Yorkshire’s two finest exponents of doom and gloom bring the “Embers of Europe” tour to a home finale
After starting in London, and then playing several dates across Europe, Paradise Lost bring the tour celebrating 30 years of the “Icon” album back home to Yorkshire. Tonight’s gig is at the rather splendid St George’s Hall in Bradford – a new venue for me – and I’m pretty damned excited for it, seeing as it’s probably 30 years since I saw either band!
But first I have to say I nearly didn’t make it!! My coach broke down in Chadderton, just shy of the M62 (A blessing in disguise). Luckily there were 3 other folks on the coach also going to see Paradise Lost, so we all jumped into an Uber – which we couldn’t have done had we hit that M62! The Uber then navigated us to the wrong Nelson Street in a Bradford suburb, so we had to get ANOTHER from there to the venue!! At least I made some new friends who had travelled from Belgium and Austria to be at the gig! Anyhow, enough storytelling, let’s get to reviewing the gig, shall we?!!
My Dying Bride
8 pm sharp, the house lights go down, and a big cheer erupts as the band takes to the stage.”Hello, we are My Dying Bride and we’ve come all the way from Bradford!” says Aaron Stainthorpe, resplendent in his Edwardian Schoolmaster’s garb, before the opening sounds of “The Thrash of Naked Limbs” breaks forth. This is the sound of sorrow right from the go, with doomy guitar riffs and mournful violin, and of course, Stainthorpe’s harsh low growled vocals. From an EP to an album next with a song from “Turn Loose The Swans” with a faster start that backs clean vocals from Mr S, the band are in fine form, as is the sound mix. Aaron is bending right over the stage edge as he pours out the song’s emotion to the front row and photographers, adding visually to the different movements of this number. Superb!
From 1994 to 2004 next as “Catherine Blake” and its tale of hauntings and nightmares starts with plaintive singing, before bursting forth in an evil groove that has the crowd bobbing and banging their heads. It ended up bringing the loudest cheer of the night so far. I’m now joined by Planetmosh’s superstar Alex English, who cannot quite believe that the three songs she’s allowed to photograph lasted 22 minutes! That’s the beauty of seeing a band that plays slower, and lengthy songs, kids! Back a good few years next, with the title track of “Like Gods Of The Sun”, the shortest song of the set thus far. The riff on this one is meaty on the studio album, but this is a well-fed beast in the live setting, with Lena Abe attacking her bass like it has been somewhat naughty…
Halfway through the set now, it’s about time we heard “The Cry Of Mankind” with its haunting keyboard-led intro that builds into a song of heavy anguish and despair. On vinyl, this is a 12-minute long track, but tonight the band have foreshortened it, leaving out the ambient atmosphere that makes up 5 minutes of the song. This has been my favourite number so far – it hits on all the right levels! One thing that can be said tonight, is that MDB are certainly mixing it up with songs from across their quite extensive output. The next track keeps this up by visiting “The Light At The End Of The World” and its lead track “She Is The Dark“. Brilliant to hear this – the band going all out with its sweeps from sad passages to heavy stomping aggressiveness.
“We are nearing the end now” intones Aaron, “we may have time for one or two more!” Of course, everyone shouts for two but we shall see. And it’s a lengthy one next – back to another title track, and of course, it’s “Turn Loose The Swans”. A song dripping with decayed majesty, and grimness, this could well be a fitting end to proceedings if it does turn out to be the last song. One thing about MDB is that as a unit they are not a band with a lot of stage dynamics other than from Aaron, but their playing is flawless tonight, so who cares?!
“The powers that be have said we DO have time for one more, and it’s a fast one!” says Mr S taking a heft swig of his pint before dragging us way back to the fist album and “The Forever People“. The crowd response is instant with a small circle pit opening up to the hefty death metal riffing and double kicks. It’s certainly been a good and varied set from MDB, and they get a rightly deserved standing ovation from a now pretty much full house! Absolutely brilliant!
The Thrash of Naked Limbs – The Songless Bird – Catherine Blake – Like Gods Of The Sun -The Cry Of Mankind – She Is The Dark -Turn Loose The Swans – The Forever People
More Photos here – https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjB7m3A
As has already been stated, tonight is a 30th anniversary celebration of the “Icon” album, and it is being played in full. The only divergence is that the final track “Deus Misereatur” is tonight used as an intro. It’s also their first gig in Bradford since 2005! Cheers go up as the band takes their places on stage, Nick Holmes being last up to deliver a perfect Yorkshire greeting of “Aye up, Y’alright!” in laconical fashion. We assure him we are, as the band launches into “Embers Fire”. Straight from the off, I can tell that the sound engineer has honed his mix to perfection throughout the tour, as every instrument and Nick’s vocals are beautifully clear. Cracking straight on into “Remembrance” another element comes into play, with a rather splendid light show, from sweeping laser-type beams to strobes, and various shades of blue, and the spotlight on Gregor Mackintosh as he plays his solo parts. From my seat, I can only see his top half, and he looks like some fierce Pictish warrior armed not with a battleaxe or sword, but a deadly six-string!
