The last few months would have certainly seen a significant return on investment for anyone with shares in the darker side of music (should such a commodity exist that is). Be it Wednesday Addams dancing to ‘Goo Goo Muck’ on our TV screens or Demon Records releasing the expansive ‘Young Limbs Rise Again: The Story of the Batcave Nightclub 1982 – 1985’ 5 CD set, Goth is very much back in vogue with the mainstream, although it’s not like it ever really ever went out of fashion for some.

Two such musicians who have long harboured such an infatuation with the genre are Nick Holmes and Gregor Mackintosh from epic doom metallers Paradise Lost. So much so that back at the turn of the century on signing a major label deal with EMI they decided to totally reinvent themselves (for a couple of albums at least) as a more Gothically tinged electronic outfit, something that some fans of the band still struggle to get their heads around to this day. For me however, those two albums 1999’s ‘Host’ and 2001’s ‘Believe In Nothing’ still rank within my top 5 albums by the band (1997’s ‘One Second’ being my all-time favourite by the band, just in case you were wondering).

It’s that aforementioned 1999 album that this all-new side project by Holmes and Mackintosh takes its name, but the duo actually cite the origins of the band back to the mid to late 80s, when at a time spent frequenting Yorkshire nightclubs as fledging doom metallers they also found themselves as equally drawn to the burgeoning New Wave and Goth music scenes, and it is this influence that is the underlying theme of the nine tracks that make up ‘IX’ – geddit?

(The commercial stream of the album (from which I’m writing this review) doesn’t contain the duo’s cover of Flock Of Seagull’s ‘I Ran’, but then again that surely spoils the numbers play of the album title too doesn’t it? I shall have to wait for my pre-order copy to finally arrive to solve that mystery.)

Anyway, just like ‘Host’ (the album) ‘XI’ is going to test the patience of any Paradise Lost fan longing for another ‘Draconian Times’ or ‘Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us’, largely because there are very few guitar riffs on offer. What they are doing though is taking risks with their music when perhaps they don’t need to, and most importantly sounding like they are truly enjoying themselves in the process, although with darkwave/Gothic electro pop that isn’t something that is essentially easy to pick up on. And whilst ‘IX’ might not be a heavy metal album, it most certainly is a darkly doom-laden affair, so there are loads of commonalities within the music, if you are prepared to take the time to absorb what’s on offer. There’s even a song called ‘Wretched Soul’ (how metal is that?) to get the album off and running, albeit for this brooding beast of a tune you need to think of what Paradise sounded like on ‘Host’ and turn up the dial marked “latter day Depeche Mode”, something that is also true of the fantastic ‘Tomorrow’s Sky’ a song that manages to out Depeche even Gahan and Gore’s recent single effort by some considerable distance.

For ‘Hiding For Tomorrow’ there’s a glimpse of what Sister Of Mercy might have sounded like if they’d employed someone to play a thunderous acoustic drum kit instead of relying on Docktor Avalanche to provide the back beat and is that a soupçon of Tears For Fears I hear in there mid song too?

The highlights of ‘IX’ are certainly many, but for me it is the fact that songs like ‘My Only Escape’ and ‘Divine Emotion’ sound exactly how I’d have loved Paradise Lost to have sounded after ‘Believe In Nothing’ that perhaps excites me the most, and with ‘Inquisition’ you have a sumptuous electro drenched lament that would not have sounded out of place on any of Gary Numan’s past few studio records.

‘IX’ then, is most certainly a (soul) courageous record for Nick Holmes and Gregor Mackintosh to be releasing, not just in 2023, but anytime, it’s a record that will no doubt provoke discussion and reactions and will hopefully influence (at least a few of) their peers to take risks with their music too. This is sense of Paradise Lost (almost punk rock) defiance I initially fell in love with all those years ago and it’s great to see, and hear, the guys embracing it once again via this set of superb new material. Go seek out a copy NOW!

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Author: Johnny Hayward