Paradise Lost @ The Scala, London
Sunday 29th April 2012
As the opening time for the doors grows ever closer, the line of what look to be a hefty group of experienced and knowledgeable Metal fans grows longer and I overhear a few people in front of me talking about a few of the gigs they’d been to up to now and the effects of tinnitus they’d been experiencing from them, luckily for me for this gig (and most other gigs recently given the state of my ears) I had my ear plugs at the ready!
It’s a sunny April afternoon in Kings Cross, London but that doesn’t stop the hoards of Gothic Metal fans descending upon The Scala to witness the masters of the genre they created, Paradise Lost. I arrived at the venue fairly early at 6pm although the doors were not due to open until 7:30 but already there were people beginning to queue at the entrance as well as a few audience members who I could see had taken advantage of the VIP ticket option whereby you get a meet and greet with the band earlier in the day and exclusive merchandise, etc.
Once the doors had opened I had the brief pleasure of meeting another staff member who was covering the photography for the night and then it was time to get my spot in the crowd. As I have been a massive fan of Paradise Lost for many years and have seen them multiple times, I wanted to make sure (as I was on my own for this show) that I got as close to the stage as possible and I was surprised to be able to get straight to the stage barrier right from the start! Once I had my place at the front claimed it was time for the first band Vreid to take the stage.
I had not heard many things about Vreid but immediately from taking to the stage they impressed me. Hailing from Norway, Vreid (meaning Wrath in Norwegian) despite not having the adrenaline fueled constant blast beat feel of a lot of other Norwegian Black Metal bands still come across as a band that have that credible Black Metal influence and sound to their music, mixing it at times with what the singer Sture called “Black and Roll” to create a really interesting dynamic of Melodic and Old School Black Metal not unlike bands like Absu and Abbath from Immortal’s side project band I.
The vocal style when hearing them live reminded me a lot of Schmier from Destruction which was a really interesting way of hearing that style of vocals put over a Black Metal backing, and on that note the rest of the band were brilliant in their playing as well and kept the set running tight and getting the audience’s heads nodding throughout.
Despite playing a brief set to make way for the next support band (Insomnium) Vreid did leave a pretty lasting impression on me and I should think a fair many other members of the audience as well.
With their more melodic (and ultimately I would imagine more accessible) bare bones, rock and roll/Thrash style of Black Metal it gives the audience something to really savour in the grooves of the song and the dynamics of the music over something that is mostly all blast beats and fuzziness and for this reason I can see Vreid going really far in the future. I know I personally can’t wait to hear more from them!
Raped by Light
Then We Die
Next up on The Scala’s stage is Insomnium hailing from Finland.
Now I may be either showing my age or possibly even ignorance towards some of the modern metal world by saying that as well as Vreid, I had also not really heard much about Insomnium, but my god will I remember them now!
Once taking to the stage the band immediately launches into some of the most epic and majestic sounding melodic Death Metal I’ve heard in a long while.
With songs like Down With The Sun with it’s amazing chorus or the neck breakingly headbang worthy Through The Shadows the band get most if not all of the venue on their side and raising the horns and banging their heads.
The style of the music could easily be compared to bands like Amon Amarth and Dark Tranquillity but to call them exactly the same I feel would be a mis-observation. Yes the guitars and vocals do sound remarkably similar to Amon Amarth but the material from Insomnium is still unique and original enough to make you stand back and think “Wow!
Now THIS is an impressive band!” and the melodic vocal sections of the songs really do get stuck in your head afterwards (the sign of any good songwriters).
The band look to be performing to their absolute best with every member looking like their exerting the maximum physically and mentally that they can give, as well as giving the photographers many cheesy metal poses of soloing on top of the stage monitors. The singer encourages the crowd to “support the poor Finnish musicians” on their way back to their homeland by purchasing some CD’s and merch from the stall outside and I think there’s a fair amount in the crowd who are all too eager to oblige.
Just before the end of their set Insomnium play the title track from their latest album One for Sorrow, which someone in the crowd next to me made the good observation, has a slight Katatonia feel to the track given it’s slow and mellow feel (and also quite possible Paradise Lost influence except for the vocals of course). The band then plays out to Decoherence to finish off their set majestically and The Scala sends them off with a rapturous and well deserving applause.
As I said earlier in the review, Insomnium are not a band that I’ve had any previous knowledge or experience of to my unfortunate credit, but after seeing this jaw dropping performance in support of Paradise Lost I will no doubt be keeping a close eye on this band that show immense promise for the future!
Insomnium’s Set List
Through the Shadows
Only One Who Waits
Down With the Sun
One for Sorrow
Next up is Paradise Lost and before the band hits the stage you can already feel the anticipation running through the crowd.
Paradise Lost are a band that have been around for so long, gone through so many musical style changes, had a number of different members in the drum stool but have still managed to gain many more fans than they’ve lost in the course of their career (as we all know the controversy with the Host album and such like, although I actually quite like it) and for that they are now a band that does not need to go out in stage to prove anything to anyone.
This couldn’t apply more given the circumstances with Nick Holmes’ hair on this particular night as it appears that either that very day or not long before he had shaved off all of his long curly blonde locks and gone for his shaven head “just escaped from Broadmoor” look instead.
The lights go down and Paradise Lost’s intro track Desolate kicks in before they launch into the brilliantly heavy track Honesty In Death from their new album Tragic Idol.
