Words and Pictures (C) Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Every once in a while, the perfect bill comes along and it has to be said that the pairing of gothic doom metallers Moonspell with the outfit that arguably kick started the whole genre, Paradise Lost, was a result of both acts swiping right on Goth Tinder (or similar).
The Electric Ballroom, our venue for the evening, holds about one thousand people when sold out and looking around the floor, it was heartwarming to see the building well over 3/4 full before Moonspell had even hit the stage. By the time the Portuguese band came on, the numbers had swelled a little more suggesting people have (with the right acts on stage) accepted that things are starting to get back to the way they should be.
Celebrating their 30th anniversary and also finally getting to tour 2021’s rather excellent ‘Hermitage’ album, Moonspell seem to be doing better and better with every release proving that hard work and tenacity does pay off as long as you’re in the game for the long haul. Whilst they may be missing mainstay Miguel Gaspar who had been behind the drums for some 28 years of the band’s career, his replacement Hugo Ribeiro (no relation to Fernando) clearly has the chops to step into what are arguably big shoes to fill.
The band felt as tight as ever and in Fernando, they have a vocalist with a stunning range who, like Tomi Joutsen from Amorphis, can hit the hit notes as easily as the growls that threatened to crack the foundations of the famous London venue. That balance in vocal style sets Moonspell firmly outside of the death metal genre, one step away from pure gothic metal and more than just a heavy metal band. They bring to the table the heaviness one would expect with thundering, growling vocal displays to keep the heaviest of metal fans happy. They also bring moments of light that lifts them up above the crushing intensity that would otherwise make them seem like so many other acts out there. Instead we get an act that will happily stick the knife in and twist the handle but will readily patch you up and take care of you in the next breath. Thank you… I think!
10 songs on offer gave us a decent length set allowing the crowd to thoroughly get involved. Watching them from the balcony, it was great to see mini-mosh pits opening up, people bouncing around and, most importantly, having a good time. The crowd’s reaction clearly provided fuel and energy to the band on stage and the Portuguese 5 piece genuinely seemed humbled by the enthusiastic responses coming from the masses in front of them.
The handful of new tracks from ‘Hermitage’ fit the set-list well and should become staples for the band in the future. They closed however with ‘Alma Mater’ and ‘Full Moon Madness’ much to the joy of the bouncing crowd. Lights up and then bows all round to another enthusiastic round of applause and they were gone.
The litmus paper test, could I have gone home early at that point in the proceedings? A resounding yes!
The Greater Good
Breathe (Until We Are No More)
Full Moon Madness
Paradise Lost are another band who defy genres and offer up a potent mix of gothic metal, doom, misery and throw in hints of death metal but, somehow, without the grunts and growls that often sit hand in hand with that style of music.
The end result is a band with a career now firmly in its third decade with some classic albums behind them that have helped influence many, many imitators in the intervening years.
Despite getting through drummers faster than Spinal Tap, Paradise Lost can definitely put their longevity down to the long lasting interaction between the four band members who’ve been there since the off. Vocalist Nick Holmes, lead guitarist Gregor Mackintosh, Aaron Aedy on rhythm guitar and Stephen Edmondson on bass make a Paradise Lost show look effortless. Precision playing and the weight of the doom laden tracks pressing down on the audience with an ominous ferocity should see a crowd almost unable to move… surely you can’t bounce to this music? It’s too dark, too intense isn’t it?
How wrong could I be? Like Moonspell, Paradise Lost know just when and how to release the pressure without taking their foot of the pedal and those moments of light in the gloom fired the crowd up to bounce around and punch the air with unbridled joy, judging by the miles wide smiles on many of their faces.
Take main set closer. ‘Say Just Words’. A classic gothic rock song from 1997 that would be as comfortable at a Sisters of Mercy gig as it would at a doom metal show. The piano work and the underlying riff create the sort of ear worm that if you were listening to this on your earphones would result in ‘REPEAT’ being pressed multiple times as you danced down the street much to the amusement of the neighbours. People often talk about ‘Draconian Times’ as THE album from the band but ‘One Second’, the follow up and the album that houses ‘Say Just Words’ is actually the biggest selling of the band’s career. Always dig a little, especially with a back catalogue as rich as that of Paradise Lost.
That’s not to say time stopped in the 90s for the band. 2020 saw the release of the latest album, the one they are currently touring across the UK, ‘Obsidian’. Two tracks made the main set and in a real power play, showing just how comfortable they are putting the new material in front of the fans, both album opener ‘Darker Thoughts’ and ‘Ghosts’ made it into the four song encore. The reception from the fans? Euphoric misery by way of cheering and smiling… which is just what the band would have wanted.
A great night out with a perfect bill.
Blood & Chaos
Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us
As I Die
The Devil Embraced
The Last Time
No Hope in Sight
Say Just Words
So Much Is Lost
Beneath Broken Earth