Icon was the album where Paradise Lost started to add much more melody into their songs, and “Forging Sympathy” is a fine example of how heavy and melodic are perfect alongside each other. “So we’re playing Icon in full tonight if you weren’t aware, so we know the order of the songs!” says a good-humoured Nick, “So there’s no need to shout the names out yeah? It’s not big or clever!!” eliciting a ripple of laughter throughout the venue. On that humorous note, we are hit with one of the slower and darker songs from Icon “Joys of The Emptiness”. This one is a song I see so many similarities with MDB, and I really enjoy it. I’m joined again by Alex, who states that with the lighting, it wasn’t as easy to get good shots, as she shows me several that look superb!
My favourite off the album next with “Dying Freedom“, and my size 13s are tapping away nicely and a smile is etched onto my fizzog. Paradise Lost are definitely on fine form this evening, note-perfect from all points as “Widow” continues our ride through the land of Icon, taking us forward to the deep abyss of doom that is “Colossal Rains“.
As with My Dying Bride, the band looks like they’re having a good time, and it shows with the performance so far, and no evidence of any “Weeping Words” or “Poison” had there been any between them! As they have one of the most stable line-ups in metal with 4 fifths of the band having been there from the beginning, it’s no surprise how tight they are as a live unit. Proceeding onwards with another of the slower more doomy tracks off the album, “True Belief” slows it down again, bringing us to the last 2 songs of the main set.
“Shallow Seasons” has a rock’n’roll vibe running through it for me – (always has, don’t get me to change my mind eh?!) – despite the darkness of the lyrical subject. Nick’s vocals are sublime on this one, giving an emotive kick that resonates with me nicely. And now we have reached the end of the path of Icon, and it’s the very gothic rock vibe with “Christendom”. This has us all shouting out the “They Betray” parts of the song’s refrain, the audience sounding in as good a voice as Mr Holmes! And on that note, we have reached the end of the main set. The band leave the stage, and of course, we all start shouting and stamping for more. Now, please bear in mind that I’m a Lancastrian by birth, but I feel at this point it would be most appropriate to start a “YORKSHIRE!! YORKSHIRE!!” chant, and yes we do get that in amongst the shouts of “Paradise Lost”.
Of course, the band do return to the stage after a few minute’s break to catch their breath and whet their whistles. Gregor picks up a Santa hat that has been thrown onto the stage, which he gleefully hands to Nick who almost has it to his head before handing it back and saying “I’m not wearing that! You wear it!”. You can’t help but laugh, but Nick takes it further! Addressing us all he quips “I can’t believe I almost did put that on! Fuck Santa! He’s a twat! And fuck Christmas too!” this comedic outburst has us all giggling like school kids before he exhorts one last “Bah Humbug!” before starting the encore proper!
Kicking off with “Sweetness” the crowd below are bouncing along like mad things, thoroughly enjoying this rather uplifting PL track, before we have to “Pity The Sadness“, a thrashier number from the “Shades of God” album. And lo and behold, another little circle pit has broken out below! One gets the impression that the band will definitely be going back home to their families with smiles on their faces, judging by the body language on stage!
Well, the penultimate song was certainly what I was feeling after the sodding coach breakdown earlier in the day – “No Hope In Sight” – I was of course wrong, and I’m here listening to this most majestic of Paradise Lost songs. This is one of those tracks that build itself up and up to a somewhat anthemic state, and it’s one of my favourites of the night. Finishing off with a more recent number from the 2020s “Obsidian” album we have the very old school goth-rock sounding “Ghosts” rounding off a superbly played set.
To sum it all up, we’ve had two fantastic bands both delivering superb sets. MDB gave us a lot of variety from their back catalogue, and PL showcased just how good and timeless Icon is 30 years from its original release. Top-notch, and makes me want to start shouting “YORKSHIRE!!” over and over again! Your reviewer is one very happy bunny!
Deus Misereatur (Intro)
Joys Of The Emptiness
Pity The Sadness
No Hope In Sight
More photos here https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjB7qE4