At this point I’m pretty much as close to one of my all-time musical idols Gregor Mackintosh as you’ll ever get at a show and seeing one of the legendary creators of the Gothic Metal genre perform literally up close and personal was a true honour.
After finishing the song, Nick Holmes proceeds to display his new shaven head to the crowd whilst repeatedly slapping it (for those that don’t know the English saying for a Bald Person it’s called a Slap Head, hence him slapping his head… …anyway) and he lends the microphone to the audience after asking them “how you guys doing? Do you like my new hair?” to which the crowd gives the obvious response saying “fuck no!” and Nick Holmes gives his normal comical Northern response of “well you all can go fuck off then!”.
The next song in the set was a real surprise for me as I don’t believe in all my previous years of seeing Paradise Lost that I’ve ever seen them perform Widow from the Icon album. A good friend of mine who usually comes along to any Paradise Lost gig with me is always the first one to start shouting “play Widow!!” and of course the one time he wasn’t there they did play it! They also included two songs from possibly my favourite Paradise Lost album Symbol of Life including the title track (which again I’ve rarely seen them play live, so that was really awesome) and Erased.
The new material from the Tragic Idol album such as In This We Dwell, Tragic Idol and Fear Of Impending Hell all sounds fantastic live and it’s really great to hear Paradise Lost adopting the option on their newer releases of using 7 string guitars to give them that extra degree of low end heaviness on their songs.
Mid-way through the set Gregor has noticed my unashamed massive applause, respect and pretty much worshipping of his guitar playing and personally walks up and hands me a guitar pick with a nod and a thumbs up as if to say “thanks mate, you deserve this!”. At this point I’m pretty much in awe and shock like a 10 year old going to his first Iron Maiden concert, as I have never been one of the lucky ones to get any guitar picks or drum sticks (as I shall get onto later on in the review) at any of the shows I’ve been to. I can see the jealous eyes of the crowd around me glaring so I quickly and safely slip the guitar pick into my jacket pocket.
Finishing off the first part of their set, the band rips into an almighty rendition of The Enemy from the In Requiem album and in an almost Maiden like fashion the crowd sings along with the “Woah Oooohh Oooohhh OOOOHHH!!” melodic female vocal line that kicks in at the beginning and throughout the rest of the track. I don’t think the band were expecting this at first from the audience and it appears to come as a really nice surprise to the band as well as me, as it’s always great to have some kind of soaring melodic vocal line that the audience can sing along to. Once finishing up this song the band takes a quick break off stage before returning for the encore.
Once returning to the stage Nick Holmes goes on to say that the crowd tonight and on the rest of their UK dates made it one of the best UK tours that they had ever done. Strangely enough though I was surprised that the band given their quite prolific status in the Metal and music world now were playing in a smaller sized venue such as The Scala in King’s Cross as I had previously seen them perform in front of much larger crowds in London at venues such as The Koko in Camden and The Kentish Town Forum. The Scala did however make for a really intimate show and gave me the rare opportunity of being right at the barrier for the whole duration of the night. So in that respect I have to thank the band for putting together this show for what looked to be the hard-core element of their London based fans.
Starting off their encore is the song One Second which despite dividing opinion on the album’s release has now evolved into a regular fan favourite during live shows and on this occasion like almost every other than I’ve seen the band live, it gets pretty much everyone in the audience singing along word for word. It’s amazing how the musical taste of their fan base has matured over the years just as much as their musical creations have themselves.
Paradise Lost finish off their encore and the show as always and predictably with Say Just Words which gets everyone moving and at the end of the show I can’t believe my luck when Adrian Erlandsson emerges from behind the drum kit to throw sticks to the crowd, immediately turns to me with a nod and chucks me his drum stick! So a guitar pick from Gregor and a drum stick from Adrian Erlandsson and as I am a drummer myself and a massive fan of his previous bands At The Gates, The Haunted, Cradle Of Filth, and his current side project with Gregor Vallenfyre, this was again beyond an honour to get a drum stick from such a legendary influence on me for many years. So thank you both kindly to Gregor and Adrian! You are both gods to me!
At the end of the show I feel as though despite it not being the absolute best time I have seen Paradise Lost live (I think the Draconian Times revival show was definitely one of the best) it was certainly one of the most enjoyable with being so close to the band throughout and getting the memorable keepsake items from the band to take home with me. The band themselves always seem to put on a good show with every time that I’ve seen them as well (I can’t ever remember them doing a particularly bad show, even as a support band) and seem always willing and able to please the crowd with every show they do.
Paradise Lost are a band that I’ve been following for many years now and have experienced their musical changes through album releases much like the changes in my life over those many years as well. For me they are one of those bands that start to define certain memories, emotions and places in your life with the soundtrack of each style of the band that comes and goes. Despite some people not liking them for those style changes I personally love them for that and I do honestly love all of the various styles that they’ve had in their career and understand why each album went in the direction it did. For that unwavering and uncompromising approach to their music which has brought them to the incredible, epic, majestic and glorious sound of Gothic Depression that is the latest album Tragic Idol, Paradise Lost have attracted fans from all walks of life throughout their history who can all share an enjoyment of one of the few genre defining bands around today.
Tonight like every night both I and the rest of the crowd leave the venue after seeing the magnificent Paradise Lost with a beaming smile on our faces! Who says Goths can’t enjoy themselves once in a while!
Paradise Lost’s Set List
Honesty in Death
In This We Dwell
Praise Lamented Shade
Pity the Sadness
As I Die
Symbol of Life
Fear of Impending Hell
Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us
Say Just Words