In the world of music, it is fascinating when we can discover a work that we find enjoyable, as well as intellectually interesting. Paradise Lost has done just that, providing philosophical musings over the course of now 15 records. In their newest release, Medusa (Nuclear Blast), Paradise Lost take the concept of the ancient Greek monster to explore realms of nihilism and human existence. What comes forth from the work is a beautiful gloomy aura of instrumentation and ideas that is both enriching, elegant, and full of existential weight.
These instrumentals flow with the band’s iconic use of doom and gothic tones. There’s an added layer of sludge, the material at times packing a dark grime in its rhythm. The first example of this is in the opening track “Fearless Sky”, the song beginning with minimal uses of organ keys, bursting into echoes of distortion. The bass flows underneath each vibrant guitar note, combining with the minimal drumming to give off a melancholy atmosphere. Towards the end the instrumentals pick up in speed, but for the most part, stand their ground in the overall vibe of lingering sludge. The vocals come in with rich growls in contrast to this sound, both playing off the other to increase the emotional somber energy. “Gods Of Ancient” lighten the tone up a bit, the vocals still maintaining their darker appeal. The instrumental pacing is lighter, the drumming clashing away with a faster pounce of bass.
Medusa is a doom record that knows how to effectively present the core qualities of its genre, while never going stale. There is always a consistent element of sorrow and doom, yet within the emotions comes shifting elements of song structure and style. This isn’t a record where everything is droning on from beginning to end, but offers a variety of sounds and tempos to keep the listener intrigued throughout. On the lyrical end of things, Medusa speaks to various ideas in regards to theology and existentialism. “Gods of Ancient” deals with the concepts of ancient paganism and worshipping the sun, moon, and stars, while “No Passage For The Dead” deals with the issues of blind faith.
“The Longest Winter” takes from different elements that have popped up in previous songs, and mixes them into an elegant combination. The track’s sludgy rhythm comes with a bright distortion that rides alongside metallic drum clashes and a thunderous bass, leading into haunting vocals. Stepping away from the death growls, the clean vocal work is able at times to share a more poetic nature to the material. “No Passage For The Dead” continues with the bursts of distortion, injecting moments of bright melodies. The tempo keeps to a steady progression, the music shifting from low doom sounds to a more upbeat quality. “Blood and Chaos” plays off these later elements in the guitar, and adds more of a gothic appeal to the track. This is thanks to the ghostly presence of the clean vocals and radiant melodies that pop up throughout the work. The song actually packs quite a catchiness to it, taking the gothic style to weave in some rock to its rhythm.
Medusa is a rich work of musicianship. It both instrumentally and intellectually provokes enchantment and mystery. Medusa is a work of art that sincerely captures the gift of music, and its ability to lure one in with magic and wisdom. This record marks a proud achievement for that of Paradise Lost, for it isn’t just one of the band’s best works, but one of this year’s most unique releases. Medusa’s emotions, ideas, and technicality present an ethereal work that is both spiritual and magnificent.