Camden Roundhouse, London
3rd November 2013
Dannii Leivers is suitably transfixed by veteran doom metal experimenters Paradise Lost – still pushing the boundaries after 25 years.
It’s Halloween weekend and Camden Roundhouse has been transformed into a haunted house – complete with cobwebbed walls, creaking stairs and huge dangling spiders, while tonight’s soundtrack comes from doom metal godfathers Paradise Lost, hitting London as part of their 25th anniversary Tragic Illusion tour. It’s as though Satan designed it himself. But tonight’s about much more than just Paradise Lost’s longevity – with Katatonia and Lacuna Coil on the bill – it’s more a celebration of the entire doom genre that the Yorkshire band have helped define.
Guttingly due to traffic, we arrive too late to catch Katatonia, a band perfectly capable of filling rafters in their own right. Tonight they’re celebrating their own milestone, the ten year anniversary of their sixth album Viva Emptiness, a body of work with Paradise Lost’s fingerprints all over the likes of the chilling Inside the City of Glass and doomy Sleeper. They play the album from back to front tonight and we’re reassuringly informed, as we knew it would, that it went down a treat to an enthusiastic audience.
Lacuna Coil vocalist Andreas Ferro is, as ever, a sonic thorn in his band’s side, forced, bulging vocals grating against the heavenly voice of Cristina Scabbia. It’s lucky for him then that over the last decade or so, the Italians have written some of the best metal-pop songs out there (Swamped, Tight Rope, I Survive, Intoxicated). The ethereal Swamped remains their crowning glory; all tightly woven atmospheric lush keyboards and thundering drums, but more recently the band have been all about the hooks. Opener I Don’t Believe In Tomorrow sounds powerful and muscular, meaty guitars contrasting with vibrant melodies, while Fragments of Faith and Intoxicated are slick and glossy.
Over the years, Paradise Lost have undergone a similar metamorphosis, transforming their sound from sluggish doom to atmospheric goth to metal’s New Order and back again. Covering 13 (yes, 13!) albums over the course of a 90 minute set is no mean feat (the band only manage to fit in one song from masterpiece Draconian Times) but the opening salvo takes in their three main milestones – aggressive sludge on Mortals Watch the Day, electronic tinkerings with So Much Is Lost and polished melody on Remembrance. Fists pump and heads bang to Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us while Gothic still sounds as bleak and cripplingly heavy as it did in 1991, Nick Holmes’s vocals full of snarling malevolence. It’s a million miles away from the classy, haunting enormity of their finest hour, Enchantment, or the massive hooks of the piano-led One Second and Say Just Words.
Doom metal fans may have been horrified by the band’s electronic experimentation at the time but tonight – sequenced between the band’s heavier, dirgier material – these tracks really fly, the danceable stomp of Isolate causing a punter behind Louder Than War to exclaim how amazing it sounds. As the hulking, beautiful and gloomy Over the Madness from their eponymous album brings the set to a close it’s clear that the band could have played for another hour given the amount of tracks they didn’t have time to air – Hallowed Ground, Forever Failure, As I Die, Dead Emotion, for example. 25 years is a long time to survive in this hardened industry but Paradise Lost show no sign of slowing down, and with the amount of creativity and balls to push boundaries that they’ve displayed over the last two decades, who’s to say they won’t be doing it for another 25.
All words by Dannii Leivers. More writing by Dannii on Louder Than War can be found here.