Symbol Of Life (Koch Records)
By: Vinnie Apicella
Would it be too much of a stretch to hail the return of Sisters Of Mercy during the opening playback? just a thought. Actually I didn't quite know what to expect of the latest PL record. It's been a few years since "One Second" made any sort of impact for the band who've continuously tinkered and pushed their artistry, and likely their remaining fan base's patience to the brink of a breakdown. Since it's some 12 years removed and likely long filtered out of the original listener's memory, let's pick up not from the darkest extreme from whence it began, but the story begun from their successful middle '90s prime when PL's creative vision revealed its full potential in pioneering the burgeoning spirit of Death Metal, Doom, and Dark Wave. Remembering as much, let's not fail to see that in spite of their relative "obscurity" in recent years - though they have in fact released, dare we say critically un-acclaimed works with "Host" and "Believe In Nothing," they've continued furthering their artistic obsessions in a new vision splattered of moir? patterns, programming and Pop-heavy touch strokes. And it is undoubtedly at the two extremes, a combination of their triumphant "Icon" and "Draconian Times" records that Paradise Lost lived and breathed in the body of a revisionist legend whose work was an unparalleled reach into the previously unattainable, to forever etch their title onto the stone of the Gothic/Metal prototype, forever fine-tuning their delicate balance of ambience, aggression, and new age artistic demands. "Symbol Of Life" is neither of those two records but as close a combination as one might expect of a band continually on the run, this time dashing back a few yards to the place where they'd previously sought and received shelter from the hailstorm of critical intent - but for the record, let's tilt further toward "Draconian" and it's "One Second" aftereffect. "Isolate" and "Erased," where if you listen hard, you might catch Lee Dorian lending an extra ounce of alto for added denseness of verse, are two early indications that yes, Mr. Mackintosh has not altogether forsaken the fretboard for the finger pads and foot pedals. The guitar parts are, however sparingly, brilliantly intrusive, adding an almost new depth of effect to slowly rolled rhythms, rekindling the blue glimmer of old, if only in complimentary fashion, while percussion intertwines amiably to otherwise somber emotional suites. "Self Obsessed" offers another glimpse into a life long ago by beefing up the riff in a fast moving near/far variety that's edgy and delightfully outdated by their own standards, or put another way, combined with its equally subversive self-titled follower, and true closer "Channel For The Pain," a reawakening point for a dejection displaced. The album highlights basically bookmark the eleven original songs, with a mid-section lull where refracted digital impulses set upon further self-reflective mood music. Nick Holmes still remains a compelling force behind the torturous delivery of their haunted lyric, something greatly evidenced on their clever mop up work - limited edition U.S. version - for concluding covers of Dead Can Dance's "Xavier" that's simply smashing, and the unlikely Bronski Beat "Small Town Boy" hit that's indescribably ugly. For a band used to dancing with danger from one step to the next, there'll be backlash from either direction on this one, with the newcomers bewildered beyond doubt with the razor-edged guitar power that defines, often enough, the core of PL's sound, yet still boundless in their ambitions for imperfect pitch. And with all the many successful late day entries into a pragmatic Goth/Metal arena frothed with feminine charms and orchestrated splendor, what's to transcend the likes of Paradise Lost from names like Dark Tranquility, Entwine, the renowned Opeth, or an in step Tiamat? One might say their boldness or brashness, or better still, to have popularized said style without fear and with forward thinking progress while still remaining uniquely significant among the pack. "Symbol Of Life" is an unexpected tale that's partially right, occasionally flat, and after few more dagger twists, generally fulfilling.
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