"The Plague Within" is the 14th full-length studio album by UK doom/goth metal act Paradise Lost. The album was released through Century Media Records in May 2015. Although it´s only been 3 years since the release of "Tragic Idol (2012)", those years have been very busy for the band. They´ve both toured in support of "Tragic Idol (2012)" and of course spend time writing and recording the material for "The Plague Within", but several of the members have also been busy outside the band. Gregor Mackintosh (guitars, keyboards) and Adrian Erlandsson (drums) have both been busy with Vallenfyre, and Erlandsson has also been keeping himself busy with The Haunted and At the Gates. In addition to that lead vocalist Nick Holmes was chosen as the new frontman for Swedish death metal act Bloodbath for their 2014 album "Grand Morbid Funeral".
So it´s been busy years indeed, and working with the many (in most cases) harder edged projects seems to have rubbed off on the writing direction on "The Plague Within". Suddenly Nick Holmes is using growling vocals again in addition to his cleans. A vocal style he hasn´t embraced since the very early 90s, and the music is also slightly harder edged than heard in years from the band. This is not as dark and brutal as the first couple of releases by Paradise Lost though, but it appears that the band have made a conscious decision to combine some of the early doom/death elements of their sound with their more "regular" doom/goth style. To my ears "The Plague Within" sounds a bit like "Shades of God (1992)" meets "Icon (1993)". Which is of course a simplified description of the music, and it´s not completely true, but close enough to be somewhat valid.
Paradise Lost has released many quality relases over the years, but many of them have suffered from featuring too many tracks, that didn´t stand out. They simply weren´t varied enough. That´s fortunately not true for "The Plague Within", which is a relatively varied release. Not just because of the reintroduction of growling vocals, but also as a result of the band including elements from various parts of their vast discography. So you´re treated to both slow doom/death tracks ("Beneath Broken Earth", "Sacrifice the Flame"), goth influenced doom/death metal tracks (like "Terminal", "Cry Out"), and even a faster paced death metal track in "Flesh From Bone" (which is probably the fastests I´ve yet heard them play). Often the influences are combined in the tracks. It´s all packed in a melancholic atmosphere and features melodic guitar themes, and occasional use of keyboards, and violin and viola on a couple of tracks.
"The Plague Within" features a well sounding production, which suits the music well, and as always the band are well playing/singing. So upon conclusion "The Plague Within" is yet another quality release by Paradise Lost. Unlike some of their other releases this one also stands out in their discography and although it´s not wildly original (we´ve heard the growl/clean vocal combination to death by now), it´s unmistakably the sound of Paradise Lost, and having your own distinct sound always deserves praise. This time around with a few twists and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.