Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
On the eve of a rare blood-red, super-moon eclipse, an equally rare and much-anticipated event is taking place in Dublin’s Academy; English doom metal pioneers Paradise Lost have finally returned to Ireland after almost a decade to kick off their European tour in support of their new album The Plague Within. Joining them tonight, and indeed for the rest of the tour, are the relatively unheard-of band Lucifer who formed little more than twelve months ago.
The quartet open proceedings with a recorded spoken word intro about demons and magic circles before performing their first song ‘Anubis’. It feels like the 1970’s thanks to their trendy tasseled threads, over sized sun pendants and self-declared “heavy magic rock”. The influence of Black Sabbath and classic contemporaries is immediately evident in their rhythms and riffs. The drums and guitars are solid and reliable but overwhelmingly dominated by the vocal performance delivered by front-woman Johanna Sadonis. Offering a lukewarm reception at best, the respectable crowd that have arrived in time to catch the support act do little more than nod their heads to the unfamiliar material, and seem nonplussed by what might be best described as hippy metal (not intended as a derogatory description, I might add). In one brief interaction with the crowd, Sadonis thanks the headliners for inviting them on the 36-date tour before introducing the final track of their set, ‘Izrael’, a song about the Angel of Death. It’s hard to fault the band on anything they did or didn’t do, but unfortunately their set did little to engage this audience.
After a thirty minute changeover, hippy metal gives way to hipster metal, by which I only refer to the appearance of Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes who is sporting a well-groomed beard, short back & sides, neat black waistcoat and skinny jeans. Of course, the doom metal treats about to be unleashed on the eager crowd are not intended for consumption by hipsters. Instead, the Academy is now packed with a near-capacity crowd of the usual assortment of metal aficionados, proudly kitted out in tour T’s and patched denim. It’s a noteworthy accomplishment to draw such a crowd in a week when so many other metal bands are in town: Enslaved, Grand Magus, Evile and Annihilator to name a few.
The first few riffs of opening track ‘No Hope in Sight’ almost rupture the speakers as the intensity of the metal is apparently more than anticipated by the sound engineer. Quickly resolved, the barrage of slow heavy riffs, chugging guitars and the incredibly gruff vocals delivered by Holmes continues. With close to forty shows on this tour, one can only hope that his voice can withstand the punishment throughout. A massive cheer bellows from the crowd as the first track ends, and ‘Widow’ taken from the 1993 album Icon kicks off with more thundering drums.
Holmes regularly interacts with the fans, making witty remarks and retorts. Before launching into ‘Terminal’ he announces “This next song is from our new album The Plague Within. We’re going to be paying quite a few songs off it so I hope you like it. If you don’t, tough Shit.” True to his word, they perform seven of the ten tracks from the 2015 release, interspersed with a similar number of tracks from eight of their thirteen earlier albums, going back as far as ‘Gothic’ from 1991. It’s clear that the there are plenty of old-school fans in the audience as they sing along emotively to ‘Enchantment’ which opens with a pre-recorded piano intro. Before introducing ‘Cry’, another new track, Holmes tells the crowd that “This song is about being pissed off. Of course, they’re all about being pissed off, but this one in particular”.
I have to confess that I personally never got into Paradise Lost in the early days, and any time I did hear them, they never really grabbed my attention. I only wish I had seen them live before now. Their live performance definitely awakened an interest in the band for me, and I would recommend that others make an effort to see them on this tour even if they have never heard their music. The band formed almost three decades ago, and in that time four of their five members have remained constant, something not encountered often, and the band are stronger, tighter and more confident for it. See them.