Host - IX review
|Release date:||February 2023|
01. Wretched Soul
02. Tomorrow's Sky
03. Divine Emotion
04. Hiding From Tomorrow
05. A Troubled Mind
06. My Only Escape
07. Years Of Suspicion
10. I Ran [A Flock Of Seagulls cover] [bonus]
11. Hiding From Tomorrow [Lustmord remix] [bonus]
12. Tomorrow's Sky [Gost remix] [bonus]
More than two decades later, Paradise Lost become
Mid-era Paradise Lost is the era in their discography that gets the least amount of love. Everybody loves the first five albums (and absolutely not enough people love the debut), and somewhere around 2005's self-titled there's a succession of albums that act as continuous embodiment of the "return to form" ethos, something which culminated in 2015's The Plague Within, coincidentally made after Nick Holmes joined Bloodbath, thereby reintroducing some of the early Paradise Lost elements back into Paradise Lost. In this starting dark then growing softer than returning to form narrative, it's no wonder that Host, the only Paradise Lost you cannot in any way call metal, the "sellout album", gets the least amount of love. But just enough to make a return to that sound a worthwhile endeavor.
It's tough for me to choose a least favorite Paradise Lost album, but Host that is not. Even if simply by courtesy of it being the one Paradise Lost album that's unlike all others. Even though pop electronica was an element of other Paradise Lost albums like the predecessor One Second, or the britpop-y follow-up Believe In Nothing, those are still albums with a significant alt/goth metal element that you can see them as metal albums, even if not necessarily predominantly. I didn't follow Paradise Lost's history enough to know why Host happened, but Paradise Lost, the band that ten years prior was a death metal band ready to pioneer death's foray into doom, was suddenly coming out with a Depeche Mode album. Even if Depeche Mode had since released albums worse than Host, at the time they were still riding the wave of Ultra, their last great album. Why did Paradise Lost think that there needed to be a new Depeche Mode?
Whatever the reason, I was among the ones who were actually excited to hear that there will be a return to this sound. It does make some sense that this is a new project rather than a new Paradise Lost album, for various reasons. For one, Paradise Lost already sold out once, it didn't make them superstars, and it would be safer for them to continue their slightly deathy goth doom sound that they've been returning to form to. Secondly, they don't have the balls to make such a left turn with their main project again. And thirdly, I wonder if the entire band really was needed to make the Host album, an album that pretty much already mostly featured just synths and vocals, making the downscaling of the project to just Nick Holmes and Greg Mackintosh makes sense.
Ironically this sounds like less of a Depeche Mode album than Host did, even though that still sits at the skeleton of the sound. IX's synthpop takes a bit more from goth rock and more recent developments in darkwave, riding a bit of that retrowave ... uhh... wave. The sound feels more modern not only on the production front, but the way the sounds are incorporated makes IX sound like an album done in this era while looking back at a previous era, even if it was one that the creators originally witnessed. IX also has more guitars around the synthwork than the original Host did, as well as more interesting percussion, which is quite ironic considering that the entire band was involved in Host. In a lot of ways, it makes sense that this came right after Obsidian, the most Sisters Of Mercy-ish of the Paradise Lost albums, now blended with the Depeche Mode-isms of the original Host album.
Greg and Nick have a much better understanding of synth soundscapes and dark catchy choruses than they did when they wrote Host, so Host does feel like they improve upon their sound, but there's still something that keeps me from wholly embracing the sound. It's not that they're going back in a synthy direction, but that there's something about the production that feels too basic for how lush and vibrant the synth layering could be with a different production. They're now stuck between sounding like Depeche Mode, a band much better than them at synthpop, and sounding like modern retrowave, where they're also outclassed by a lot of the bands they sound like. And yet, there's something still intrinsically cool about the album, even if its boldness is a bit polished, but it still remains a pretty triumphant counter-return-to-form to shake up that mid-era narrative.
||Written on 03.03.2023 by|
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