The Plague Within (Century Media)
By Mike Delano
The Plague Within is a surprisingly dark album from Paradise Lost. Yes, I’m keenly aware that these Halifax, England misanthropes have explored death and despair from every possible angle during the past 25 years and 13 albums, and that — to use just one example — one of the band’s more recent videos featured a depressed dude moping around an abandoned building then hanging himself. (And we wonder why MTV decided to change its format.) But this time around we’re talking about an album full of gnarly, dirt-under-fingernails dirges, soaked in deliberate, droning heaviness. It feels miles away from some of the doomy anthems on 2012’s Tragic Idol or 2009’s Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, let alone anything from the band’s experimental, more approachable period in the early 2000s. Witness the barren, emotional wasteland of “Sacrifice the Flame” and “Victim of the Past,” where sparsely placed chords crash down amidst lyrics of tormented souls and lost faith. The album isn’t one-note, though: the jarring heaviness of “Flesh from Bone” sounds like vocalist Nick Holmes and guitarist Greg Mackintosh brought something back from their respective death metal side projects Bloodbath and Vallenfyre, while “Cry Out” at last offers some light at the end of the tunnel with a rousing, defiant stance. The superb closer “Return to the Sun” does a tremendous job of uniting all of the different moods of the record under one black umbrella, and in doing so creates a succinct portrait of Paradise Lost version 2015. Given past history, this version is unlikely to remain for long as the band relentlessly searches for new sounds, but if any version was gonna decide to stick around for awhile, this one is as good as any.