern and fresh, yet manages to pay homage to just about every era of their past. As such, it’s nothing short of glorious.
Album opener, ‘No Hope In Sight’, is nothing short of a monster of a track that sets the tone for the entire record in that it underlines my previous point by borrowing a little bit of every era of Paradise Lost, pulling it all together into one of the strongest compositions of the band’s career. The foreboding growls of ‘Old Nick’ joust with his mellower, clean vocals that sit on top of a song that’s properly heavy but which also showcases the band’s ability to pen seriously catchy material.
Follow up track ‘Terminal’ is equally as good. Built around a wonderfully crunchy central riff and a relentless, almost metronomic mid-tempo stomp it is deceptively catchy; a cracking mix of early Paradise Lost and ‘Icon’-era material to these ears.
‘An Eternity Of Lies’ immediately calls to mind ‘Draconian Times’ album by virtue of an immediate melody that duet with Holmes’ more melodious delivery. That said, the snarling growls are never far away and once again they feature prominently. What I also like is that this song has a really heavy bite to it as well as some sumptuous cinematic embellishments to add depth and a sense of the grandiose. ‘Punishment Through Time’ is classic ‘As I Die’ homage, complete with a hauntingly reminiscent chugging riff within the verses. And the echoes of my aforemenioned favourite Paradise Lost album continue via ‘Victims Of The Past’ which also introduces a Gothic rock veneer merged with those instantly recognisable lead guitar refrains from Gregor Mackintosh circa the early 90s.
And if you want heavy Paradise Lost, then look no further than both ‘Beneath Broken Earth’ and ‘Flesh From Bone’. The former is all-out doom metal worship complete with pedestrian tempo and crushing riffs whilst the latter borrows much from the death metal genre. In so doing, it harks back to the band’s very earliest incarnation. ‘Cry Out’ plays around with a sludgy Gothic death-meets-rock ‘n’ roll sound whilst also managing to maintain a surprising immediacy.
Arguably, the best is saved until last in the form of the stunning ‘Return To The Sun’. The intro is a thin of savage beauty and teaches other bands a thing or two about creating truly evil-sounding music. And then, once the intro gives way, the remainder of the track is brutally heavy and truly epic-sounding.
Veterans of the English metal scene they may be but ‘The Plague Within’ demonstrates that Paradise Lost have plenty left in the tank of creativity. Indeed, as good as the previous couple of albums have been, the music on ‘The Plague Within’ feels like it has been created by a band that remains hungry and is prepared to pen music that blends the old with new and interesting ideas. The final result is an album of truly epic and majestic proportions.
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 15
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 16
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 17
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 18
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 19
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 20
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 21
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30
And from previous years: