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The British metallers Paradise Lost have switched musical direction a few times before and with The Plague Within they have now revived a heavier, slower and darker sound again. I totally loved their last effort, 2012's Tragic Idol, so I'm a little caught by surprise that they have once again decided to kind of radically change the framing of their music. They have in fact even brought back some death metal attributes to create a rather noticeable separation from the latest work and the album indeed also comprises some really heavy tracks.
Nick Holmes' voice mostly ends up in a mixture of the more raw and unpolished style he utilized in the beginning of the band's career and of what he's been mainly performing during the last 2 decades, with emphasis on the first thing mentioned. Greg Mackintosh's lead guitar play, which I think is the absolute biggest and most important characteristic of the band's music, partially is in the right place with his kind of simple, yet stunning and well-adjusted tones.
Sonically, this effort is knowingly structured to fit an older type of orientation and in terms of accomplishment, I think that they come out successful, because they have kind of managed to produce a record which in many people's ears will probably sound a whole lot more gruesome and cruel than what it actually is. As far as I'm concerned, this sound picture and appearance will presumably mean that a large number of fans will dismiss this effort already after listening to it just once.
I think that they revisit the first periods of their career and they cover pretty much the whole story before the more electronic and mellow stuff came to life a few years before the millennium change. I would say that it contains things that derive from all the way back to the initial death metal experiences Lost Paradise and Gothic, through Shades Of God and eventually to the goth metal milestones Icon and Draconian Times.
Personally, I feel that this album has a good mixture of the earlier works, but it's also tremendously bumpy when looking at the quality of the songs. If you dig the early days of Paradise Lost, you will certainly find some relevant stuff on this album. If you on the other hand, like most people did, started to listen to this band during their first real goth period and didn't care for the first releases, you may not find this one especially appealing, at least not until you find a way to let the somber sound lay hold of you.