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Album Review: HOST IX

9.5 Reviewer

Host's IX is the surprising new album that is about to worm its way to the top of your playlist. Host is the project of Paradise Lost legends Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes. Named after Paradise Lost's magnificent yet polarizing 1999 album, Host, the duo makes it immediately apparent that they are exploring new artistic horizons.

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If there are recent songs catchier than the ten morsels of bittersweet ear candy found on IX, I can't recall hearing them. Repetition is intentionally used to craft an organic product that will effectively work its way under your skin. The individual tracks weave together beautifully to form a seamless whole. Host perfectly balances darkness and light while creating a variety of moods.

Mackintosh and Holmes hook you right away with "Wretched Soul." This reflective track fills you with a sense of drive as it sends you on a weighty existential quest: "And I seek through convictions… And I hear the familiar, lasting hurt. And I sense with a mission as I seek with a thirst for the last intermission…" IX may seem like an intoxicating escapist triumph, but it's actually quite sobering insofar as it leads you to a deeply meditative place.

If it's at all difficult for you to connect with any of the bleaker-sounding compositions, save them for later in the evening, and we guarantee you that they will come to life. "Inquisition," for example, is an especially gloomy gem that will give you the glorious feeling of being on a torture rack. Expect to slowly twist to this agonizing number — IX is a dance-friendly wonder from beginning to end.

Greg Mackintosh confirmed in an interview with MetalSucks that IX is "a mixture of all kinds of stuff: goth, synth, cold wave, even stadium rock from the '80s." You can feel the pulse of the alternative clubs that Mackintosh and Holmes used to frequent in West Yorkshire. Yet, if you can tell anything from the titles of the first two of Host's three successful singles — "Tomorrow's Sky" and "Hiding From Tomorrow" — it is that IX is an album with a clear relationship to the future.

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In other words, IX combines your nostalgic cravings with all the sorrow and dread that you are experiencing today as you anticipate tomorrow: "Until the light of day, the hours that darkness takes me, fear is my only escape…" I've had a while now to process IX, and it definitely seems to be the most refreshing new album around. It is an extremely appropriate piece of art for this dystopian era.

Host's distinctive voice is one of their greatest assets. Even if you listen to IX without knowing the details of its creation, intuition will tell you that it's the work of two of the greatest musicians of our time. The clear presence of genius on IX is something that strikes you within seconds. It just has that unmistakable feeling of quality and worth. Could we expect anything less than brilliance from the music of Greg Mackintosh paired with the vocals and lyrics of Nick Holmes? Of course, the chemistry between these two artists also contributes to making IX a stellar effort.

I really appreciate the amount of heart and commitment that has gone into this album. After listening to Mr. Mackintosh's delightfully unique and equally "unsettling" brutal metal band Strigoi, for example, Host is honestly the last thing I would have expected. Nevertheless, IX does serve as the perfect complement to the more extreme music that we headbangers tend to consume in dangerous quantities.

In closing, IX is capable of causing a significant impact in part because it has the power to speak to every type of listener. Its content is such that it will always resonate. Ridiculously smooth, IX already feels like an iconic record. It's impossible not to love this album.

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